Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water

When it comes to designing a room, my good friend and all-around creative, Lisa G, goes by the rule that every room should contain the 5 elements: wood, fire, earth, air and water. I did some research and found that its based on the idea of balance in Feng Shui, which aims to create a space that allows chi/qi to flow naturally. Besides creating an aesthetic balance, interior design Feng Shui practitioners use the theory to "treat" imbalances in a space: like improving sleeping habits in the bedroom, calming spastic teens in a high school, or encouraging expansive thinking in the work-place.

Materials that correspond to each element are as follows: 

  • Wood: green, blue, vertical elements, fresh plants/flowers, natural textiles, wood furniture
  • Fire: red, pink, purple, natural light, sunburst mirrors, candles, electronics, animal prints
  • Earth: brown, green, beige, squares or rectangulars, low surfaces
  • Metal: white, grey, silver, pastels, round or oval shapes, anything made of metal, rocks/stones
  • Water: black, deep saturated colors, reflective surfaces like mirrors, curvilinear or organic shapes, aquariums or fountains

Each element symbolizes a different energy and evokes a different mood:

  • Wood: creativity, expansion, cycle of life, strength, flexibility, intution
  • Fire: passion, enthusiasm, leadership, expressiveness, inspiration, boldness
  • Earth: physical strength, order, grounding, balance, stability
  • Metal: clarity, logic, organization, focus, justice, intelligence, 
  • Water: spirituality, inspiration, wisdom, intuition

I'm applying this practice to a living room that I'm collaborating on with another designer. The rustic home is on a mountaintop outside of Portland, and the walls and ceiling are lined with pine (wood element). The client has already furnished the room with a brown, leather sofa (earth element). His fireplace surround is stacked stone (metal element). As you can imagine, it feels masculine and solid; perfect for this single, male client. Fortunately, walls in the adjacent hallway are a cool green, balancing out all the warm tones. My collaborator has created a perfect Pendleton blanket/mountain cabin theme, incorporating the clients collection of framed Mount Hood posters, adding a gold wall-sconce, masculine chandelier, and red area rug (fire element). I'm going to suggest adding a reflective surface (water element) in a round wall mirror, gold lanterns for accessories by the fireplace. and wood, nesting, side tables with skinny metal legs to keep the room from feeling too heavy. This was great practice in designing a space that doesn't necessarily match my personal taste, but truly representing the client's.