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Feng-Shui Remodeling Invites Riches Into House

Janet Eastman(c) 2007, Los Angeles Times

VENTURA, Calif. – Fortune didn’t just find Lizanne Falsetto’s front door. It was invited. Lured in from the ocean and guided through a channel of steps, its force sweeps up from the street, gathers momentum from a splashing water fountain at the entry, then disperses throughout her hilltop home. Or so believes Falsetto, a nutrition bar entrepreneur and feng shui enthusiast. She has become rich, she says, after a remodel freed her dreary Ventura two-story house of its negative energy and she filled it with talismans collected from healers around the world. If a home is about showing off wealth, Falsetto’s is about a quest for it, manifested in an aesthetic sensibility shaped by a $1,000-a-visit feng hui adviser who is sometimes at odds with her interior designer. The homeowner mixes the ancient Chinese theory of balancing energy through proper placement of walls, windows and wind chimes with folklore, religious symbolism and whatever appeals to her during shopping sprees. Out on her living room terrace with a view of the Pacific, the former model rubs the wooden belly of a money god statue that she found at Goodwill, one of her first purchases in auspicious consumption. Although the statue wasn’t worth much to the person who donated it, it’s priceless to her. “They wanted $25 for it, but I bargained them down to $10. Every day I rub it for more money and it’s working,” says Falsetto, whose thinkproducts company sold more than $13 million worth of nutrition bars last year at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and health food stores. “The biggest stumbling block for most people is money,” she says. “But I’ve always believed it’s OK to want it, to ask for it and accept it. In fact, bring it on.” The 44-year-old, Teri Hatcher look-alike practices a sort of superstitious capitalism. This year, she wants to almost double sales. To help achieve this, she recently invited a dozen employees to her re-energized house to have their feet detoxed, eat a healthful dinner prepared in her new high-tech kitchen and watch the DVD version of “The Secret,” the bestselling book about setting a stage for wealth. “My home reinforces the way I live my life,” she says. “The mind works this way: the more you create positive, the more you can conquer.” A few years ago, nothing was in place for Falsetto to bring in the good. She’d stopped modeling. Her company was small. Her marriage was ending. When she and her husband split, she stayed with her two children in the house that they had lived in for an unlucky 13 years. Before they bought it, the cottage had been added on to, slap-dash style. In the 1980s, a previous owner splashed on “Miami Vice”-inspired colors, but the flamingo-pink walls and green-and-black checkered floors did nothing to brighten the cavelike rooms. The house was dark, depressing, she says. On the advice of friends, she hired Udd’hava Om, an energetic-medicine and feng shui practitioner in Malibu, Calif., to look the place over and suggest changes. There wasn’t much Om liked. Steep steps vaulted from the street straight to the front door. “It was hard labor just to get inside the house,” he recalls. There was bad energy too, especially in the tunnel-ish master bedroom. The house was also falling apart; its wood frame and wallboard decayed. No healthy person with children should have been living there, says Om, who changed his name from Johannes Steenkamp in 1994 to that of one of Krishna’s disciples. For true feng shui harmony, he advised Falsetto to move or tear down the house and start over with a neat rectangle, where energy could circulate and not get trapped. But the divorced mom liked the elevated lot and needed to be practical. The solution? They would move the outside steps 15 feet from their original place so that the stairs could ascend in one direction, then switch course. At the halfway point there would be a landing to cradle good energy. This configuration would be repeated with the indoor stairs. They would also change the floor plan to eliminate the dead ends, add on a wing for a children’s playroom and guest bedroom, and open up the house to natural light with skylights, windows and sliding glass doors. For the right colors, materials and even plants, they would take their cues from the rabbit – Falsetto’s Chinese astrological sign. “A rabbit needs harmony, artistic expression and sensuality,” says Om, 66, a self-described Taoist. He was born in South Africa and has studied Eastern philosophy for almost half a century, including a stint at a Hindu monastery in India when he was a teenager. But before architectural plans could be drawn or the construction crew called in, Falsetto would have to decide