Feng shui divides the world into five elements (not four, the way the Western world does). The elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. If you have a room that doesn't feel quite right, balancing the elements can make it more comfortable. Each element has its own qualities (including color and texture), and the theory of balancing elements can be used in a yard, home or office.
Incorporate all five elements into every room design, enhancing specific elements according to your unique goals. Each element invokes a different mood, creating a customized space that's beneficial for your personality and goals.
Using the five elements in design can be confusing, so let's get started with the basics.
Wood Wood harnesses the power of creativity and expansion, while representing traits such as growth, birth, strength, flexibility and intuition. Too much wood can make you feel overwhelmed, rigid, stubborn and inflexible, whereas too little can show up as a lack of creativity or depression, ambivalence and stagnancy.
When adding the wood element to a room, look for the following types of objects
• fresh and silk flowers
• plants and trees
• cotton or natural fabrics
• wood furniture
When designing with the wood element, use shapes that mimic the vertical, column-like shape of tree trunks and the softness of leaves and flowers. Like the leaves and sky, wood's colors are green and blue.
Use the fire element to inspire bold design and creativity.
Fire Increase enthusiasm and leadership skills by maximizing the fire element. Use this element in design to encourage expressiveness, inspiration and boldness. When there is an overabundance of fire, it can show itself as anger, aggression, irritability and impulsive behavior, whereas too little can show up as emotional coldness, lack of vision, inexpressiveness and a lack of self-esteem.
To increase the fire element in your space, add:
• candles, incandescent lights and sunlight
• any shade of red, pink or purple
• electronic equipment
• animal prints
To help you remember fire's qualities, think of the red-hot, fiery sun, as well as the fiery energy of people and animals.
Balance your space with the earth element.
Earth Earth affects physical strength and order, while generating an overall feeling of grounding, balance and stability. When there is an overabundance of earth in a space, people will often notice a heavy sensation and experience more boredom, sluggishness and seriousness. When there is too little earth, people may feel disorganized, chaotic and unfocused.
To bring in the element, look for:
• anything in earth tones (brown, green or sand)
• square and rectangular shapes
• low, flat surfaces
• images of landscapes
Think of all the warm colors of the earth, the square or rectangular shapes of earthen tiles and the long, flat horizontal lines of an earthy landscape.
The metal element creates a logical, focused atmosphere.
Metal Metal affects mental clarity and logic. The presence of metal within a room or home can be felt in emotional characteristics like organization, focus, righteousness and analytical abilities. When surrounded with too much metal, you can be seen as chatty, overly critical and speaking without thinking. When there is too little metal, you may notice a feeling of cautiousness, quietness and lack of focus.
When enhancing a space with metal, look for:
• round or oval shapes
• anything made of metal, like steel, iron, aluminum, gold or silver
• rocks and stones
• white, grey, silver or light pastel colors
Remember the rounded shape of a wedding band and the light tones of metal.
Create a spiritual and inspiring space with water elements.
Water Water's domain includes spirituality and the emotions. A balance of water brings about inspiration, wisdom and insightfulness. Too much water can create the feeling of unbalanced transition and the sense that you are drowning, emotionally. It can make you feel overwhelmed and overly social. When there is too little water, you may experience a lack of sympathy, loneliness, isolation, stress and pettiness.
Look for or add these types of objects when learning about the water element:
• the color black or any deep, dark tones
• reflective surfaces, such as mirrors or gazing balls
• wavy, free-form or asymmetrical shapes
• water or water features, such as aquariums or fountains
To help you remember, think of the deep, dark, glistening ocean and the movement and shape of the waves hitting the shore.
Pulling It Together
Lesson #1: Many Elements Within One Object
Now that you understand the basic characteristics of each element, keep in mind one more thing: The objects in your home very often have several elements reflected within each of them. For example, a red flowerpot full of white tulips would represent four of the five elements. The red pot represents fire, the clay pot itself is earth, the flowers represent wood and the white of the tulips are metal.
Lesson #2: Arranging Elements
A fun way to begin playing with the arrangement of elements is to start small on an entry table or a dresser in your bedroom. Add your red flowerpot of tulips, plus a few other items, like a mirror for water and an arrangement of polished stones for metal. There are limitless combinations that you can use, but notice how wonderful these arrangements feel when all the elements are present in the design.
If you want to tackle an entire room, start by noticing and labeling all the objects within a space. If you find yourself using a specific room less than others or avoiding it altogether, the elemental balance may need some adjusting. Especially be on the lookout for rooms that are made up of only one or two elements, but are missing the rest. By adding in objects that represent those missing elements, you’ll be well on your way to creating a balanced and inviting room.
Play and adjust until you've created an arrangement that feels amazing. This delicate dance is a fascinating tool you can use or the rest of your life to help create beautiful and inviting spaces wherever you go!