Feng Shui Guru Cliff Tan Teaches You How to Best Design Your Home
October 09, 2023
Scroll on TikTok or Instagram and you’re bound to come across the high-octane, bubbly internet figure Cliff Tan. He wears clear framed glasses, tight-fitting polo shirts, and is positively addicted to the world of feng shui.
Under his social media handle Dear Modern, Cliff guides the internet’s style-starved individuals on how to design their living spaces, according to the principles of feng shui. Cliff has advised more than 2,000 clients worldwide on creating balanced spaces for sleeping, dining, entertaining, and relaxation.
The Singaporean-native has worked in London for 15 years, designing homes and offices. However, only recently, in late 2020, did his feng shui teachings blow up online, propelling the designer to a new-found career. The Beat Asia conducted a Zoom interview with Cliff while he was on vacation in Singapore to chat about his feng shui stardom and why you should never sleep next to your toilet!
Studying architecture in Singapore and training in London, why did you want to open your design studio in the U.K.?
[After receiving] my technical training and becoming a qualified draftsman in Singapore, [I moved] on to study at the Architectural Association in London, gaining my ARB and RIBA qualifications. Like everyone studying architecture, my schoolmates and I all wanted to open design practices.
I began with small projects like kitchen extensions, but I never brought up the topic of feng shui with my clients, because it was a bit taboo. When I began working at the [famous British design and architecture firm], Heatherwick Studio, [the studio] would check through their plans for feng shui issues without being too explicit about it.
You mentioned that you started to create content in late 2020 during the pandemic. What made you want to preach about architecture online and what is the importance of feng shui in the practice?
I wanted to create content on architecture, but I found it too dry. I said, let’s take something easy to relate to, like where you place your bed, and incorporate feng shui practices into it. For us in Asia, feng shui is standard, but this is not in the West. People thought it was nonsense.
I began to make more videos when people caught on. I realised there is not much content about architecture and feng shui online. It was all about looking pretty. Few people talked about the psychology and flow in a space.
My pet peeve is that feng shui often focuses only on the metaphysical side of things and rarely discusses architecture and space planning, even though its main premise was originally about buildings and structures! I wanted to educate people and share my knowledge [about feng shui and design]. I became very popular and never looked back!
As you started to garner worldwide attention from your feng shui critiques of people’s bedrooms and homes, how did you translate that online virality to making this your main hustle?
I was just providing free advice, telling people how to structure their spaces, but it became so much for me that I asked my own followers what I should do. Why don’t you start a pay page, they said, where I can be booked [for feng shui consultations].
Too many people started booking me, and I raised my prices. More bookings came, and I raised them even more. After that, it happened again, but I decided against raising them any further to keep things affordable. That was the whole point! Though this means I am now booked until next year [laughs]!
The consultations took over architecture completely, and I stopped taking new commissions [for projects] altogether. I am working by myself and answering people’s questions. It seems crazy and silly that this is a career, but I realised I was the only person in the world blending feng shui and architecture!
How do you tell people what to do in their homes and how to stay their places, when many don’t even know what feng shui is?
One does not need to know what feng shui is to appreciate my content. All I need to do is to spot the issues in a person’s home and tell them how they should be feeling.
For example, when their desk is placed in a poor position, I can see that it affects their concentration, and by moving it around, it instantly changes. This is usually enough to convince people that their environment does play a part in the way they function.
What is the craziest consultation you have done?
I redesigned the servants' quarters for an actual palace, and the craziest thing was that I was contacted directly by the owner herself and worked closely with her.
What three feng shui practices are vital for your living space that you wish people should follow?
You must always feel protected - place yourself so you are always in the command position.
A balance of yin and yang is needed. It is important to appreciate that all energy is there for a reason; nothing is ever good or bad. It's all about how they act relative to each other and finding balance is key.
Understanding sha qi, aggressive energy, is vital to feng shui. Avoid sharp and aggressive things in your home, you don’t want to get stabbed to death!
What changes, if any, do you envision in your feng shui consultation and comical explainer videos online?
I am happy to continue providing these consultations and meeting clients. This whole experience has been quite humbling, because I have learned so much from the people I have met, from different cultures and places, and how different people live. That made me realise how little I knew before I began this.
I want to continue spreading the knowledge [of feng shui]. This was never meant to be a career. It was almost an accident, and I'm happy to not expand or scale up.
What you learn is that no matter how rich or how poor, everyone's the same. We all want a nice home.
To hear Cliff’s hilarious advice on applying feng shui practices to best design your home, head to his Instagram page.
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