Most likely you’ve heard the expression “rule of three,” or “rule of thirds,” whether in photography, art, web design . . . interior design or décor perhaps?

This rule is a powerful must-have tool to use for any interior design or decorating project, whether it’s undertaken by the professionals or by design-savvy homeowners.

In a nutshell, the rule of three is a basic design principle of organizing design into three rows and three columns, or nine equal parts. The meeting points for the vertical and horizontal lines serve as natural placement cues for your subject and supporting elements. Not only that, it helps you create balance, or make modifications to achieve balance.  

Why? Because groupings of items in odd numbers have a more dynamic look and therefore feel more natural. While things grouped in even numbers definitely have their place design, they can sometimes look uninspired, contrived, and even downright cold.

So, are you undertaking some interior design or decorating projects? Don’t miss the opportunity to implement the rule of three!

Here are 6 ways how:

1. Furniture arrangement

Grouping furniture in sets of three is a proven way to go with the rule of thirds. Just flip or scroll through a design magazine.
As a matter of fact, it took us just a few minutes before we found this grouping of one sofa and two chairs:

Credit: Erin Kunkel

With furniture, you can’t go wrong with pieces that are similar in size and shape, but not necessarily the same colors. 

2. Accessories, artwork, and other collections

When applied to your accessories and collections—including knickknacks that have a special place in your heart—the rule of three guarantees spontaneity and effortlessness. 

Try these to get started:

  • Group three similar objects (like three candles, snowglobes, or glass bottles). To up the effortlessness factor, go for different shapes and sizes but maybe similar colors, or the other way around (see below).
  • Group three different objects for an interesting vignette (e.g., a vase, a table lamp, and a bowl). 
  • Group stacks of books in threes.
  • Group three similar framed pieces of art, three decorative items (like plates) on the wall, or three sculptural pieces on a shelf or table.
Source: Architectural Digest

3. Colors

Did you know that you can use an “equation” when choosing colors?

Here’s how it goes: 

  • A main color for 60 percent of the area
  • A secondary color for 30 percent of the area
  • An accent color for the remaining 10 percent
Source: Better Homes & Gardens

You can go bold or pick opposite colors on the color wheel. You can choose soothing neutrals. Just pick three different colors, and apply the equation to create a space that looks pleasing, interesting, and dynamic. 

4. Architectural details

Are you planning some updates on your home’s architectural details? Why not complement the current architectural symmetry with some rule-of-three update? If you have two large picture windows on either side of the house, for example, you can turn one into three smaller windows whose combined scale match and balance with the single window on the other side. 

Or you can break up a huge arch window into three:

Source: décor pad

5. Lighting

Some fun options here: three pendent lights hanging over a kitchen island, three candles on the dining table, or maybe three wall sconces (especially the geometric, minimal design modern kinds).

Source: Dezeen
Source: Overstock

6. Fabrics 

Mix and match rule-of-three–style: Pick three different patterns that have similar colors from patterns like paisley, flowers, stripes, geometric, checks, plaids, etc.

Source: Hadley Court 

The design balance and harmony that result from the rule of thirds at work will be hard to miss—and a joy to live with.

As with some great rules, though, the rule of thirds can be bent. Implementing it doesn’t mean you can’t go for something more symmetrical here and there. In fact, doing so will amplify the effect of this principle, as well as dial down any rigidness that may result from your even-number-based choices. That’s a win-win design scenario. 

If you’re selling, use the rule of thirds to make some updates for staging. If you’re buying, explore the design possibilities you can play with in every property you’re considering.

Contact Team Clancy to get the ball rolling and get the best chance at getting the right price.