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The Rule of Threes Just May Be the Secret to a Well-Designed Home

Nightstand using rule of three.

Light and Dwell

They say that good things come in threes, and in the design world, this phrase takes on even more significant meaning. “Grouping items in three is a great way to make your home feel more balanced,” designer Tracy Morris explains. 

Items to style in a trio may include coffee table books, vases, or candles. However, sticking to three items total is by no means required. “I like to take it a step further and recommend grouping items in odd numbers,” Morris adds. “This gives you more freedom when accessorizing larger spots.” 

Entryway table with three vases.

Light and Dwell

Additionally, focusing solely on accent pieces is by no means required. “One of our favorite ways to incorporate the rule of three within spaces is through thoughtful lighting details,” designer Tracey Sawyer of Sawyer & Company says. “Pendant lighting is a great way to achieve the symmetry and balance within a space that this design rule promotes, bringing the eye upwards and adding a focal point that ties together the room.”

Sawyer advises hanging such a piece above a sofa or in a nook with a chair and side table. 

Ready to get started? Morris says the key when styling is maintaining variety by incorporating different shapes, sizes, or colors. Adds designer Courtney Sempliner, “To achieve the perfect shelfie, try clustering three vases together, but with varying heights for visual interest. If items have similar heights, try placing a book—or three—underneath for elevation.” 

Group of vases and candlesticks on coffee table.

Ashley Montgomery Design

When laying out a room, consider creating areas of interest within a larger space by grouping furniture based upon the rule of three, Sempliner adds. “For instance, group an armchair with a pair of nesting tables, or three bar stools in the kitchen," she says. "You can also apply the rule of three to your artwork by hanging three matching frames above your headboard as a loose triptych, or when installing a gallery wall.” 

What’s great about this decorating technique is that nothing is permanent, and there is room for plenty of experimentation over time. “You can play around with things until it feels right, step back every once in a while and see how it looks from a distance or when entering the room,” Morris says. “This should be a fun process and is easy to swap out if you want to change the space up a bit."