Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Sunday 27 October 2013

Whatever Happened to Feng Shui?

It was all the rage a few years ago, wasn’t it?

We were all supposed to arrange the furniture in our rooms in particular configurations to optimise our creativity, to stimulate our money corner or to incorporate our happiness chakras... Or am I just mixing my mysticisms now?

Joking apart, environment can be a big part of any process, not least the creative one.

I’ve spoken before of how I’m easily distracted. I’ve talked about the blank, black and white screen I work on when writing, rather than a busy desk top, and I’ve talked about the desk I hardly ever use, looking out onto an empty yard lest I be distracted by anything crossing my visual path, as it were.

The husband is a fish of another stripe. He has a room in which he works, and very beautiful it is too, layered with books and objects and works of art, with things to look at and play with and refer to, to distract and stimulate him every hour of every day. I have huge office envy, and no wonder.

I was mostly responsible for designing and building the husband’s room, and I helped to dress it when the time came. That was two... almost three years ago, and I followed his brief, but the time had clearly come for a change. The husband has had a flea in his knickers for a little while now where his room is concerned. He was looking for something new and different and stimulating.

This week that change happened. This week the husband and I effected a big office rejig. This week the husband and I effected an office rejig so big that it spilled over to include a big archive rejig, took a total of two whole days and included me making, from scratch, a new window treatment.

It turns out that he was right, though.

To begin with I was resistant to the husband moving his desk from a central position in the room to a position against a wall. Why would anyone, given the space and the choice, have his desk face a wall?

I couldn’t see it, until we moved the desk, and then everything became plain.

It was about focus, and it was about a room of two halves.

When the desk was in a more central position, the husband sat with limited space to move his chair backwards into bookshelves, but he could see out into the room. This was his plan. He wanted to be able to see out. The position of the desk also divided the room into the working half and the sitting half.

When the desk was moved against the wall, suddenly the husband could move his chair and have good access to the whole of the rest of the room, opening it up to him. As to looking out, when he was looking out into the room his focus was never drawn. Facing the wall covered in images, reference material, clippings etc, there were dozens of things for his eyes to fall upon: lots to take his attention and pull his focus.
The husband hard at work in his re-jigged office

His new position allowed him to see out of the room, too, if the door was left even slightly ajar, and for me to see in. His desk had previously been behind the door, making it impossible for us to connect unless I entered the room, effectively cutting the husband off from the rest of the house.

The room feels bigger, lighter and more spacious, and the furniture has more uses. The library table is in a brighter spot, under the window, can be extended easily, and is less cluttered so that the husband can use it to spread out his maps and reference materials without further cluttering up his desk. The bookshelves are more accessible, too.

We’ve all had teachers who’ve said that a tidy desk reflects a tidy mind. In our house we like rooms to grow organically until they’re in a natural state of a place for everything and everything in its place. It’s taken nearly three years, but I think that the husband’s room is just about there, now.

Since the room was completed, albeit only a few days ago, the husband’s work rate has been prodigious. Long may it last!

So, if you want to make a change, if you’re struggling with your process, if you feel a little slow or a little dull, try moving the furniture, and, if you’re not sure how why not have a look at a few style guides, or even at a bit of feng shui. 

If I was going to say a couple of things they would be that furniture should never stand against walls (yep, I know!) and that, where possible, chairs and sofas should always have legs rather than fall right down to the floor. Pictures should always be hung at eye height (you’d be amazed how many people hang pictures badly), and that you’ll need more lighting than you first think.

Don’t take my word for it, though... What the hell do I know? And experiment, because you might just surprise yourself, the husband certainly has.


  1. I agree space is everything - it dictates mood, level of inspiration/distraction. I also think a good change round always stirs up old patterns and memories and freshens the room. (It's also the only time it's really clean in my house!). It's a great room, I wish Dan creativity in it.

  2. But Dan's office is the stationmaster's office. He has a cap and whistle and sells tickets in a pinch, remember?

    Any chance of a Q/A thread on Dan's wh40k novels .red thirst is a wh40k p.c gaming group on steam and members are all massive fan's of the wh40k universe and would love to ask there number one author some Question about his great wh40k novels
    all the best dan

  4. Any chance on a brief overview of some of the fittings/furniture? This is pretty much exactly what I had in my head of what the collective workspace would look like!

    - J

    1. We buy a lot of pre-owned furniture at auction or we have it made. I always use Farrow and Ball paint, and light fittings often come from Manufactum on the web or from the High Street. Most of the shelving we use comes from Shelf Store on the web and we paint it the same colour as the room so it 'disappears'. Rugs come from all over and I usually make my own cushions and window treatments. The trick is to buy what you like when you see it! LUCK!