Feels like feng shui

It’s not just more New Age hooey, propounds Adele Trebil, a Reno interior designer who incorporates Eastern philosophy into her work

Adele Trebil of Feng Shui Design Associates in Reno.

Adele Trebil of Feng Shui Design Associates in Reno.

Photo by David Robert

Harvard Square, a senior living community, whispered of weariness.

Rooms were uninviting and boring. Alignment and balance were fractured, and chi, the flow of life force, suffered. Residents were either complaining or walking out with disgust, and employees went to work and impatiently waited for the day to end.

The owners of Harvard Square decided the place needed a drastic change to stay in business. After hearing recommendations, they asked interior designer and feng shui consultant Adele Trebil for help.

Trebil, also owner of Feng Shui Design Associates in Reno, along with Annie Ryan, an interior designer at the Department of Interiors, spent about a year transforming Harvard Square into a home, not merely a dreary game room with a joining cafeteria.

Now a visit to the home reveals that wood, fire, earth, metal and water—five essential elements in feng shui—meet harmoniously to create delicately balanced chi, prodding peacefulness and energy. Vivid gold and yellows, lavish reds and calming greens dance throughout the rooms and hallways. Wide sofas form enclosures in the middle of the living room. A fish tank sits tucked securely in front of a window. A piano sits in another corner. Provocative paintings, ceiling-reaching flowers and mirrors decorate the home.

Harvard Square directors brag that residents leave their apartments and loiter in the rooms, inviting friends and family to visit, when before they never ventured out of their apartments. The energy is more positive, Executive Director Denae Miller said, and the morale of the residents and employees has increased.

Feng shui, an ancient Chinese way of thought that theorizes a spiritual relationship between structures and the spiritual forces inhabiting them, began popping up in the West decades ago and continues to grow in popularity alongside dozens of other New Age notions. The basic idea? Moving a piece of furniture or discarding dead flowers can bring the practitioners of feng shui health, wealth and happiness.

Trebil began incorporating the principles of feng shui into her interior designing business in the mid-1980s. Trebil, a petite, older woman with an astute, professional demeanor, is convinced that feng shui offers a wealth of spiritual possibilities. She’s especially proud of being on the front line of the feng shui trend.

“At that time, many people didn’t know about it,” Trebil said. “[But] it was my vision. I just followed my passion and my vision. I trusted my instincts. If people really trusted their heart, we would have a lot less stress in the world.”

Trebil also brags that her work transcends the cookie-cutter version of feng shui. She delves deeper into the philosophy behind it, dismissing crystal balls, wind chimes and mirrors as misconceptions that cheapen feng shui.

“It does not make space look beautiful; it makes it look tacky,” Trebil said, referring to crystal balls and mirrors. “It’s not about trinkets. It shouldn’t look like a Chinese dime store.”

Trebil also strives for individuality in each consultation. Each home and business is different, she said, and should be treated that way.

After hearing a friend rave about the positive effects of incorporating feng shui into her life, Carson City resident Fran Culverhouse decided to call Trebil and see what feng shui could do for her.

“I thought it was hocus pocus,” Culverhouse said. “But it’s been really wild. Things just started to flow.”

Culverhouse was looking to buy a home. She found one in Carson City, but Trebil warned her against it.

“I was really disappointed,” Culverhouse said. “But Adele looked at me and said, ‘Do you really love that house?’ I said, ‘No.’ It [would have been] an investment. She said, ‘You need to be still, and you need to create your dream house.’ “

Culverhouse took Adele’s advice, wrote down specific preferences, and found her dream house within one month.

“You start on this journey with [Trebil], and you know you can’t stop,” Culverhouse said, adding that her life seems more balanced, especially in terms of health and finances.

Though Trebil’s training began with the more basic principles of interior design, she enjoys merging these modern methods with ancient Eastern philosophy.

“The Western world has a lot to learn from other cultures," Trebil said. "The Western culture thinks it knows it all. I’ve learned that energy is the most important thing. It’s the energy that you create and how you put it together. It teaches me to look beyond the surface."