Outside view of VIDA Building

Decorating With the Rule of Three

Three pieces of art hung above a desk.Photo credit: Huseyn Kamaladdin

October 2021


You may not know it, but three is a magical number. In writing, music, photography, painting, and decorating – grouping things in threes is a classic principle.  There’s just something about the way our brains are wired that makes it feel right. When it comes to decorating, we love simple rules. So, following the rule of three is an easy way to make your apartment or townhome look like it was decorated by a professional.

When you’re thinking about threes, think about “footprints” on a surface rather than objects. For example, a coffee-table book on a table is one footprint. If you stack three books together, it’s still one footprint. Add a decorative piece of driftwood on top – and it’s still one footprint. So, when you’re creating a group of three, it’s three footprints together. That might be three candles. It could be a small lamp, a vase, and a framed photo. As you create these groupings, try make sure each is a different size. Three candles of different heights will look better than three of the exact same candle.

Coffee tables and end tables are a common place to see the rule of threes, but there are other applications. Try grouping three pieces of art on a wall, three pillows on a couch, three items on a one shelf of a bookcase, or three plants together. If you ever find yourself in a situation where more than three items are needed – like a gallery wall or mantel – just use an odd number of things and the effect still holds true.