Understanding the odds

Welcome back from the holiday weekend! I have a fast and easy home decorating tip for you today. It will never let you down. Ready?

When grouping a collection of things together for display in your home, be sure to group them in odd numbers.

Easy, right? Want to see it in action? Here you go:

Image courtesy of Pottery Barn

Image courtesy of Restoration Hardware

Count the pillows...nine of them! Image courtesy of Macy's

If you actually look for it, you can see design experts at big retail stores put this tip to use in almost every catalog.

Why does an odd number of items look better? It’s just one of those mysteries of the human brain. No one really knows the answer, but the results are clear. Here’s a little comparison experiment I put together for you using items I have in my own home. With one exception, these are all colorful variations of art glass, which I adore. (And collect like a magpie.)

There are seven pieces in the first picture (above). Now, lets just take one piece away:

How does it look now? Take a minute and really look at it.

It just looks…off…in some inexplicable way, doesn’t it? Now let’s take away one more piece:


Now it looks okay again, because we are back to an odd number of items. Scroll up and down between the last three pictures and see if you agree. It’s a subtle thing, I’ll grant you, but if you look at these items every day, you’ll notice it.

This “Rule of Odd” (my term, feel free to steal it) works anywhere in your home. Test it with books stacked on your nightstand. Use it when you consider hanging a gallery wall. (You can read more about that right here.) Try it with table centerpieces at a holiday meal. There is just something lovely about odd things. And if that isn’t a good rule for life, I don’t know what is.

Look around your own home. Have you naturally grouped things in odd numbers? What are they? Leave a comment and let’s see what we’ve all collected!

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Posted on July 5, 2011, in Decor, DIY. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Wow, you’re right. It does look better with an odd number of things on the shelf.

    I have some subtracting to do when I get home.

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