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Toronto Star
New in Homes | Decorating

Tapping into a house's vibes

Concept of chakras used as a starting point in preparing a home's colour prescription

By Elvira Cordileone
Staff Reporter

January 19, 2008

You don't have to believe in chakras, as designer Andrea Carini does, to hire her to redo your home. You must, however, be willing to let her peek inside your soul.

Carini's vocation involves guiding clients toward making their homes physically, emotionally and spiritually nurturing places. She uses the ancient concept of chakras, described as energy centres in the body, as a starting point in preparing a colour prescription.

Every room, including the bathroom, has what chakras practitioner Andrea Carini calls "positive visual triggers" - images, art, shapes and furniture meaningful to the resident.
Interior design as spiritual support may sound like a gimmick but Carini practices what she preaches. In fact, for years she prayed to find a way to blend her spiritual beliefs with her art. She says she succeeded seven years ago, when she named her company Your Sacred Space Interiors.

"Designing the home is a spiritual art, and using colour to balance energy is the first important layer," Carini wrote in the spring 2003 edition of Omega Source magazine.

Anodea Judith, a U.S. psychologist, spiritual teacher and author of the definitive book on chakras (the Sanskrit word for wheel) Wheels of Life: A User's Guide to the Chakra System (Llewellyn 1999) writes that each of these seven basic energy centres correlate to major nerve ganglia branching from the spinal column. They also correspond to such things as levels of consciousness, developmental stages of life, colours, sounds and body functions.

left to right - Carini's bedroom d├ęcor includes this altar against one wall. These carvings are among the ornaments with a Chakras theme. The decorator relaxes in her bedroom where she has surrounded herself with various shades of gold, calling it a "very high vibrational colour."

Carini creates a chakra profile for everyone living in the home, which she says gives her a personality blueprint, including innate strengths and weaknesses. She builds the profile using a person's full name, date and place of birth, as well as those of the parents.

A two-hour interview follows to go over the chart and so Carini can discover what makes that person tick - passions, family history and aspirations.

The Silverman family, for example, ended up with greens for their living room area, says Hannah Silverman. It seems both she and her husband, Brian, showed over-expression in red (first chakra, primal energy), while that of their daughter, Arkady, pointed against blue (fifth chakra, creativity).

Silverman says she'd never hired a designer before Carini "fell into their lap." They met at their respective daughters' dance school. The family had moved into their Baby Point house in Toronto's west end a year earlier and they wanted to do something about all the beige and tan.

"I had a vague vision but no plan," says Silverman ruefully." I was very nervous as to what she'd do, had anxiety about cost and some furniture I wanted to keep. She listened and somehow translated that into a design and action plan that worked."

Silverman says Carini sat in their living room sifting through dozens of green colour swatches before presenting them with a few to choose from, and explained how they were different and how they would harmonize.

"She educated us on how to see colour and its potential," Silverman says.

Silverman admits the chakra idea seemed "odd" but trusted Carini. The pair worked together on the plan for the last three years, one room at a time, as circumstances and finances permitted. They completed the last piece, the exterior, this summer.

Carini was born in New Jersey, but lived in New York City, from the age of 18, where she studied at New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology. She worked as a fashion designer and merchandiser for seven years. At night she studied at the prestigious Studio and Forum for Stage Design (now part of Pace University), where she honed her skills in theatrical costume and set design.

Marriage brought her to Canada in 1987. Carini doesn't call herself an interior designer since she's not a member of the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario, but she says her background allows her to offer a complete service, from decoration to custom furniture design to staging.

She's reverential about homes, taking the view they are our "larger bodies" and as deserving of love and regard as our flesh bodies. Her design philosophy eschews trends.

Colour affects us "physically, psychologically and some people, like myself, feel spiritually" Carini says.

How can colour do that?

In her own bedroom, for example, she surrounds herself with different shades of gold.

"Gold is a very high vibrational colour," she explains. "It has to do with using your gifts and the connection to the divine — whatever that means to each of us — and sharing it with other human beings".

Her daughter, 12 has a Tuscan-style, hand-rubbed deep rose over a light rose, giving it the airy quality her daughter thrives in. Her son, Daimon, almost 17, sleeps in a golden brown room, which helps ground him, with gold counterpoints which, she says, encourages a sense of sharing with others.

Every room also has what she calls "positive visual triggers" — images, art, shapes, furniture that are meaningful and soothing to them.

"When it comes to doing a colour prescription I have to find the client's comfort zone in the palette," she says.

Environmental psychologist Robert Gifford, a University of Victoria professor, agrees that colour does matter. Culture differences, artistic sophistication and personality, particularly introversion and extroversion, he says, play a role in how we react to colour.

However, Gifford says he'll believe in meridians and chakras when somebody can show him they exist.

"What (Carini) is doing is perfectly good. But she doesn't need all the chakra baggage to do that. All she has to do is talk to you."

Chakra baggage or not, Hannah Silverman, at least, delights in the results.

"After the fact, sitting here in my cozy living room, it was worth every cent," says Silverman.