The authors call their design concept "funky shui," which they define as being "less about the wind chimes and more about the snow globes."

No need to follow Martha Stewart's clean lines any longer: Their kooky vision encourages readers to use the glue gun to affix plastic toys and bright fabrics throughout the home.

Their book, "Decorating With Funky Shui," features 133 pages of carefree design concepts, most of which spring straight from the O'Neil sisters' homes in Orinda and San Mateo.

So loosen up, Sacramento, and consider using your favorite plastic flamingo not as a lawn ornament but as a centerpiece in your dining room.

Q: When did you first realize you were following the principles of funky shui?

A: Kitty O'Neil: We grew up in a very funky-shui house. Our mom is an artist who was very kooky and creative. When our parents bought their first house, it was right outside their price range, so they didn't have much to decorate with. So Mom just glued rhinestones to exposed pipes and painted an oriental rug on the floor, and she'd paste cartoons on the kitchen cabinets.

Q: What can funky shui contribute to current trends in home décor?

A: Kitty: We feel like the '90s were all about Martha Stewart and clean lines and simple living, and everyone gave their stuff away. Now Martha's a little distracted, people are feeling like they want to have fun again, and we all want our stuff back.

Like I have a big light-bulb lamp that hangs over my desk where I work, and now I always have an idea, because I have a big light bulb over my head.

Q: How can you tell when a design idea is creative and exciting and when it's just plain tacky?

A: Jennifer O'Neil: Funky is in the eye of the beholder, and if you have an old lunchbox that has total deep psychological meaning for you, then how could it possibly be junk? "Funky Shui" is all about you, and decorating from the inside out. Items that are in your closet say so much about you, and the difference between junky clutter and art is just how you display it. If you took all the stuff from the Smithsonian and put it in your closet, then it would look like junk, too.

Q: Couldn't you run the risk of blocking harmful energy by gluing a lot of PEZ dispensers on your living-room mantelpiece?

A: Jennifer: Everybody comments on the PEZ dispensers, especially since we live in earthquake country. Most people say, "That's really neat, but I don't think I could live with it." And I say, "Decorating with funky shui is all about decorating with the things you love, to promote joy and happiness in your life."

We wanted to get the crazy ideas out there, so if people felt they could do one little thing after reading the book, they would do it. For me, there's very good energy in those PEZ dispensers. But if having, say, 24 lunchboxes in your living room makes you anxious, then maybe just place one in there on a pedestal, and see how happy it makes you.

Kitty: Yeah, just think about what you love, and look under the bed or in the closet, and get started that way. People always ask us about how to dust once you've set up your collection. What we do is get a blow dryer and blow the dust off of everything, let it settle and then you vacuum it up. Easy.

Q: Where have you funky shui-ed houses?

A: Jennifer: We don't funky shui other people's homes for a living. We want to give other people permission to have fun with their own homes. We've done our own houses, and luckily our husbands are very tolerant.

About the Writer
Garance Burke can be reached at (916) 321-1261 or

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee
Kitty & Jennifer O'Neil
The Sacramento Bee
Saturday, July 31, 2004

Q & A: Kitty and Jennifer O'Neil
Decorating in two-part harmony
By Garance Burke -- Bee Staff Writer

For Jennifer O'Neil, striking the correct balance between yin and yang meant strewing PEZ dispensers around her living room. O'Neil, who has written an unusual new home décor book with her sister, Kitty, has taken the basic principle of feng shui - living in harmony with one's environment - and made it relevant to the lifelong tchochke collector.
Kitty and Jennifer O'Neil

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Ron Hemphill
Funky Shui
"Funky Shui"