Balancing the Elements - Materials, Objects and the Five Clements

Balancing the Elements - Materials, Objects and the Five Clements

Interpreting and balancing the elements plays a major role in the practice of Feng Shui and its application in home interiors. The elements also help identify the requirements of a Feng Shui makeover - we need to know where the most important associations are and how the five elements relate to the eight compass directions. Listed here are modern design equivalents and design suggestions in relation to each of the five elements.


The Wood element is associated with the southwest (wealth) and east (family) sectors of the home. It is also associated with the color green and tall, cylindrical shapes. To encourage financial luck or improve family relationships, place wooden furniture and decorative or other objects in the appropriate sector.
WOODEN FURNITURE: Footstools, dining chairs and tables, coffee tables, benches, bookcases, bedside tables, storage boxes, hat stands.
WOODEN FEATURES: Walnut screens, guitars, polished wooden floorboards, internal wall paneling.
BAMBOO, WICKER, RATTAN: In contrast to the Yang characteristics of highly polished wood, these materials tend to be yin and slow down Qi. Upholster furniture made from these materials in sumptuous fabrics-and add cushions to create a striking balance.
SEA GRASS AND RUSH MATTING: Popular natural products, though difficult to clean. Good for coastal flooring, mats or furniture. Sea grass or woven hyacinth are available for almost all furniture pieces-lounges, beds, coffee tables, lamps, bedside tables, ottomans.
PAPER PRODICTS: Delicate paper screens, lampshades, pendant lights, floor lamps, transparent indoor and outdoor lanterns.
FLORAL PRINTS AND STRIPES: Wallpaper designs. Lampshades with floral motifs. Flowery or striped cushions, rugs, bedspreads. Curtains, upholstery, throws to enliven muted tones on armchairs. Cushions to soften armchairs, sofas or the floor.
RECTANGULAR SHAPES: Ottomans, freestanding rectangular lights, footstools, modular shelving or storage.
COLORS: Greens and blues.
ARTWORK: Containing plants, landscapes, gardens and flowers.
PLANTS AND FLOWERS: Both real and artificial-all plants are representative of the Wood element.Try using plants which clean the air and enjoy being indoors, such as peace lilies, Boston ferns or lady palms. Flowers enliven the senses as well as drawing energy to or lighting up a corner of a room.


The Fire element, which is associated with a south direction (fame and recognition), exudes a powerful and energizing yang energy. In the home. Fire is potently symbolized by the application of red, purple or bright pinks. All natural and artificial lights -candles, skylights, lamps, fireplaces, sunlight-fall into the Fire category. Triangular, pyramid, pointed and star shapes are associated with this element, as are geometric patterns or plants with pointed leaves. If you seek greater public recognition, add Fire energy to the south sector of your room or home.
PLASTICS, VINYL AND OTHER MANUFACTURED MATERIALS: Plastics and other manufactured materials fall into this category, as they have usually been produced using heat processes. The category includes vinyl tiles, plastic bowls and containers, synthetic cushions, rugs or fibers and plastic or synthetic bathroom curtains.
NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING: This category includes all kinds of lighting. Try applying tall floor lamps in warm red tones - these can be further enhanced by using a red or purple globe. Chandeliers are particularly good Feng Shui. Use pendant lights and bedside and floor lamps. Also apply natural light from windows, skylights, fireplaces and burning candles.
ANIMAL PRODUCTS: This includes leather and wool. Leather lounges, cow-hide rugs or wall hangings, wool and mohair rugs and throws, plus woven cushion covers, upholstery.
OBJECTS: A red or pink vase. Red scatter cushions for the floor or couch.
ARTWORK: Depicting sunshine, light, people or animals.
TRIANGULAR SHAPES: A triangular sculpture. Pyramids, geometric forms, zigzag patterns on fabrics, tablecloths, napkins, bedspreads or curtains.
COLORS: Warm red tones, vibrant oranges, purples, pinks.
PLANTS AND FLOWERS: Red roses, geraniums, begonias, bromeliads, poinsettias, plants with red berries, aspidistras.


Connected to both the southwest (relationships) and northwest (knowledge) sectors, this element is symbolized by earthenware objects. It brings harmony to a space. The nature of the element Earth is openness, closeness, and togetherness. It is strengthened by flowing lines, soft furnishings and objects. Try bringing nature into your environment (plants, flowers, water) to enhance the gentle aspects of this element. Earth colors are easy to pick - yellow tones, ocher, beige and terracotta. If you're keen to boost a relationship or your ability to absorb information or concentrate, place any of the objects or finishes listed below in the relevant sector in your room or house. Low, spreading plants or cube-shaped objects also do the trick.
BRICKS AND TILES: Brick paving in outdoor areas or internal feature walls is representative of earth. Try terracotta flooring, wall tiles or antique plaques throughout open-plan spaces. Tiles in bathrooms or kitchens. Splash backs.
CLAY, CERAMICS, PORCELAIN: Ceramic bowls or sinks, porcelain jars, clay pots. Ceramic figurines and sculptures.
STONE AND MARBLE: Marble flooring and finishes on features such as island benches in kitchens or vanities in the bathroom. Polished concrete floors. Stone bowls, plinths, plaques, fireplaces, feature walls and floors. Sculptures and statues. River pebbles.
FURNISHINGS: All furnishings or insertions in earthy tones.
SQUARES AND RECTANGLES: Low, wide, cube-shaped objects such as coffee tables or ottomans. Square or rectangular-shaped rooms.
ARTWORK: Containing landscapes.
COLORS: Yellow tones, ocher, terracotta, browns, beiges.
Plant: Sunflowers, sipper flowers, marigold, daisies and other plants with yellow tones. Low, spreading plants.


