ReDESIGNS by Ava: Apply the Rule of Thirds

“The ability to decorate well is something I believe inherent. Some individuals can ‘feel’ their way to good decorating while others cannot.  For those that are more left-brained, the rules have order and patterns that will create a well decorated space if followed.” ~ Anita Ericksen

I believe I was born with a ‘decorator gene.’  Even as a young girl when I walked into someone’s home, my mind would rearrange the room and put colors together to make the space more pleasing to the eye.

I never knew any ‘rules of thumb’ or guidelines, but what I did know was whether the space felt or looked good.  My training provided me with the knowledge ofwhyit looked or felt good.  I learned there are some ‘rules of thumb’ for decorating, but these ‘rules’ are not secrets and I love sharing them. Why?  Because my ultimate goal is to help you create a beautiful home.

Most of you know the ‘rule of thumb’ about decorating in odd numbers – usually 1, 3 or 5 – but did you know there is a 2/3’s rule to use as a guideline that will also help in so many decorating decisions?

What size art do you hang over a fireplace mantle?  First of all, measure the width of the mantle.  The art piece you want to hang should measure 2/3’s the width (example: if your mantle is 60”, then you need to fill up 40”).  You can go less, but not much and you can go over a few inches.  What you don’t want is for it to look skimpy. Sometimes a client’s art piece does not quite fill up the 2/3’s space and I fill in with accessories.

So how high should this piece of art be?  Measure from the top of the mantle to the ceiling and divide into 3rds and fill in 2/3’s of the space.  But you may say, “My room has a cathedral ceiling.” So then you have to visualize an 8’ or 9’ ceiling as a visual stopping point.

How high to hang the art above the mantle?  Four to six inches depending on the height of the ceiling or propping directly on the mantle is a good look. Remember, it is about connecting and if you get too far above the mantle, it disconnects.

What size sofa table do I need behind my sofa?  Measure the width of your sofa and use the 2/3’s rule as a guideline. Don’t go under more than a few inches, but a few inches over works just fine.

What size coffee table do I need to purchase?  Measure the width of your sofa and use the 2/3’s rule as a guideline.  This is one I think going over might be too much but a few inches smaller works also.

What about art over a sofa?  Measure the width of the sofa and use the 2/3’s rule if you use a singular piece, or a series of pieces together to fill the 2/3’s.  If you use more than one piece, hang the pieces no more than hands-width apart and 6” to 8” above the sofa.  Remember that too far apart disconnects.

What about over the bed?  Again the 2/3’s guideline works.  Consider following the shape of your headboard when placing art above it…..follow the shape with your placement.  If you have an ornate headboard, it is not necessary to hang art above it as it may distract from the beautiful headboard.

What about filling shelves on a bookcase?  Fill each shelf approximately 2/3’s with books or accents. The shelf will not look cluttered or too empty.

How high should I hang the drapery rod?  Measure from the top of your molding on your window to the bottom of the ceiling molding; divide into thirds.  Hang either in the top 1/3 or the bottom 1/3.  If you have a cathedral or high ceiling, use an imaginary 9’ as a visual stopping point.

How far under a bed should you place a rug?  Either 2/3’s under or 1/3 under works just fine. You need at least 2’ of rug showing on either side of the bed.

Remember – these ‘rules of thumb’ are guidelines and are not written in stone.

Thank you for reading my column each month.  It is my pleasure to share decorating ideas to help you create a beautiful home. Give ReDESIGNS by Ava a call for an Interior Redeisgn or help with your next decorating project.


Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay up to date with our events and get exclusive article content right to your inbox!

Latest Stories

Other Featured Articles


All Article in Current Issue

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay up to date with our events and get exclusive article content right to your inbox!