04 January 2009

Behold the power of threes

In interior design (and in a thousand other disciplines), we rely on a series of simple rules of thumb, the most basic of which is called the Rule of Three. In essence, we use it to achieve balance. Three repetitions of a given element is generally considered to be balanced. The Rule of Three is a basic, easy guideline. For the most part, it's just that: a guideline. It's hardly some kind of a universal law. However, it's not some arbitrary thing pulled out of a hat.

Human beings' brains are pattern-seeking machines, each and every one of us does it automatically. So much so that I doubt it's possible to look around and not see patterns. Pattern-seeking is the key to our survival as a species and to a human brain, three is the simplest pattern there is.

Threes are fundamental to human culture and they show up everywhere from the three little pigs to the Holy Trinity to the Three Stooges. Threes mean pattern more than symmetry and I use odd-number patterns to achieve balance in all of my work. I get accused of worshipping symmetry but that's not really true. What's true is that I love, love, love odd-number patterns.

Here's what I mean. I just took this photo of three old candlesticks.

Now watch what happens when I take one away and have two old candlesticks sitting on this table.

When there are three, the candlesticks own the space and look like they belong there. When there are two, they seem to be overwhelmed by the table.

I'm bringing this up because I found a kitchen design online that I'm going to critique later as soon as I calm down. This room's ignorance of the Rule of Three is actually the least of its problems as you'll see tomorrow. But simple adherence to things like the Rule of Three when you don't know what to do with a space can save you a lot of heartache. Not to mention a bunch of blistering critiques on the Internet.


  1. "I'm bringing this up because I found a kitchen design online that I'm going to critique later as soon as I calm down."

    *grin* Can't wait.

  2. Heee hee! It's my post for tomorrow. Join in on the fun when it goes live!


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