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Feng shui and a center split open up a La Cañada Flintridge home

Sunnie Kim had been looking for a house for two years when her brother called in 2010 to say he'd found one she might like in a wooded area of La Cañada Flintridge. "It was love at first sight," recalls Kim, who fell for the midcentury home that is set below street level and embraced by giant redwood, oak and maple trees.

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But the 1958 residence was "cramped and boxy" inside and in need of a major renovation, says Kim, who is president of Hana Financial. "It was important to me that the house engage more with the beautiful natural setting of the property, as well as to create a tranquil escape from my hectic day-to-day business life."

Architect Christopher Mercier outside the 1950s home he renovated for Sunnie Kim.
Architect Christopher Mercier outside the 1950s home he renovated for Sunnie Kim. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

She called in architect Christopher Mercier of (fer) studio in Inglewood to transform the ranch-style house into the sleek modern-contemporary dwelling she desired. To make the indoor-outdoor connection, the architect cut the house down the middle to create a visual passageway through to the backyard. "When you open the front door now," says Mercier, "you can see all the way to the huge redwood trees in the back." The renovation added 900 square feet to the original 2,300-square-foot-structure.

One of Sunnie Kim's favorite spots: her master bathroom tub, where a new skylight allows her to gaze at a giant oak while bathing.
One of Sunnie Kim's favorite spots: her master bathroom tub, where a new skylight allows her to gaze at a giant oak while bathing. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A handsome standing-seam metal roof now hovers over the entry of the single-story home, raised in a gesture like a protective hand. Inside, the new elevated ceiling soars nearly 16 feet over the sunken living room. Two sets of glass bi-fold doors as well as clerestory windows open the home's central core (living, dining and kitchen) to the outside, while recently added picture windows and skylights along the east-west corridor (anchored by guest and master bedrooms) frame sky and nature views. Among Kim's favorite spots to chill: her master bathroom tub, where a new skylight allows her to gaze at a giant oak while bathing. "It gives me a true feeling of serenity and relaxation," she says.

The backyard area in La Canada Flintridge.
The backyard area in La Canada Flintridge. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

But the South Korean-born Kim wanted more than a striking indoor-outdoor home, so she requested feng shui master Jonathan Ng of Feng Shui Masters in Arcadia to advise how best to balance the five elements — fire, water, earth, wind and metal — to create an auspicious home. A new basalt fountain in the entry courtyard was placed opposite the front door; it is supposed to allow chi, positive energy, to flow into the house. Large windows at either end of the bedroom corridor were designed to draw energy through the space, and crystals were placed at strategic locations within the walls to augment chi and increase prosperity. "All five elements in balance is something we want to achieve," says Ng, "to create harmony, wealth and good relations."

Today the remodeled home (awarded best home renovation in 2014 by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects), filled with Eurostyle furnishings in an array of muted, charcoal hues, serves as an oasis of calm for the busy financial advisor. "I love the quiet integration of the house with nature," says Kim. "My home gives me energy. It's where I think, create … rejuvenate."

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Home wisdom from feng shui master Jonathan Ng in Arcadia

Feng shui master Jonathan Ng employed the ancient Chinese doctrine of feng shui and its guiding principal of chi (vital energy) to create "greater happiness, wealth and good relations" in Sunnie Kim's remodeled home. Some musings from Ng:

• "From Sunnie's personal birth data, we selected the most propitious placement for the front door to ensure maximum intake of beneficial energy."

• " 'Feng' means 'wind,' and 'shui' [means] 'energy' … water is the energy carrier. So to put a fountain opposite the front door rushes energy into the home."

• "Implanted crystals enhance the metal energy helping to build wealth."

• "We wanted to use a favorable color to blend in and not be contrasting to enjoy the energy during the Period 8 earth cycle Sunnie is in. Gray is a neutral color and acceptable in the earth element."

• "If you have little windows, the house is dark and creates solitude and a less happy environment. Lots of windows, with a good balance of yin and yang, darkness and brightness, provide a happy environment."

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