Fortune didn't just find Lizanne Falsetto's front door. It was invited.
Lured in from the ocean and guided through a channel of steps, its force sweeps up from the street, gathers momentum from a splashing fountain at the entry, then disperses throughout her hilltop home in Ventura, Calif.
Or so believes Falsetto, a nutrition-bar entrepreneur and feng shui enthusiast. She became rich, she says, after a remodel freed her dreary two-story house of its negative energy and she filled it with talismans collected from healers around the world.
A house is often about showing off wealth. Falsetto's is about a quest for it, manifested in an aesthetic sensibility shaped by a $1,000-a-visit feng shui adviser who is sometimes at odds with her interior designer. The homeowner mixes the ancient Chinese theory of balancing energy through proper placement of walls, windows and wind chimes with folklore, religious symbolism, and whatever appeals to her during shopping sprees.
Out on her living room terrace with a view of the Pacific, the former model rubs the wooden belly of a money-god statue she found at Goodwill, one of her first purchases in auspicious consumption.
"They wanted $25 for it, but I bargained them down to $10. Every day, I rub it for more money, and it's working," says Falsetto, whose company, thinkproducts, sold more than $13 million worth of nutrition bars last year at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and health food stores.
"The biggest stumbling block for most people is money," she says. "But I've always believed it's OK to want it, to ask for it, and accept it. In fact, bring it on."
Falsetto, 44, practices a sort of superstitious capitalism. This year, she wants to almost double sales, so she recently invited a dozen employees to her reenergized house to have their feet detoxed, eat a healthful dinner prepared in her new high-tech kitchen, and watch the DVD version of The Secret, the best-selling book about setting a stage for wealth.
"My home reinforces the way I live my life," she says. "The mind works this way: The more you create positive, the more you can conquer."
A few years ago, nothing was in place for Falsetto to bring in the good. She'd stopped modeling. Her company was small. Her marriage was ending.
When she and her husband split, she stayed with her two children in the house they had lived in for an unlucky 13 years. Before they bought it, the cottage had been added onto, slap-dash style. In the 1980s, a previous owner splashed on Miami Vice-inspired colors, but the flamingo-pink walls and green-and-black checkered floors did nothing to brighten the rooms.
On the advice of friends, she hired Udd'hava Om, an energetic-medicine and feng shui practitioner, to look the place over and suggest changes. There wasn't much Om liked. Steep steps vaulted from the street straight to the front door.
"It was hard labor just to get inside the house," he recalls.
There was bad energy too, especially in the tunnel-ish master bedroom. The house was also falling apart, its wood frame and wallboard decayed.
No healthy person with children should have been living there, says Om, who changed his name from Johannes Steenkamp in 1994 to that of one of Krishna's disciples.
For true feng shui harmony, he advised Falsetto to move or tear down the house and start over with a neat rectangle, where energy could circulate and not get trapped. But the divorced mom liked the elevated lot and needed to be practical.
The solution? They would move the outside steps 15 feet from their original place so that the stairs could ascend in one direction, then switch course. At the halfway point, there would be a landing to cradle good energy, a configuration repeated with the indoor stairs.
They would also change the floor plan to eliminate the dead ends, add a wing for a children's playroom and guest bedroom, and open up the house to natural light with skylights, windows and sliding glass doors.
For colors, materials and plants, they would take their cues from the rabbit, Falsetto's Chinese astrological sign.
"A rabbit needs harmony, artistic expression and sensuality," says Om, 66, who has studied Eastern philosophy for almost half a century, including a stint at a Hindu monastery in India when he was a teenager.
"Lizanne was already hardworking and ambitious," says Om, who returned to the house in March for its monthly checkup. "Ambition in itself is not a bad thing, but it never brings pleasure. You have to change your environment to make you more aware and to nurture yourself with color, comfort, plants, good food. You also need to have an intention, feel it, and be a good person, and you'll be rewarded."
He wants some things changed because they aren't attracting good energy: a circular brown rug in the entry; jade dragons in the powder room; two wooden planks with Chinese characters on a bedroom wall. He understands some of the words' meaning, but asks interior designer Elayne Jordan to get a full translation to make sure it's not a negative statement. (Falsetto ultimately takes down the wooden scrolls.)
When Om points these problems out to Jordan, she looks crestfallen. It's the first time in her career that she has had to worry about feng shui rules.
"There are a lot of dictates of what is allowed," she says, following Om through the house during the checkup.
A massive Chinese front gate makes too big of a statement at the "mouth" of the house, he says. He would prefer to see something more humble. And a 4-foot-long wooden club Falsetto carted home from Fiji is moved from the living-room floor to the fireplace mantel because, in that position, it dampens its destructive power and signals to the universe that it would be OK if it burned.
As for the "money god" in the terrace? He smiles.