The Rule of Three

Image: Clair Strong Interior Design

You’ve probably heard mention of the rule of three; it’s a writing concept that has been co-opted for use in all sorts of creative industries, including interior design.

In writing, the rule of three suggests that events or characters introduced in threes are more satisfying, entertaining or humorous to the reader.

Three is so effective because it’s the lowest number required to form a pattern. And we humans love to think in patterns. Even the Romans agreed, with the Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” meaning “everything that comes in threes is perfect”.

So, how does the rule of three work in interior design? It’s all about creating satisfying and memorable patterns using odd numbers. Three is really just a guideline, but many consider it the most effective, perhaps because of its simplicity.

Here are some simple ways to introduce the rule of three into your home:


Arranging furniture in groups of three is an easy way to fill a space. It can be tempting to opt for symmetry, but nature tells us that even symmetry isn’t as appealing as odd numbers. An armchair, side table and standing lamp is more visually interesting than just the armchair and lamp. Or, as pictured above, it is the artwork that adds an extra layer of intrigue to the bed and side table.


A colour scheme with just two hues can feel a little flat and one-dimensional. A third colour, even if used sparingly, will help bring the space to life. In the image above, the foundation colour is a deep, inky navy, it’s cheered up with a fun bubblegum pink, and then a light-and-shadow contrast is created with the grey-white hue. The end result is an exciting space with a professional finish.


By this point, you know the drill: three is the magic number. This unlikely principle really does have a profound effect on the overall look of a space and, in many ways, following it can make decorating a little easier. This applies to displaying artwork and creating little vignettes too. I love the space pictured above because there are several examples of the rule of three. Can you spot them?

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