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Accessorizing Your Surfaces: The Rule of Odd Numbers

March 7, 2021
Photo by Sammsara Luxury Home

Whether you are accessorizing your dining room table, your mantel, your sideboard or the top of a console table, odd numbers of items are always best. Arrangements in odd number configurations are more pleasing to the eye and allow you to vary heights in an interesting way. It’s why a single item works in the middle of your dining table and why a pair of candlesticks and a center item also work, but why the sticks alone seem to be missing something… Read on for some easy tips…

For Dining Tables:

Most people think in terms of one’s and three’s when it comes to a dinning room table -one item, like a vase of fresh flowers or a bowl of fruit or shells is attractive and can be whisked away if more of the surface is needed when you want to actually eat at your table. Three’s are good when you want to flank that bowl or vase with a pair of candles. With a dining table whatever you use has to be attractive from all sides, just by the very nature of the table. But how about some things more out of the box? To punch up your decor’ think about:

For a Single Object:

  • A Large, Sculptural Item like a lantern or a ship’s model or a large holiday-themed item (like a bunny for Easter)
  • A Basket with an interesting collection of shells, decorative ornaments, fruit, etc.
  • A Large, Potted Plant
  • A Large Bottle with interesting leaves, feathers or branches
  • A Tray used as your single object and accessorized with an odd number of interesting objects, much like you would on a coffee table (see my past blog: Curating Your Coffee Table)
  • A Cake Stand used in a similar way

For a Grouping of Three or Five:

  • Three/Five of the Same “Thing,” like lanterns or potted plants – keep the exterior material similar
  • Three/Five Candlesticks of Varying Heights but made of similar materials like brass, glass or pottery
  • Three/Five Mason Jar or Ironstone Pitcher Flower Arrangements
  • Three/Five Bottles of varying heights -preferably in interesting colors

For Mantels:

Odd numbers of items on either side of your mantel (even though together they, ironically, add up to even numbers) tend to work best. If you have artwork above the mantel, a single item under it can work, in addition to the accessories flanking the sides.

Often people think candlesticks when it comes to the mantel, but you can start there and you can add the following, in pairs, one on each side, but keeping the collection of things to three, five or even seven items per side. Conversely you can add three or five non-paired items to each side but keep the number the same (e.g. three things left/three things right) :

For a Grouping of Three, Five, Even Seven:

  • Large Vases (with or without flowers) or Ginger Jars
  • Interesting Sculptural Items (like a doll’s chair, a metal anchor, a ship’s model, an obelisk or other geometric) or an Actual Sculpture, like a bust
  • Interesting Platters on stands
  • Lanterns with battery-powered candles or real candles
  • Votives in mason jars
  • Extra Large Shells or Pieces of Coral
  • A Stack of Books in colors that coordinate with your room
  • Framed Family Photos in coordinating, but not matching, frames
  • Small Framed Artwork on an easel

For Console Tables and Sideboards:

Often, with a sideboard or console table, you will get odd numbers if you simply put one lamp on either end and put one thing in the middle. This is a perfectly serviceable form of accessorizing, but not terribly interesting. So for a sideboard or console, as with a mantel, try pairs of things on each side in odd numbers for each side, or mix it up further by using just one lamp and focus all the accessorizing on one side, keeping an odd number of items. Try things like:

For the One Center Item, Flanked by Lamps:

  • A Sculptural Item like a lantern or a ship’s model or a large holiday-themed item (like a witch for Halloween)
  • An Art Glass Bowl empty or filled
  • An Antique Basket filled with cloth napkins for a sideboard, filled with potted plants for a console
  • A Framed Piece of Art on a stand

For a One-Sided Arrangement:

  • A Single Plate or Platter on a stand
  • A Carved Box to hide away keys or other essentials
  • A Stack of Books in colors that coordinate with the decor’
  • A Potted Orchid – adds height and easily fits at the back
Photo by Natalie from Pexels

So have some fun with odd numbers in you “surface-scapping.” Always remember though that the most important thing about your decor’ is that it’s yours – so make it so and make it sparkle in the process.

Have Fun Out There, My Friends.

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