Decorating With The Rule of Three

Get these easy tips for decorating with the rule of three. Add balance and interest to your decor by following these simple rules for decorating in threes.

pitchers on shelves example of decorating in threes

Welcome to another edition of 20 Minute Decorating, where you can find ideas and inspiration for updating your spaces in just a few minutes! Today I’m talking about The Rule of Three. Which isn’t really a rule…but more of a system you can use to pull your accessories together in a way that makes sense. Decorating in threes helps you avoid too much symmetry, which can make your rooms look staged and boring. Even though I love symmetry, and could not live without it, too much of it is not a good thing! There are many different ways to incorporate this idea into your home, so use my suggestions as a starting point, and then add your own personal style.

dining room with board and batten

Decorating with the Rule of 3


Nothing is easier than lining up three vessels on your table, and then filling them with flowers. The vessels can be alike, sort of alike, or completely different. In the tablescape above, I used ironstone pitchers that were similar in size, but they do not match. Another idea is to gather three vessels on a tray and place it in the middle of your table. It’s helpful to keep the vessels low so your guests can see each other across the table. Another classic idea is to use a low centerpiece in the middle and flank it with candlesticks. Our grandmas used this idea and didn’t even know they were star decorators!

centerpiece of peonies and roses


Styling shelves can sometimes be a challenge, but using the rule of three makes it much easier. Begin by placing three items on each shelf, then stand back and decide what, if anything, needs adjusted. Layering two items melds them together and they become one item. To get added interest, vary the heights of your accessories and pop in some color.

example of rule of three pitchers on coffee table

Coffee Tables

There are a million and one ways to style a coffee table…but for me, the easiest thing to do is begin with a tray and go from there. Layering adds depth and also helps keep your accessories cohesive. In the picture above, I used three vessels that are alike, but not matching. They also vary in height. All the flowers are the same though and that is what makes it work. You will never go wrong with a tray topped with three of your favorite treasures!

pitchers of flowers on coffee table


When I first started blogging, I had no idea what a vignette even was…I had to look it up! A vignette is simply a grouping of objects that are related in some way. Tabletops are the most obvious place to use vignettes, but they can also be used on mantels and shelves. In the photo below, I grouped together three vintage mason jars that vary in height. It’s nice to stick to a theme, but it’s definitely not necessary. Stay true to your own personal style and use things that tell the story of your family.

decorating in threes example mason jars on small chest

Pillows and Throws

The rule of three works great for pillows and throws. Place a throw on the corner of a sofa, add two pillows, and you have the perfect trio of color and texture. This works especially well if you want to add color to a neutral piece of furniture.

example of rule of three quilt two pillows on sofa

Whenever I read articles on decorating rules, I always wonder where they came from. Who gets to decide what is considered good decorating and what is not? Don’t get me wrong…I have always been a rule-follower, but my philosophy is that your home’s decor should make you smile when you walk in the door. So do what feels right. Follow the rules, or break them. It’s totally up to you!

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Dining Room:

table runners | wicker placemat | ivory dinner plate | flatware (similar) | checked napkins | chandelier (similar) | board and batten | paint colors | hanging lanterns | botanical prints | dining room rug (in beige/ivory) | fabric on chairs | wicker fishing creel (similar)

Living Room:

wicker basket tray | Farmhouse Pottery: medium milkmaid pitcher (no longer available) & small beehive crock  | linen pillow cover | blue lumbar pillow cover | quilt: Red Eyed Studio on Etsy | vintage blue mason jars |

*Ironstone on shelves found at flea markets, antique malls, Goodwill, etc.

Now let’s see what my friends are sharing…

Thistlewood Farm | 7 Simple Steps to Style a Hutch

gray kitchen hutch with white dishes and plates

Designthusiasm | Help-yourself Breakfast Bar

help yourself kitchen breakfast bar on the kitchen table

French Country Cottage | Simple Ideas to Decorate with Mirrors

French Country Cottage

Shabbyfufu | Decorating with Collections

collection of old bottles shabbyfufu

StoneGable | Easy Mason Jar Citronella Candle DIY


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  1. I love this idea! My shelves on my bookcase look so cluttered. I am working on it this week. Most all picture frames and items are now removed… Now for the rule of 3s!
    Thank you for your inspiration!

  2. Linda Johnston says:

    Rules are helpful and often for me they are guidelines. It’s interesting too for me to the read well established and home design influencers from he past.

  3. I use the rule of three also, thank you for your great ideas. Love all your beautiful flowers and how you arranged them with the blue mason jars, I’m a real fan of the blue. THANKS !

  4. Barb'ry Allen says:

    I used to work in a florist shop and everything was done in odd numbers. 1, 3, 5, 7, etc.

  5. Yes, every thing does does look better when you use the odd numbers in accessories. On occasions ONE single piece works best. Once you get it placed ….leave it alone. You will soon see that one single piece can hold it own as well as three or five smaller objects. You began to see the details of the single object, It doesn’t have to fight for attention.

  6. Love your centerpieces. I’m using them this weekend.

  7. Julie Briones says:

    Love this post, Ann… I even see the rule of three on your dining room wall! ;-) Your peonies look gorgeous, as well! Pinning! (Don’t know if you do any link parties, but we just started a new one, Tuesday Turn About…. opens at 3pm PST… we’d be blessed to have you!)

  8. I agree with the rule of three or grouping similar objects.I am a total symmetry girl just like you ! Your peony arrangements look beautiful.

  9. Ann – such good advice. My mom passed on the rule of three many years ago. It has always helped me to put together displays .
    Visiting from Stone Gable
    Pinned and following!
    Have a great day :)

  10. Lory | Designthusiasm says:

    Your groupings are lovely, Ann! I’m a big rule of three fan here… :-)

  11. Dorabella Santos says:

    Great tips! I have also become fond of decorating in threes. But more often than not, I like decorating in twos or pairs too. I think I got that from mom, who loved decorating in pairs :)