Design Technique: Rule of Threes

Uncategorized Jun 06, 2017

Design is a sensory experience.

And one of the most exciting parts of being a designer is continuing to learn how to create and play with the elements that evoke different feelings and reactions.

This was actually my favorite part of design school — learning design techniques. It felt like cracking the code for some of the beautiful rooms in magazines.

Finally revealing why the rooms worked, felt cohesive and were just a pleasure to look at or be inside.

These techniques are what set ordinary decorating apart from great interior design and elevate your home to a more sophisticated level.

At the root of these design techniques are knowing exactly how to move the eye around a room to give the mind and body the precise sensory experience you're after — relaxing, energizing, collaborative, healing, playful, powerful, feminine, masculine, soft, etc.

In this post I'm going to share one of my favorite design techniques for directing the eye.

Once you learn how it works you'll be able easily apply it to your own home to get more of a designer look.

This technique is called Rule of Threes.

Rule of Threes means repeating any important design element at least three times and on varying planes and heights.

The planes in a room are generally the ceiling, walls, tables, seating and the floor and they appear at different heights. They are the stair steps the eye takes when moving up from the floor or down from the ceiling.

By repeating the design element multiple times your eye has a natural path to follow and it helps make the sensory experience harmonious through repetition and proportion.

When the eye doesn't know where to land or how to take in the room, the experience feels chaotic or unfinished.

Important design elements that can be repeated are patterns, colors, shapes, textures or materials.

For example, in a master bedroom let's say there's a piece of artwork you love hanging over your bed. You could pull a color out of the art and use it in two of the pillows on the bed and then again on the bench at the foot of the bed.

The varying planes are that appear at different heights in this example are the wall behind the bed, the flat surface of the bed and the top of the bench. Repetition is created and one color is being used in a larger proportion.

See, it's easy to learn and not too difficult to implement, right? But, it makes the world of difference when executed correctly.

Below, are images and examples from design pros. I hope they inspire you to think about how your could put this technique to use in your own home.

Interior Designer: Poonam Khanna, Photo: Ngoc Ninh

In this Manhattan living room pink is pulled out from the artwork and repeated in pillows, the chair and the ottoman. See how this color helps your eye follow a path around the room and take in it's depth and scale?

 

Interior Design: Steven Gambrel, Photo: Eric Piasecki

Here burnt orange is in the artwork above the fireplace, the sofa pillows, the lamp base and the desk. Notice that white has also been used on the crown molding, the lamp shades and the sofa and chairs, but because white is not an important design element in this room, it doesn't have the same effect, but still works to create a sense of harmony.

 

Interior Designer: Joan Behnke, Photo: Roger Davies

This is a high contrast space where the deep brown catches your eye. The chandelier, the draperies and the sofa, which has fabric that extends to the floor, all help create balance.

 

Interior Designer: Colin Radcliffe, Photo: Simon Upton

I love this living room because it brings the greenery from the outdoors in. The designer has chosen artwork with green and has repeated it in the sofa and ottoman.

 

Interior Designer: Nina Seirafi, Photo: Pieter Estersohn

These beautiful draperies are one of the focal points in the room and the purple has been fractured out and used again on the sofa pillows are large area rug.

 

In the comments below, let me know what you think about the Rule of Threes. Do you have any ideas for what design element you might use to execute the rule of threes in one of your rooms?

If you have any specific questions, you're likely not the only one, so please let me know and I'll answer them here so that everyone can benefit.

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