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!


Shop & Source

*Affiliate links included. Click HERE for my disclosure statement.

Dining Room:

table runners | round wicker placemat | ivory dinner plate (similar) | 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.

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  1. Even us more seasoned gals need this reminder once and awhile.
    I study each example and always get inspired to do some freshening up.

  2. Micaela Brundage says:

    I have always naturally decorated with the rule of three in mind but never knew why! Now I know!

  3. Lanor Kaney says:

    Yours is the only blog I have downloaded on my phone. It’s part of my morning ritual to see what you have posted. Thanks for all the great info on so many topics! You make my day. Lanor

  4. Karen Belcher says:

    Really love your ideas and suggestions! The rule of three makes perfect sense and ends in a beautiful setting! Thanks for sharing all your ideas!

  5. Those pink peonies in the blue mason jars, be still my heart!

  6. Denise Duggan says:

    Excellent idea to share!

  7. Elizabeth Claire says:

    The rule of 3 also works well in the landscape! Thank you for all your inspiration each day!

  8. I like your rule of three. It does make a difference and doesn’t overcrowd the display.

  9. Janice A. says:

    Love your information on the rule of three for decorating. Simple, but effective. Also love the new catagories for your older posts.

  10. Gloria Rossiter says:

    A nice, simple way to decorate. I have a very small house – no dining room and the kitchen and living room are basically one rectangular room. We have limited space for decor, so this may work for me on those places I can put decor!

    Thanks for the guidance.

  11. Those mason jars in the peony vignette are fab!

  12. Good advise to the newbies.

  13. Thank you for sharing this rule of three. I’ll definitely be using it in my fall decorating, hopefully I can get my house to look as beautiful as yours :)

  14. I always try to use an odd number of items to decorate.

  15. Your illustrations of The Rule of Threes are helpful. I especially liked the sofa pillows arrangement with different sizes and shapes.
    I am a painter and use this rule of three in my compositions.
    Lots of good information in your posts always.

  16. I love how you always adding fresh flowers to your decor!! It always looks so serene .. now I need to remember to pick up flowers when I go to the groceries!

  17. Trish Montgomery says:

    The shelves in my walnut secretary with glass doors are the hardest for me to style.

  18. Valerie Bouchard says:

    Thank you for sharing this! Can’t wait to put it to use for my Fall decorating!

  19. Mary Kulp says:

    I have always used the rule of 3. Alot of great ideas here

  20. I have always done vignettes, eat to change out ace brings interest to each area.

  21. Donna Whitley says:

    This is such good advice. Odd numbers always work better. In larger spaces I use 5 for my rule of thumb. It also works for landscaping.

  22. A great rule, I use it often!

  23. Mom’s favorite rule!

  24. Donna Fellows says:

    Love all the fresh ideas for changing up my decor. I especially love using Mason jars in a variety of rooms…and all the pretty colors available!
    Thank you for presenting simple, beautiful ways to change our decor that are easy and budget-friendly.

  25. I’m running around my house arranging groupings of threes! Thank you for the inspiration! :)

  26. Christina says:

    Love this! I will definitely be trying this in my home.

  27. Kathleen Mooney says:

    I used this concept when I decorated my friend’s mantle. Turned out lovely 🥰

  28. I do my best to create vignettes that look appealing to me and hopefully to others. Watching you put things together on your shelves helps me get a visual. I like a nice uncluttered book shelf but also want it to look inviting and create a warm space. Rules work in a balance kind of way…take some seriously but I do think creating a little spin of your own helps to make it special. Great tips.

  29. Ann Bahil says:

    Gorgeous flowers! I love your collection of white pitchers.

  30. It’s so funny, I didn’t realize it but I have always practiced this rule of 3. Two not enough, four is two military. Three seems more random and perfect.

  31. Ann, you continue to amaze. All of your decorating tips are elegant but comfortable. Thanks for inspiring the rest of us!

  32. 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!

  33. 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.

  34. 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 !

  35. Barb'ry Allen says:

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

  36. 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.

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

  38. 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!)

  39. 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.

  40. 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 :)

  41. Lory | Designthusiasm says:

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

  42. 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 :)