HomeTips & IdeasDecorating Ideas and How To'sHow to Decorate & Accessorize Using The Rule of Three & Odd Numbers

How to Decorate & Accessorize Using The Rule of Three & Odd Numbers

Posted on August 18, 2019 by KylieMawdsley

The Rule of Three & Odd Numbers

First, let’s start with a disclaimer – I always break the rules. I get excited, bored, change my mind, move something, buy something, sell something, break something – you get the idea. My home is ever-evolving, and in the process, rules (and many other things) get broken.

So, when it comes to accessorizing, I want you to know that YOU can break the rules too. These aren’t so much RULES as they are guidelines, and once you understand them, you’ll find it WAY easier to decorate any surface in your home.

Remember, these aren’t isn’t THE rules, they’re just guidelines to consider

How to decorate a bookcase, bookshelf or built in. Black painted built in with home decor, books and frames. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, diy decorating and design blog

I use the Rule of Three daily; whether I’m hanging artwork, adding toss cushions to a sofa or dressing a mantel. This rule (guideline) is a great way to add a decorative touch to a room without running the risk of ‘over-decorating’ or breaking the budget on a whack-load of new decor (‘whack-load’ being a super technical term).

Generally, items that appear in threes are more appealing, memorable and definitive. Three also helps us with the illusion of symmetry or balance. Now, you might think you’d get more symmetry with two items – left/right, top/bottom, and first/last. However, in decorating you need to tweak your thinking to accommodate a ‘center’ with a balancing item on either side – aka – symmetry or balance.

So, let’s do this!


Depending on the size of the surface you’re hanging the lights above, light fixture placements are usually limited to one or three fixtures. In these gorgeous kitchens below, two pendants wouldn’t have been enough, four would’ve been too many. In the words of the late great Goldilocks – three is juuuuust right (and they make sense with the three stools, just sayin’).

Contemporary yet transitional style kitchen with white glazed cabinets, dark cherry island, coffered ceilings and marble and granite countertops by Kylie M Interiors

The style of the above kitchen also wouldn’t have suited two larger pendants (which can look nice in some spaces).

With this next island being larger, the pendants are also larger. While they look more condensed at this angle, there’s an appropriate spacing between them (approx 24″)…

Best white paint colour. Walls or cabinets.White kitchen, gray painted island. Cambria quartz countertop black, dark wood flooring, pendant lights, modern. Kylie M Interiors Edesign. Pure White Sherwin Williams cabinets

The Right Height to Hang Light Fixtures


In this first photo, there are two groups of three – the candlesticks and books on the left AND the overall display. That’s right, the left side decor (acting as one), center art and the vase on the right side = three pieces and they ALSO create a wicked decorative triangle.

Benjamin Moore Arctic Gray in bedroom with fireplace, old antique mantel, pine flooring. Country decor. Kylie M E-design

In this next photo, just a nice simple group of three on the countertop…

Kitchen cabinets painted Sherwin High Reflective White, marble backsplash, white quartz, home decor on countertop. Pewter hardware. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour consulting

 How to Accessorize a Bookshelf – Guidelines and Tips

This next little side table is the perfect odd number example. The key is to have small/medium/large pieces that you can stagger and layer, with the large/tall at the back, small in the front and medium in the middle. 

Black painted cabinet with farmhouse and country style decor. Benjamin Moore Grant Beige

In this next photo, you can see how there are three clear sections. The left side with the candleholders, the center with the box, and the right with the plant. The plant is ALSO sitting on a stack of two books, creating another group of 3.

Best dark gray charcoal paint colour with undertones. Benjamin Moore Wolf Gray. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, virtual online paint colour consulting and diy decor blog

This next bookcase is FULL of glorious things…

Sherwin Williams Colonnade Gray, leather accent club chair. metal and wood bookshelf with home decor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Just look at all of the examples of stacking, layering and decorative triangles (there are way more decorative triangles in there, I’ve just pointed out a few (stacks of books/pieces of art).

How to accessorize with home decor using decorative triangles for a shelf, bookcase or mantel. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online diy paint color blog

How to Decorate a Mantel – these tips will also be handy for bookcase decorating!

In this next photo, you’ve two single items, as well as TWO groups of three – one on the left and the total of the clock, lamp and left-side display. It also shows an AWESOME decorative triangle, with the clock being the peak (although I wish the clock were hung just a WINK lower).

Living room with gray sectional, Stonington Gray paint color on the walls, oak flooring. Large clock and rustic wood furniture. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour consulting blog

Now let’s look at odd numbers (insert photo of myself here…)

Odd numbers pop up ALL the time in decor, whether it’s a single piece of artwork on a wall or a collection of five+ items. Once you get above five though, I don’t know who’s REALLY counting.  

This accent table was just begging for a plant for a few reasons…

how to accessorize with odd numbers

1 – The shape of the plant complements the round top of the table while still letting the wood show and…

2 – With all of the warm tones around it, the cool tones of the plant add balance (also notice the group of three books under the table – I’m so sneaky smart).

This hanging fixture looks awesome with five pendants…

Pretty pendant lights hanging in stairwell. Kylie M INteriors Edesign

HOWEVER, there are always exceptions!

In this next photo, three lights would’ve looked silly, but one light wouldn’t have been enough/proportional…

Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter in dining room with dark wood furniture and pendant lights. Best warm gray. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, client photo. Decorating blog

In this next photo, two lamps make total sense, but if you add in the centrepiece, you’ve got a group of three = BALANCE (and no, I’m not counting the speaker).

Sherwin Williams Alabaster best warm white paint colour. Client waiting room. Beach coastal colour. Client photo. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, online paint color consulting

The waiting room at Eddins Counselling

What I’m trying to say is that while the Groups of Three rule is a great place to START, you have some SERIOUS flexibility and can use your own creative license to figure out what makes sense for you and your home.

Well, I have exhausted my brain and my math skills with this one – hope you enjoyed it!


Check out my E-Books and Online Paint Colour Consulting

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Chat soon,

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4 Easy Ideas: How to Accessorize a Mantel

The Right Height to Hang Artwork

The Right Height to Hang a Dining Room Light

Originally written in 2014, awesomely updated in 2019


    1. Have you been reading my mind again????? I’ve actually been working on one for years in my spare, spare….spare time…maybe within the next 6 months is my hope – to publish it E-book style 🙂

  1. Good stuff here Kylie!! That kitchen in picture #4 is fantastic! Umm, yes, you most definitely are a rule breaker…500 words (not 1000) is supposed to be the guideline….but really who’s counting 😉

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