Is your house giving you trouble? Feng Shui could be the answer, says Sally Williams
The main problem with Charlotte's flat was that earth was insulting earth; Max and Selby's had no career corner and Mary's house was full of distorted energies. All had consulted the ancient oriental philosophy of Feng Shui, which also advises that exposed beams can cause migraines, miscarriages and heart disease; roses in the garden can encourage your husband to have affairs; and the East End of London will never prosper because the water is dirty.

According to Feng Shui (pronounced "Fong Shoi"), there is more to houses than the right curtains and furniture; the right energy is important, too. The ancient Chinese believed that invisible but powerful lines of energy ("chi") ran not only through the human body, but through houses and the environment as well. If that energy became blocked or unbalanced, all sorts of problems from lack of money, family disputes, ill-health or redundancy could follow. Feng Shui works like acupuncture for houses. Instead of sticking needles in your walls, a Feng Shui master will advise on everything from the placing of tables to the colour of your ceiling and the choice of mirrors and plants.

Feng Shui master Patrick Wong, who spent 17 years learning the art from Buddhist monks in Hong Kong, insisted that Mary had a picture of a boat sailing up the stairway. "He said that money was coming down the stairs, so I had to have a boat sailing against the tide. The problem was that in most boat pictures the boat is sailing to the left of the picture. It took ages to find one, but I eventually did, painted by a left-handed artist."

While it might seem fanciful to Western sceptics that moving a few pots around and painting a silver stripe down the inside of the front door will insure peace and harmony, in the Far East architects, designers, businesses and office managers routinely call in the Feng Shui consultant; in Hong Kong, in particular, many would not dream of renting or buying a house before it had been given a Feng Shui survey. Even in this country, blue-chip companies such as Marks & Spencer and Virgin Atlantic have adopted some of the tenets of the 3,000-year-old philosophy.

Harrison Kyng, part German-Scot and part Tibetan-Burmese, and connected to an illustrious line of shamans, is doing a roaring trade from his base, the Shen Dao Institute in Derby, where he is also a lecturer. "I work for private clients and corporations. I advise fashion houses, restaurants and have just signed a deal with a multi-million-pound bank."

Trendy nonsense, maybe, but life-changing expertise does not come cheap. A survey will cost from pounds 70 to pounds 500 plus, and for corporate work consultants charge an average of pounds 2,500 a day. Some, hired on a long-term basis to ensure that life-forces remain in the building, can charge more than pounds 50,000. It is not surprising, therefore, that bogus operators have decided to cash in. "In theory, anyone can read a DIY Feng Shui book and set themselves up as a consultant and in the past 12 months many have. It's got ridiculous," Kyng says, warning that letting an untrained eye loose on your negative energy can cause all manner of problems. "The imposters tend to just work out the harmonics of your house [the areas which govern wealth, fame, business, marriage, children, helpful people and career. If one of these areas is missing, or the layout of the room is badly planned, then the corresponding area of your life could suffer], but leave out the vibrations. It's not good enough to say, this is your money corner, you have to know if it's negative or positive." Harmonics, it seems, are formulaic and can be worked out according to the position of the door. Vibrations (or qualities), however, are much more elusive and need to be measured on a scale of one to eight with a special Chinese compass. Part science and part initiative art, the really clever bit, says Kyng, comes from knowing if it is the toilet that is draining the energy from the house or the open drain; if a client needs a money plant or an aloe plant; stainless- steel chimes, wooden chimes or brass. All that can take many years of rigorous training as students progress up the Feng Shui ladder from practitioner to consultant and finally master. So, does it work? "I do feel much happier about work," says Charlotte, who had her flat Feng Shui'd by Harrison Kyng in April, "which is strange really, because things have changed at work, but mainly for the worse. I just feel impervious to it." She also feels life outside work has more direction. "But I am loath to say that any of it is as a direct result of having Feng Shui." Charlotte has now learnt that one of the best features of her warehouse conversion flat in Butler's Wharf, London, is the one-way street below. "The direction of the traffic is away from the building, so that takes all the negative energy away." The problem of her wealth and good relationships going down the toilet has been solved by strapping crystals to the loo and the ceiling.

Kyng has come across many problems: energy-draining open wells in the sitting-room, energy vortexes in the dining-room, but he has only ever told one person to move out: Robert. "His house was appalling. It was built between two houses and should have been a garage. The bedroom was on the ground floor, the living-room on the upper floor. The kitchen had no windows and it was all black and stainless. The whole house made you feel that you wanted to commit suicide. Robert sold the house, but being a Buddhist felt it would be 'bad karma' not to warn the new owner. But he replied, 'Feng what? I just want to live here'." Kyng is now advising Robert on future properties.

For many, Feng Shui works like a copy of The World of Interiors magazine: a lesson in the art of furniture placement. Max and Selby's flat was Feng Shuied in January, soon after they moved in. "I wanted to know what colour to paint it and what should go where," says Max, "I know it won't make me win the lottery unless I buy a ticket, but at least I know now to keep the ticket in the creative money corner, rather than the extended money corner, to make the most of my chances." In fact, Max and Selby's flat has two extended money corners, one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom, and they still have notes on their walls to remind them of these and other areas including the "disconnects 'chi' with children" section. "We used to keep the bed there and we never had to use contraception," says Max.

"Without a doubt, Feng Shui works," says Mary. Since Patrick Wong surveyed her two bedroom house in west London six months ago, she feels happier, her house is calmer and her daughter sleeps through the night. She called Wong in because she had just divorced from her husband and wanted a fresh start. "I had bad associations with the house and wanted to move, but I felt my daughter had been through enough changes, and so I decided to stay for her sake. Patrick was my compromise." He charged pounds 500 and gave her a long shopping list, which included repainting the Germaline-pink hallway, moving the bed six inches, putting a hessian fringe over the toilet, removing any cats or tigers (pictures, cuddly toys or otherwise) from her daughter's room, putting elephants in her garden and getting a 24-inch vase - the only outstanding item. "I can't find one anywhere. It can be any colour, but it has to be 24 inches. I found one that was 19 inches. I telephoned him to ask if that would be OK, but he said, no, it has to be 24 inches." Mary is still looking and only Patrick Wong knows what will happen to her energy lines when she finally finds it.

Harrison Kyng can be contacted at the Shen Dao Institute, 185 Ladybank Road, Michelover, Derby DE3 5QL (01332 523032 or 0370 384909).

Patrick Wong can be contacted at 2 Gerrard Place, London W1 (0171-494 0680 or 0370 363618).

Six steps to harmony

Clear out all clutter. "There should be enough space for a wind to blow through each room."

Keep windows free from heavy net curtains. Light helps stop "energy stagnating".

Never keep televisions, computers, desks or any "active" energy in your bedroom. Bedrooms are for sex and sleeping.

Mirrors that face the bed "startle the spirit" and should be removed.

Ensure the bathroom ("the colon of the house") has plenty of light and air, "to keep the waste energy circulating".

Back gardens should slop gently upwards and paths and borders should be curved to "slow down the energy".