Hard, reflective surfaces make Qi flow faster; this makes metal very yang. The Metal element is associated with the west (children) and northwest (mentors). It is believed that placing metal objects in the west enhances the well-being or luck of your children. When metal is placed in the northwest, your ability to network will be enhanced. Apply crystals, white, gray, gold or silver - colored objects and spherical, round or dome shapes.
STAINLESS STEEL: Use as a surface in kitchens or bathrooms, or as kitchenware, including knives, colanders, saucepans, stove tops.
MATERIALS: Polished, hard, stone surfaces including marble or granite have the capacity to add Metal energy to a room.
Copper, brass, iron, and other metals: Metal tiles, pots, urns.
CRYSTALS AND GEMSTONES: Hang these in windows or apply in sacred spaces.


Water is usually associated with soothing qualities, but it can also be used to energize a space - or a specific area of your life. Water is associated with the north (career), but be sparing, as moving water can overstimulate Qi, which is exactly why fountains, aquariums and images of water are no good in the bedroom. Water stimulates Wood in the productive cycle, so a water feature, finish or object placed in the southeast sector can activate money luck.
REFLECTIVE SURFACES SUCH AS GLASS AND MIRRORS: Be careful where you apply mirrors or reflective surfaces, as too many mirrors in the home can create a sharp bustling environment. Correctly applied, they are extremely beneficial. Also consider glass-front cabinets, stained glass, frosted glass and glass tiles.
OBJECTS: Glass vases, pots, sculptures, figurines.
WATER FEATURES: These include fountains, fish tanks, aquariums (with goldfish).
ARTWORK: Containing images of the sea, streams, ponds or fish.
SHAPES: Wavy, organic shapes.
COLORS: Black, gray and dark blue.
PLANTS AND FLOWERS: The Water element can be introduced by standing plant pots on blue or clear glass or in a glass vase.

Various types of the Wood element found in home interiors are shown in this image - the color green, a bamboo plant, a woven sea grass chair, wicker bowls, a hardwood floor. If the Wood element is placed in the appropriate sector of the home, it is thought to encourage healthy finances and improve family relationships.

Interpreting and balancing the elements plays a major role in the practice of Feng Shui. It's undesirable to place the stove (Fire) next to the sink (Water), as these are opposing elements. Faced with no option in this kitchen, a wooden buffer was introduced between the two, to diffuse and ground the energies.

Plants and flowers are in the Earth and Wood categories. Plants have potent Qi - they help harmonize energy in the home and circulate energy in disused corners, shelves, or on side tables.

Not only is natural and artificial light such as candles or lamps - associated with the Fire element, but also triangular, pyramid or pointed shapes. With the added benefit of this lamp's pointed shape, its Fire potency is increased. Added to the south sector of your room or home, a lamp, geometric shape or vibrant color will help you achieve greater public recognition, should you desire it.

The Earth element is symbolized here by earthenware objects, which bring harmony into the home. Earth colors are yellow tones, ocher, beige and terracotta. If you want to boost a relationship, or increase your ability to absorb information and concentrate, place Earth elements, objects or tones in the relevant sector of your room or house. Earth elements are particularly good when applied to a home office or study.

Metal is considered very yang, as hard, reflective surfaces make Qi flow faster. Reflective surfaces also suggest efficiency and action, making metal useful in the kitchen and in stagnant areas (such as the bathroom). When applied well, Metal can be a very effective Feng Shui tool - clocks, for instance, are considered very auspicious. Metal can be found everywhere around the home, from garden taps to lights in the driveway. Because it's a potent Feng Shui tool, take note of where metal is positioned in and around your home. Poor positioning could have adverse effects.

Water represents important aspects of life - wisdom, contemplation and healing; it Stimulates and refreshes Qi energy. Introducing a water feature, a regularly watered plant or an aquarium in the home will enhance your career sector. Water is also strongly associated with money, so if you place it in your wealth area it will boost your finances and luck. Glass has depth and light, which is why its true home is Water. Here, an attractive water feature in a back garden combines two Water elements - glass and free-flowing water.