about the rocks. An odd-number of rocks piled outside on the left side of the front door meant she desired opportunity; on the right meant money. Of course, she thought, why not rocks on both sides, but Om stopped her. That would negate the power of the rocks, he says. “What you’re really doing is being conscious of what is it that you really want,” says Om. “It’s easy to see this as hooey, but if you see it as action, it leaves no doubt that it can work.” She placed the rocks – man-made, not real ones to Om’s dismay – on opportunity’s side. From opportunity, she figured, fortune would spring. “Lizanne was already hard-working and ambitious,” says Om, who returned to the house in March for its monthly checkup. “Ambition in itself is not a bad thing, but it never brings pleasure. You have to change your environment to make you more aware and to nurture yourself with color, comfort, plants, good food. You also need to have an intention, feel it and be a good person and you’ll be rewarded.” He also wants other things changed because they aren’t attracting good energy: a circular brown rug in the entry; jade dragons in the powder room; two wooden planks with Chinese characters on a bedroom wall. He understands some of the words’ meaning, but asks interior designer Elayne Jordan to get a full translation to make sure it’s not a negative statement. (Later that day, Falsetto takes the wooden scrolls down.) When Om points these problems out to Jordan, she looks crestfallen. This is the first time in her 25-year career that she has had to worry about feng shui rules. “There are a lot of dictates of what is allowed,” she says, following Om through the house during the checkup. Om flinches at Falsetto’s spontaneous choices too, but then shrugs them off by saying that she’s a sensual person who is attracted to sensual objects. “She has too many phallic pieces,” he says, eyeing giant horns and totems in the living room. A massive Chinese front gate makes too big of a statement at the “mouth” of the house, he says. He would prefer to see something more humble. And a 4-foot-long wooden club that she carted home from Fiji – “she didn’t know it was an implement of death,” he says – was moved from the living room floor to the fireplace mantel because, in that position, it dampens its destructive power and signals to the universe that it would be OK if it burned. As for the “money god” in the terrace? He smiles. “Who knows what that is? That’s Lizanne,” says Om, who also consults on the wrapper colors of Falsetto’s nutrition bars, the arrangement and colors in her company’s office and the size of her SUV. Doors are auspicious because they open to opportunity and this too fascinates Falsetto. Each door in her house was chosen because it was hand-carved in a faraway place she visited. The front door in the two-story entry came from China and it has been positioned to face an indoor aquarium that holds a lucky number of specifically colored fish. Above this door is another door, one she found in Kenya. It doesn’t open, just hangs there like art, but it means something to Falsetto: Wealth can enter into the second floor too. “I’ve found that if you give and create good, more of it will come back to you,” says Falsetto, who dreamed up a thinkPink bar to raise money for breast cancer. When she takes her children, Alexa, 7, and Aydan, 4, to church, she reminds them that they aren’t there to pray for riches, but “to welcome in the good.” FENG SHUI 1: Los Angeles Times/Stephen Osman Udd’hava Om says water represents prosperity and counseled Lizanne Falsetto to add fountains in strategic places. “You have to change your environment to make you more aware,” says the feng shui practitioner. FENG SHUI 2: Los Angeles Times/Stephen Osman Stone niches showcase a candle stand that captures the energetic vibe of the outdoors. FENG SHUI 3: Los Angeles Times/Stephen Osman When feng shui consultant Udd’hava Om concluded that the master bedroom should be pink, designer Elayne Jordan added subtle tones of peach, rust and dusty rose. FENG SHUI 4: Los Angeles Times/Stephen Osman A generously sized tub opens into the garden, where coastal winds nourish the lush greenery. The once-dreary home was transformed using space, colors, even plants to harness good vibes. FENG SHUI 5: Los Angeles Times/Stephen Osman Spiritual imagery set throughout the home adds a calming presence indoors. It’s also part of Lizanne Falsetto’s personality, according to feng shui practitioner Udd’hava Om. Born in the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, she “needs harmony, artistic expression and sensuality.”FENG SHUI 6: Los Angeles Times/Stephen Osman Lizanne Falsetto’s remodeled living room optimizes natural light and displays items from her travels around the world.


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