small space, big dreams

how the art of feng shui helped one woman turn her tiny flat into a dream home

What do you do when you move into a 300-square-foot apartment with two dogs and all three of your companies operating out of your home? For fashion designer, stylist and writer, Barbra Horowitz, the answer came to her on New Year’s Day in a yoga class. Barbra, who is quick to point out that she is not a yoga girl, decided to venture into a local yoga studio and take an afternoon class.

Stumbling out of the studio in post-yogic bliss, she left behind a precious stone on a necklace, a gift from her estranged father with whom she was in the process of rebuilding her relationship.

Devastated, she cried as she thought, “I’ve done it again! I always do this! God, Barbra, I can’t believe you!”

But then it dawned on her. Nobody would steal a necklace from a yoga studio”¦right? The phone rang. It was the owner of the studio. “I have your necklace, Barbra. It was turned in by a student.”

Overwhelmed with gratitude, Barbra quickly poured her heart out onto a card, packed it with some candles as a thank you and dropped them at the studio for the Good Samaritan. She put her business card in too”¦just in case.

Nobody was more surprised than she when I, a Feng Shui consultant and life coach offering classes at that same studio, called her back. Since our differing schedules would never have put us in the studio at the same time, it was only because I found her lost necklace that we met. After some initial niceties, her needs started pouring out. “Can you help me?” she asked. “I am working to grow my businesses.

I am at a really important point with it and I think I need to be Feng Shuied.”

She made an appointment and we met.

Barbra wanted change. The building in which her apartment is located had been put to many uses over the years. It had served as an AIDS hospice care center, then a recovery facility for people having plastic surgery and most recently, a sober living residence (unbeknownst to her).

She felt that there was old stagnant energy stuck in the space and she wanted a fresh start. It was a new year and time to clean the slate.

As I looked around her small space, assessing how to accommodate the various functions she needed it to fulfill, the first thing that struck me was that if I didn’t already know, I wouldn’t be able to tell anything about who lived there. I wouldn’t know whether it was a man or a woman or what kind of person the occupant was. There was no personality.

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It was like the apartment of one of those junior executives who spends twenty hours a day at the office and never actually lives at home. This wasn’t the image she wanted for herself or her home.

Tired of always being on the go, tired of being ashamed of where she lived and tired of never having people over, Barbra committed to making a change. So we set to work turning her small and barren space into a beautiful, functional home and work space.

We began by changing the layout of her furniture and reassigning the various areas of her space. Instead of walking in the door and directly into her bedroom, we decided to place her office space next to the entry.

We moved her bed into the room beyond and created a partition using some light curtains that she had already purchased, giving a feeling of privacy and further differentiating the areas in her space and their uses.

This new arrangement gave clear definition to the public and private spaces in Barbara’s home. It set boundaries and created structure.

We also talked about energy, flow and beauty, all concepts she was familiar with from her work in fashion. She learned that it is not only important to move the stuff around, but that it is also important to know the reasons why she was doing what she was doing.

One of the most powerful tools in the art of Feng Shui and in all areas of life is intention.

We talked about her dreams and the future she wanted to create. Defining the intentions she had for her life and how her space would help her realize them empowered her with a feeling of permission to claim her space and inhabit it with her mind, body and soul.

She was now ready to grow along with this space; only it would be her imagination and not the walls or square footage that would serve as the boundaries for her growth.

Having devised our list of proposed changes, we rang a bell to mark the intention and Barbra told me that she felt quiet in her heart. Something she hadn’t felt in a long time.

Her dogs, Buddha and Sabina, watched as she started bringing new things home: a fountain to stir up business, some red curtains to keep the energy from flowing in the front door and out the back door and another to contain and hide her closet.

Other items included a pair of bedside tables, some hanging crystals and some strategically placed mirrors.

The idea was to bring life into the space. She brought home a large and vibrant potted plant, some hydrangeas for the front steps and an orchid for her desk. Now, her space was brimming with life. Since her space was basically a blank slate, we decided only to add things that are beautiful, things that she loves.

She bought her first piece of artwork, titled “Shadow of a Warrior Woman” and placed it behind her desk. She bought a statue for her front steps and named him Prosperity Man, The Bringer of Good Fortune. He is there to greet her every time she comes and goes. Barbra took her time and balanced her personal sense of style with these new principles of energy.

Things in Barbra’s life started shifting almost immediately. Her business was taking off to the point where an assistant became necessary. Little did she know that in this assistant she would be getting a genius organizer, a fountain of encouragement and someone to edit the first draft of her book.

Her business continues to take off. Television and radio show appearances have poured in and she was recently hired by Barnes and Noble to write her own book.

Barbra has accepted that she will be in this space for as long as it continues to serve her. Her new space allows her to balance writing chapters for her book with her work as a personal stylist and designer.

She is no longer embarrassed by her space and is gratified by the positive feedback she gets from those who are close to her as well as from the comfort they feel when they share her space. It is becoming hard for her to imagine leaving the place she has created, a place she has come to love.

I remain ever grateful for that New Year’s Day when I rolled out my yoga mat and noticed that shiny necklace glimmering in the candlelight.