How to Use the Rule of Three in Living Room Decor for Wow-Worthy Results

Design theory can feel nebulous. What makes good design? More importantly, how do you nail down good design and bring it into your home? While much of design theory is complex, there’s one simple guideline that’s easy to put to work: the rule of three. Our eyes like groupings of three. That’s why you see the rule of three used in photography, web design and more. Using the rule of three in living room decor can help you create a room that looks simultaneously polished and inviting.

That’s always the challenge with living rooms. On the one hand, you want to wow guests with its style. On the other, you want it to be a room in which it feels easy to relax. Balancing the comfort of a room where people can hang out with the careful design of the rest of your home becomes easier with this simple design tool. Let’s discuss three areas where you can use the rule of three in living room decor. 

The rule of three can guide your coffee table decor. Image: Gabriella Khalil

Cut clutter with the rule of three in living room coffee table design

Nowhere is the struggle to balance comfort and design more apparent than on the coffee table. This small space needs to be useful. Your guests will want to put down drinks. You might even want to put your feet up. But it’s also a focal point of the room. Turn to the rule of three to help you dial in decor that impresses and relaxes.

When arranging your coffee table, group items in threes. Have a stack of coffee table books? Try three of them. Have candles on the table? Group three of them together.

If you’d like to take a more advanced approach, you can compile groups of similar items, then arrange those groups in three. Note the coffee table in the picture above. Although full, it keeps from looking cluttered by leveraging the rule of three. The top of the table has three distinct groups: books, other, books. 

rule of three in living room couch

Mix and match textures to give your couch a warm and cozy feel. Image: Rebecca Judd Loves

Three textures, three times the fun

Don’t overlook your couch. You’ve put a lot of thought into picking out the perfect couch for your living room — bring the rule of threes to your living room’s primary piece of furniture to dress it up and make it look extra cozy.

When thinking about pillows and blankets for your couch,  you can turn to the rule of threes yet again. Mix a fuzzy blanket with soft, furry throw pillows and more structured canvas ones. Combine a tightly-woven throw with velvet lumbar pillows and large fleecy ones. Play with textures. Using the rule of three will keep your couch from looking messy while giving you space to explore.

rule of three in living room mantles

Three focal points make your mantel modern and interesting. Image: Lorraine Levinson Interior Design

Mind your mantel with the rule of three

Does your living room have a fireplace? The hearth invites people to gather. It also draws their eyes, so it’s important to make the most of this design space. There is a fine line between a stark, nearly bare mantel and a cluttered one. The rule of threes can help you walk it with confidence.

When you peruse design blogs, you’ll see the rule of threes in living room mantels everywhere. Adding three items to your mantel gives it enough visual interest to hold its own as a focal centerpiece while keeping it from feeling weighed down.

Wherever you want to balance comfort and style, turn to the rule of three in living room decor. This simple design tool can help you be adventurous and playful with your decor without toeing into messiness. With the rule of three in hand, your living room can be both relaxing and polished.


Written by  Kacie Goff