BY MARTHA WILKIE | Picture this: a photo of a skyscraper groundbreaking ceremony featuring a confident-looking petite Chinese woman flanked by architect Philip Johnson and a young(ish) Donald Trump, all smiling. The woman is feng shui master Pun-Yin and these powerful men listened to her.
In 1995, Trump consulted Pun-Yin and her renowned father feng shui master Tin-Sun to improve the redesign of the Trump International Hotel & Tower at Columbus Circle. Pun-Yin demanded major changes, such as moving the entrance to Central Park, away from the traffic circle (because of all the streets converging) and adding the globe sculpture (to counteract sharp angles).
Feng shui was invented thousands of years ago in China. It’s many things, but when it comes to New York real estate, it’s used to assess the viability of a space, and improve it if the energy flow — the chi — is bad or unbalanced. In feng shui, everything is composed of five elements (some literal, some metaphorical): wood, fire, earth, metal and water. How these elements balance and interact with each other is crucially important. The orientation of a building (or apartment or room) is key and, in fact, the magnetic compass was first invented in China during the ancient Han Dynasty for use by feng shui masters.
Pun-Yin, writes on her Web site, “Authentic feng shui utilizes profound insights beyond just the visual and goes far beyond the conscious levels. Feng shui is comprised of a universal wisdom that affects an individual’s health, relationships and career. Positive and negative energy flows all around and through us. In feng shui tradition, positive energy is the dragon’s breath, as the dragon is the most powerful creature in Chinese mythology.”
Feng shui comes up frequently for realtor Rachel Wang of Kian Realty.
“Around 50 percent of my overall client base take feng shui into consideration while buying or renting an apartment,” she said. “Among Chinese-origin clients, this percentage jumps to almost 100 percent.”
Wang has clients who won’t buy a place without an expert’s approval.
“The famous feng shui master is very busy and has an expensive hourly rate,” she explained. “Clients usually see many apartments first, focus on a few they like, and then invite the master to get the final say.”
Once bad feng shui sunk a deal for Wang.
“No matter how much the buyer likes an apartment, if feng shui master says it’s not a good fit to this client, it will be passed,” she said. “Several times that has happened. Once I showed a penthouse with panoramic view to a client who loved it. Then she invited a feng shui master to come have a look. The master pointed out that the apartment has too many windows in all four directions. Too much light is not a good fit for her ‘five elements combination’ and may cause the couple to fight. So she gave it up immediately.”
There you have it, folks, perhaps the first time in Manhattan history that an apartment was passed up because of too good light and views.
When questioned about how she uses it, Wang explained, “It depends. I know some basic feng shui rules and it helps when clients need advice. For instance, the most frequently asked question about an apartment is its exposure. Southern and eastern exposures are always preferred. What you see out of the window is also very important. If you see several roads pointing to your bedroom it is not good to owner’s health. Feng shui is a balance between human and environment. Everyone can feel it, even if you don’t know the complicated theory behind it.”
Have you ever walked into someone’s home for the first time and instantly felt relaxed and happy for no particular reason? Good feng shui. When I walked into my now-husband’s gracious Edwardian home on our second date, I thought, I could marry this man. The nighttime view of red taillights endlessly streaming away was mesmerizing.
If you’re planning to move this year, here are a few apartments that might have good feng shui to make the Year of the Pig a happy, healthy and prosperous one for you.
In Morningside Heights, I saw a two-bedroom with two full baths. Pre-renovation, it was a depressing warren of oddly sized, dark, ugly rooms, I felt uncomfortable in it. But happily, a talented architect transformed it into a lovely and well-laid-out home that feels 10 times larger than it did before.
Meanwhile, in Tribeca, an alcove studio has views to the south, tall ceilings and a glorious pool. I imagine the orientation and water elements make this ideal, feng shui-wise.
Over in Tudor City there’s a tastefully renovated one-bedroom sponsor unit (no board approval) in a doorman building with striking windows and a gorgeous roof deck. Looks west, but I’d hope the chi from that amazing roof deck counteracts that?