Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Rule of Three

When it comes to home design and decorating, there are no hard and fast rules.  However, the idea that things grouped in threes tend to be more appealing to the eye than other numbers of objects is a good tidbit to tuck away next time you're trying to arrange items.

The rule of three can apply to just about any aspect of home design: three sets of french doors side-by-side, three ledge shelves clustered on a wall, or three pendant lights hanging above a kitchen island.  Today, though, I'm breaking it down to the simplest manifestation of the rule: arranging items on a table.

This is the bedside table in our guest room.  I like to vary the heights of the three items I'm using so I chose a lamp that would be taller than the preserved boxwood, which is the absolute ideal houseplant for a black thumb like me: I can't kill it but it's not actually fake, just dried boxwood leaves shaped into a topiary.  The clock was a great, inexpensive find from LL Bean - it backlights when you press the button on top but is otherwise dark at night (great for light-sensitive sleepers like my mom!).  I like the punch of green in the boxwood but wanted to keep the color palette here neutral otherwise.

You might recognize this new table from my trash-to-treasure post last week (here).   And there's another of those little boxwoods - I think I have five of them around the house.  Here I went with a glass hurricane as the tallest of the three items, again added the preserved boxwood for a pop of color, and used a found piece of driftwood as the third item.

Isn't the driftwood almost dolphin-esque?  I have no special thing for dolphins, but I loved this as soon as I saw it.  It looked like a very intentional piece of sculpture to me but came completely from the wild.  I kept the color palette very neutral here again since there's a lot of color going on in the rest of the porch (see here and here for screened porch pictures).

This little chest sits in our downstairs hallway between the doorways to the office and the guest room.  My great uncle, whom I never actually met because he died before I was born, made it.  I love the cannonball feet and the curved detail along the bottom.  I've been going back and forth for awhile now between painting it and leaving it the warm, honey-colored stain it is now.  The larger basket was a gift from Scott's aunt a few Christmases ago.  It's beautiful but serves a great function for me here too: it's my catch-all for things that need to be returned to either the playroom or my workbench area in the basement, the doorway to which is right across the hall from this chest.  The glass bowl was a wedding gift and had the perfect low profile to complement the basket.  The teeny tiny basket was an Easter gift from my mother-in-law a few years ago and gave me that third height point and nicely echoed the shape of the larger basket.  Don't the colors of the items really pick up on the blues and purples in the painting above it?  The painting was my first anniversary gift (Get it?  "Paper?") from Scott, who painted it from a photograph he found in a magazine.

This small table sits in a little nook to the right of our front door and holds a lamp I like to turn on in the evenings to give some soft light to the hallway.  I also placed a family photo and a faux succulent on the table - a live succulent would never survive in this shady corner.  Or just survive me as its owner.

This octagonal table, which was one of the first pieces of furniture my parents had as a married couple and also made the journey to college with me, sits between two upholstered chairs in our living room.  The petite brass lamp, a hand-me-down from my mom, gives off the perfect amount of light for reading in the chairs.  I wanted to give it a little extra height so placed it on top of two poetry books (I'm counting this grouping as one of the "three" on this table, though I realize there are technically five!).  The small hurricane was another lovely wedding gift and the pottery dish was a recent gift from my mother-in-law, made by a potter who has a studio near my in-laws' house.

This drop-leaf table belonged to Scott's grandparents.  I especially love the base, with its carved legs and tiny brass wheels.  It sits in our front hallway.  I chose to do a grouping of three items to the left of the table and then a lone dish on the right where Scott can throw his wallet, loose change, and other odds and ends he accumulates through the day. 

I suppose I've given you something of a tour of accent tables here...and suddenly I am feeling like I have a lot!  But mostly I wanted to show you the different ways I've applied the rule of three in my own decorating.  Do you see many groupings of three around your own home?

On a side note, I've linked a few posts from last week to The Winthrop Chronicles today.


  1. I like all the little vignettes around your house Jennifer and agree with the rule of three. Looks great!

  2. Nice touches indeed! Where did you find the little green topiary? I found you over on the GFC blog hop and now happily following you along. Would love for you to stop by.

    take care,

  3. The colors of your home are so light and beautiful! I love it :)
    And it's a great tip for decorating, as I'm not really good at that one haha :)

  4. I've always used the rule of 3 or odd numbers...looks great!
    And yes it looks a lot like a dolphin!!

    Visiting from Kelly's Corner. Enjoy the Party!!

  5. I also group a lot of things in 3s. It just looks more appealing, doesn't it?

  6. Great accessorizing! I have such trouble with the details of decorating - this post is super helpful! :)

  7. Love the rule of 3...and that dolphin-driftwood is amazing!! What a find!

  8. I'm stopping by for a visit from Kelly's Korner Show Us Your Life.
    I especially love the colors and details you're using in your vignettes.
    Can you believe it's 7pm and it's 108 degrees in my area?!! (I live in Vegas) I'm so looking forward to the cooler temps!!
    Have a terrific week.


I love hearing from you! Thanks for taking the time to leave me a note. If your e-mail address is visible I'll reply to you by e-mail. if not, I'll leave follow up comments here in the comments section.