Elements with Intention

Article & Photography by Johi Kokjohn-Wagner
Horse lovers are typically outdoorsy types, which serves you well in the saddle but might leave you perplexed when confronted with decorating the interior your home. Looking for elemental inspiration can help you avoid the pitfalls of heavy-handed design or the recreation of an unoriginal look found in the pages of a catalog, and it can marry an equestrian’s love of the outdoors with a home that expresses your interests. Intentional application of the five elements—fire, earth, metal, water and wood—is simply one of many formulas to bring balance, cohesion and natural feel to your home.
Designing your interior with intention is always powerful. Jade O’Connor of Jade O’Connor Designs, Inc. lends her professional opinion on utilizing the five elements for a harmonious home.
“There are many ways to use the natural elements of fire, earth, metal, water and wood in your home,” Jade said. “Reclaimed wood, metal accessories, fireplaces, plant arrangements, candles, living walls and water features are all wonderful applications of these elements.”
Recognizing and utilizing the five elements is part of the design approach of Feng Shui, but it also speaks to an equestrian’s intuitive process of selecting items that speak to and of your lifestyle. These elements not only lend aesthetics to a room, they also bring power to a space, as each element carries different energy.

Fire represents expansion, transformation, enthusiasm and leadership.
Earth signifies balance, physical strength, grounding and stability.
Metal embodies mental power: clarity and logic.
Water denotes emotions, spirituality, release and renewal.
Wood symbolizes personal growth and creativity.

Bringing the five elements into your home can be straightforward, such as implementing actual items:
– An antique bit collection adorning a wall of reclaimed barn wood.
– A rustic stone fireplace adjacent to heart-pine floors covered in nubby woolen rugs.
– Accents of textured, hand-woven baskets and heavy metal candlesticks.
– A collection of live plants on a wrought iron stand near a pebble clad water feature.
Jade designs rooms for not only visual appeal, but also practicality and function.
“I design a room with a fireplace differently than a room without a fireplace,” she said. “The layout and purpose are different. I balance fire with water; no patio or backyard is complete without a water feature. The element and sound of water is so soothing and calming for the soul.
“It is good to break up a log home with earth and metal. Adding different elements—layering and age—will add texture to a new house.”
Another approach to using the elements is more symbolic, such as applying colors or objects that represent each element.

Fire colors are red, orange and bright colors that reflect light and energy. Fire shapes are triangles, pyramids, diamonds and sunbursts.
Earth colors are muted, dark tones of brown, green and yellow. Earth shapes are squares and rectangles, often placed low and horizontally.
Metal colors are white, silver and gray. Metal is represented through circles.
Water colors are black and blue. Water shapes mimic still or moving water, such as lakes and ponds or waves and ripples.
Wood colors are true, clear greens and purples. Wood is acknowledged by vertical pillars or columns.

“For example, I mimic the element of water with glass and the color blue, or with a slub pattern with a water feel,” Jade explained. “Woven baskets for earth will fill up shelves and take away coldness. The key with using these elements is balancing them by using them all in a space.”
With careful consideration, the five elements will help you achieve a unified space that projects all of the design elements that Jade has discussed previously: color, pattern and texture. It’s also a wonderful way to successfully incorporate any horse lover’s intrinsic inclination for natural elements and bring purpose-driven design into your home.

Johi Kokjohn-Wagner is a special contributor for Chrome and MyChromeLife.com. To read more great stories like this one, check out Chrome magazine, a Western lifestyle magazine designed just for members of the American Paint Horse Association. Chrome is free with your APHA membership—join online or subscribe today!