"Living Feng Shui" magazine
bio and photo
articles about and by Carol Olmstead
Broadcast & Internet Interviews
The Virtual Remodeling Tour
By Jill Tunick
Remodeling ONLINE followed this whole-house remodeling project from pre-planning to the triumphal return of the family. Adriaan and Roxane Bouten were the new, proud owners of a 44-year-old, 3,600-sf ranch/rambler-style home in Bethesda, Md. They couldn't settle in, though. They had a major remodeling project to get through -- one that added a 2,000-sf second story to their existing home and completely refigured the existing space. We followed the process from the pre-planning stages through its anticipated construction start in October 1999, to completion nearly a year later. We looked at the project from a variety of perspectives.
You know how everything you do at work takes longer than you think it will? The same thing is happening at the Boutens' house. Now that subcontractors are few and far between, the project's completion is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-ing on into summer. "The painters think they're done, but they need to come back," Roxane Bouten says. "Take a look over my desk." Sure enough, the bits of blue tape are gone from all the trim and molding, but the painters left a white patch of unpainted spackle above the switchplate. It stands out against the beige wall.
These days, the subs call Roxane to tell her when they're coming by to complete their tasks. If someone doesn't show up, Roxane gets on the phone with site superintendent Larry Barnes, who ferrets out the missing party. He's got his hands full managing a new project in Virginia, but he checks in with Roxane from time to time.
Today, workers from Corian are taking measurements downstairs for the home office countertops. Originally they were going to install the tops tomorrow, but the solid surfacing got held up somewhere.
Roxane talks to the subs while her three children use the computer a few feet away. When she hears a knock on the door, she jogs upstairs to let in Carol Olmstead, a Feng Shui consultant Roxane found on the Internet. You'll recall that Roxane consulted an interior designer a few months ago, but she eventually found that she and the designer had different taste.
"Everything she showed me was so grown-up looking," Roxane recalls. She wants her home to be more inviting.
Roxane already has pulled out her home's floor plans for Carol. The consultant studies them and explains the concept of Feng Shui to us while Roxane goes downstairs to finish with the Corian subs.
In short, Feng Shui is a Chinese philosophy of living in harmony with nature and one's surroundings. Feng Shui practitioners accomplish this for their clients by studying how a house is oriented on a property, consulting with architects when appropriate, and helping with interior decorating. Some practitioners like Carol work with interior designers; her associate Bethany Portner of Portner Design Group, is battling traffic on the Beltway on her way over to the Boutens' house.
Carol practices the form school of Feng Shui. She uses a rectangular chart called a bagua that divides a house and property into nine quadrants. Each pertains to a certain area of life: wealth, fame, relationships, children, compassion, career, wisdom, health, well-being.
According to Feng Shui, the perfect shape for a house is the rectangle. "This house is L-shaped," she says, laying the bagua on the floor plan, "which means it's missing some Feng Shui elements. But luckily most of the rooms are rectangular."
Bethany Portner arrives just as Roxane walks upstairs with the subcontractors. "So you'll call me when the countertops come in?" she asks the lead worker, who's wearing a red shirt with a Corian logo.
"You bet, Ma'am. Have a good weekend," he replies, and walks out to his truck. Roxane turns to Bethany. "Sorry about that," she says. "This is one of those days when everyone comes at once." Bethany smiles.
Together, she, Roxane, and Carol walk through the house as Roxane points out the rooms she'd like to focus on: the foyer, the kitchen, the living room, and the porch. Bethany ask the homeowner to explain how each room will be used; she and Carol take copious notes as Roxane talks.
Carol explains some philosophies: Feng Shui is all about energy and balancing. Energy likes to flow out windows. If you have a window aligned with a door, energy will come in the door and go right out the window, taking your good fortune with it. One of the living room windows aligns with the Boutens' front door, but Carol can suggest ways to adjust the energy flow.
The women gather in the porch, where Roxane explains a bit more about what she'd like to achieve: She'd like the kitchen to be more colorful and quieter, yet useful for entertaining and family meals. Same thing with the living room: She and Adriaan want to throw parties there, yet the room should be comfortable enough for the family to read together and play board games.
"The kids have said this house is not as much fun as the old one," she tells the consultants. "Maybe we can put some more fun in their lives, too." She tells them about the fish pond she's planning to build beside the driveway with the children.
"Incidentally, that's the ideal placement for water," Carol tells her. Water, wood, fire, metal, and earth are considered essential elements in Feng Shui. Practitioners include each of them in clients' homes. Sometimes they do it with colors, and sometimes with the elements themselves.
"Red is a good fire color, and would really liven up the kitchen," Carol says. "That doesn't mean we should paint the walls red, but a red vase might help."
She and Bethany explain the business arrangement: After their meeting, the consultants will draw up a letter of agreement containing proposed services for the Boutens' home. They tell Roxane that the agreement won't be written in stone, and that she's free to change her mind about their services.
"That's good," Roxane says with a smile. "I need to discuss this with my husband."
© 2000, Remodeling ONLINE