Easy as one two ch’i

Matthew Valentine channels his ch’i into reviewing a new magazine on feng shui and finds it looks much like any other lifestyle magazine

Every new glossy magazine needs its unique selling point, and never more so than now, when every week seems to see the launch of a new publication.

As newsagents’ shelves groan under the weight, magazines are targeted ever more carefully at sub-sectors of existing markets. The audience is now broken down into empty-nesters, middle youths, new lads, old men, fashion victims, slackers, home-owners, pregnant women, those planning to marry, and those about to be divorced for following advice in magazines about how to have affairs.

There is now a new addition to the legion of magazines already existing for those planning to decorate. Feng Shui For Modern Living wears its unique selling point on its sleeve: “Welcome to the world’s first full-colour feng shui magazine,” trumpets the opening address from the publisher.

The colour is important for readers planning to allow the energy of feng shui to permeate their homes – without it they could easily choose the wrong colour accessories for it to flow around. Feng Shui For Modern Living is full of happy, well-adjusted models posing in expensive lifestyle magazine interiors no doubt made affordable after feng shui improved their incomes.

Duncan Youel, a partner at M2 Design which developed the look of the magazine, says the lifestyle elements were introduced in an attempt to make the subject accessible to a western audience. Rivals such as Elle Decoration are seen as the benchmark which the new title must meet.

Feng shui, in case you have been on a desert island for the past five years, means wind and water. Pronounced “foong schway” it is the ancient Chinese art of making ch’i, or life-force, work in your favour. And, despite having become a familiar concept, the idea of a regular magazine about feng shui could still hold enough novelty in the cynical UK to pull in the readers.

It’s a disappointment then that the content, as well as the appearance, is all too similar to other lifestyle magazines: yet another gushing article allowing Lord Archer to show off the interior of his penthouse flat, and the story of the four-strong family who traded in their Kent semi for a loft apartment in EC1. A suspiciously similar family and apartment was featured in How to Spend It, the Financial Times weekend supplement, a year ago.

Let’s hope the content will improve. Youel says plans to allow 3D renderings of interiors are in the pipeline, meaning clear advice on how to improve the passage of ch’i through your home or office can be introduced. And more original illustrations and photography should be added. While the pictures in the first issue are well chosen, some are obviously stock images. Hopefully, the news coverage at the front of the magazine will develop. For some reason, several pages are devoted to feng shui news from the US, but none to China, its home.

This does at least provide a small gem of information. A recycled press cutting tells us that Bill Clinton reorganised the Oval Office furniture “to be sure he makes the right decisions without being influenced by the wrong vibes”. Hasn’t done him much good so far.

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