The front door of your home can have a powerful influence on your well being and happiness. In Feng Shui we give this feature of a house its own special category. Called the “Ming Tang,” or bright hall, your front door and entrance form the mouth of qi for your home, mediating that crucial threshold between the outside world and your private world. Your cumulative experience of coming and going over time can have powerful psychological and emotional effects on you, so it’s important to give careful attention to your home’s Ming Tang.
These days many people come and go solely through their garage, relegating the actual front door to a mere decoration. Whether this is a serious problem or not depends on the compass analysis of your house. In some cases, when it’s important to activate the front door sector, I suggest that the occupants park in the garage and walk around to use the front door. In other cases, the garage entry might actually be a better choice. But in all cases, it’s important to make the place of entry one of ease and welcome.
So what makes a good Ming Tang? Over the years I’ve developed a check list for the minimum requirements, along with a vision for the ideal. I’ll give you both, and like most of us, your own Ming Tang will probably fall somewhere in between these. At a minimum, your entryway should be clean, uncluttered, and in good repair. A freshly painted door is a plus. There’s no requirement for the door to be red, as some feng shui enthusiasts think. The color is really a matter of harmonizing with the environment and the character of the house, along with personal taste. (Sometimes, a compass analysis of the house will uncover an elemental imbalance in the front door sector; in this case, painting the door a particular color can help correct this.)
If you’ve achieved this minimum and want to enhance your Ming Tang even more, here’s the ideal vision. First, we would all love a front porch. The porch should be large enough to accommodate several guests, or even just yourself laden with packages, family dog in tow. And it’s even better if this spacious front porch is covered and protected to shield you from the elements and soften your transition from outside to inside. Your porch should have a waist high shelf conveniently situated near the door so you can set down your groceries while fishing for the keys.
Now, upon successfully transitioning inside (and hopefully this was such a pleasant experience that you’re already feeling pretty cheerful about coming home,) you’re standing in a very pleasant foyer or front hallway. This is a place where you can complete your transition home by dropping keys and packages on the conveniently located hall table, hanging up your coat on the hook that is within easy reach, and sighing happily when you glance, for perhaps the hundredth time, at your favorite photograph or painting that hangs right there where you can see it as you arrive home every day.
And lastly, how nice that your little entryway is separated from the living room by a screen or large potted plant so you have a chance to settle yourself before bursting in on the rest of the family gathered there.
Now, you might think you need a mansion in a very swanky part of town to have such a Ming Tang, and you might feel that since you live in a studio apartment over someone’s garage that this Ming Tang stuff isn’t for you. You’d be wrong. You of all people need to pay special attention to your Ming Tang. Start by going back to the minimum requirements as stated above. Then, here are some simple things anyone can do, no matter how humble your abode, to create the feeling of a gracious (and spacious,) Ming Tang.
Start by getting the most beautiful front door mat you can afford, and keep it clean and swept at all times. This gives you a natural stopping point on your way inside. Then, even if you have no porch or overhang, place a sturdy outdoor bench, stool, or set of shelves next to your door on one side. On the other side place a robust plant (nothing with spiky leaves please,) in a sturdy attractive pot that will act as a sort of “sentinel” and give you a feeling of shelter and protection while you stand and fish for your keys. Now you’ve created a “place,” an alcove or nook with a sense of dimension where before there was only a door in a flat wall.
Next, on the inside, place a nice round rug, a waist high table to drop your keys and set down your packages, and something beautiful to look at to one side as you come in–perhaps a favorite painting or your grandmother’s antique mirror. Now you’ve created the spacious feeling of an entry hall. It might also be possible, even in a very tiny space, to place a shoji screen or indoor plant in such a way as to create the illusion of a separate entrance hall, providing just a little sense of separation and privacy between your front door and the rest of the room.
As I write this, I am sitting in a coffee shop at a small table near the front door. Though this is a very busy and public space, someone thought to put a nice screen of indoor plants–graceful palms and ficus–between the front door and the tables. So in spite of being so close to the door, I feel quite peaceful and undisturbed here at my little table. A great example of a cheap and simple way to work with the Ming Tang.