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FLARE Magazine

Holistic Haven

Not sure what colour to paint your place? Consult your solar plexus, says Leah McLaren

By Leah McLaren

June, 2005

Last spring, I bought the farm. For months afterward, I bragged about how restorative and peaceful my new country place was. Secretly, though, I was afraid to spend time alone there. A large part of it had to do with the walls.

A previous owner had painted the kitchen wainscoting forest green and covered the remaining space with a hideous textured taupe wallpaper that sucked the room of all light. The living room was equally oppressive.

Upstairs, the paint was peeling off my bedroom ceiling. On the few occasions I did muster the courage to spend the night, I'd wake up covered in horrible flesh-pink flecks, as though the house had dandruff.

I had to make the place "mine" and this process required a new coat of paint – but where to start? Choosing colours freaks me out. I mean, honestly, how many shades of white can there be?

In the midst of my interior-decorating angst session, Andrea Carini appeared like a New Age fairy godmother. A designer, colour specialist and life coach, Carini owns and operates the Toronto-based "holistic interior design" company called Your Sacred Space Interiors. It was recommended to me out of the blue by a complete stranger. In spite of my inborn skepticism of all things "spiritual," I called Carini.

The following week, we met for a drink. At first, I only wanted to talk about my decorating issues, but Carini would have none of it. She stared deep into my eyes and said she wanted to know about "me." So I ordered another glass of wine. Before long, I was recounting the story of my last fight with my mother as Carini touched my hand, nodded and murmured stuff such as "You are a very powerful young woman" and "You have great inner strength."

A few days later, Carini came to my apartment in the city to do my chakra chart. By examining my personal energy system, she determined which colours were suitable for my holistic well-being.

"I believe that the home is your larger body," she explained, sipping black tea, "and by painting your rooms colours [that are] appropriate to your own emotional, mental and physical needs, your apce becomes a mirror for your natural positive energy."

Taste, she insisted, had nothing to do with it."Taste is conditioned. This is ego-free design."

I was terrified! What if the chakra gods ordered me to paint my kitchen purple and my living room chartreuse? I might be spiritually enlightened, but my house would look like a nursery school (or Barney's playroom).


Carini smiled calmly at my concerns and told me not to worry. Then she asked me a bunch of specific questions, including my full name and the date, time and place of my birth, as well as the full names of my parents and the dates, times and places of their births.

The chakra system, I learned, is neither numerological nor astrological. Rather, it is founded on ancient eastern knowledge that envisions the body as a series of energy sources (chakras), each one represented by a different colour.

Cool pastels serve Leah's under-expressed chakras. She loved cool green in her dining room (top) and lavender in her bedroom (bottom). Paint, Benjamin Moore. For where-to-buy, see Stylesource
  After mapping my chart, Carini found that my lower three chakras - red (survival), orange (desire, sexuality and hedonism) and yellow (power and will) - were somewhat over-expressed. Reflecting on my 20s - a blur of work, cocktail parties and relationship melodrama - that felt about right.

"What you need is to move into your upper, under-expressed chakras," she said, pointing to the 4th-9th energy pools, a palette of green, blue, indigo, violet, rose and gold. "This chart tells me you tend to be very rational and earth-bound. You need to develop your intuition by expressing the upper chakras, which represent the divine, spiritual aspects of your personality."

I would have balked at all this New Age blather but for the fact that most of the colours the chart suggested were ones I was instinctively drawn to, that is those from the blue, green and lavender family. Whereas yellow (one of my "over-expressed" colours) is a hue that has always made me feel queasy, like I've just swallowed a raw egg yolk.

"That's because you've got too much yellow energy going on in there already," Carini said, motioning to my solar plexus. "You need to do some healing in the upper vibrations."

The following week, Carini came out to my farm and we spent the afternoon pouring over paint chips and choosing colours. It sounds a bit flaky, but her presence exerted a calm over the process. We ate fish soup and wandered around the house, eventually settling on an array of pale pastels from the upper regions of the chart. Herbaceous green for the kitchen, airy blue for the office, romantic lavender for the bedroom and the subtlest creamy gold for the living room and hallways. All the trim was to be painted in a warm antique white.

Painter Brandon Upton completed the job in a couple of weeks and, before you could say "om," I was snuggling in my lavender bedroom with the quilt pulled up to my chin, sleeping like a baby.

Since having my farmhouse painted, I've spent several weekends writing in blissful solitude. Not only does the space feel cleaner, brighter, and prettier but it's also indelibly mine. The bedroom is designed to make me sleep, the office to help me work, the kitchen to inspire me to cook and the living room a space where I can relax

Whether you believe in the chakra system or the power of intuition, on some level Carini's theory works. Certain colours make us feel ill, while others have the power to soothe. Finding your own sacred space, in turn, is a matter of looking inside to find out what you need on the outside.