3 Basic Elements of Home Design

It may seem “odd” but when you’re styling a tabletop in your home, you simply need to remember the number 3. Here’s why ‘3’ is basically the most important number in Home Design.



3 different heights – 3 different colors –3 different textures 


These are the 3 most critical elements of home design and style. Especially when it comes to styling a tabletop or any kind of horizontal surface. The right mixture of each will  put you on the path to being a Pinterest or Insta-worthy home.

Here is a brief breakdown of why each is meaningful, along with examples of the elements in action.


Height is crucial in design. When used appropriately, pieces of varying heights can make your space look larger or smaller than it actually is. It can legitimately create an illusion in the eye of the beholder.

If you don’t take advantage of various levels in your design composition, it may look repetitive. This is why a lot of designers will organize bookshelves with books of different elevations next to each other as opposed to placing them all in a perfect symmetrical line.



You have got to have color in mind when you brainstorm about your design. A pop of the right color can take the look to a completely new level. Keeping everything in the same color palette can at times look clean and crisp. Having everything in the exact same color throughout could be saturation overload.



Texture is important as it allows your eye to break down each piece. Varying texture gives design the perceived warmth and coziness you hear folks talk about.  If you have nothing but shiny items, it will come off as untouchable and hard. Using only coarse pieces easily gives a sense of being rough and abrasive.


The Power of 3

Now, not only are there 3 important design elements, but there is also a target number of items to place within your design and that number is….you guessed it…3!


All through my childhood, I remember my mother buying knick knacks in 3’s. I thought it was so strange that she would want an odd number of things. To my adolescent number-crunching mind, it would look- quite literally- uneven.

Little did I know that Mama was (of course) right and that @katiegradendesigns would later on in my adult years follow the same general rule.

Despite being an “odd” number, 3 items together actually look even.


Let’s look at style examples from this coastal home office that was converted from a traditional dining room.

I find it best to place your tallest piece first and build your desired look around that. Here we have a gold palm frond. It’s a fabulous wood statement piece.  Alone it can carry the coastal theme, but just like Jack Johnson says, some things are “better together”.


The addition of a small succulent brings a pop of green to the space, and the smooth vase softens the palm frond’s hard appearance. Despite having an even number of items, the composition looks uneven, so let’s throw another piece in the mix.



When placed altogether, the metallic sphere anchors the overall coastal look. It’s sheen compliments the shine in the gold frond, the rope texture enhances that of the frond, and the height is a nice meeting point between the succulent and the palm frond.



Now we have a finished and cohesive coastal design placement.


Here is another example:


Gorgeous tall orchid.


Add in a very on-trend and sensibly smaller white and gold sparkling geode.



And finish it off with a low-lying and contrasting stone-like clam shell succulent arrangement.


Coastal, clean, and elegant.



Here’s another example from my Lighting (Fixtures) are Everything post. When it comes to using lamps in your design, it can at times be ok to have them match.

These lamps on either side of the table offer balance, and break up the textured driftwood backdrop of the mirror they sit in front of. Their pop of turquoise is complemented with the shorter greenery piece atop the golden tray.


Remember, simple tabletop design can be as easy as 1-2-3:

3 items, styled with the 3 basic elements of design.



Which 3 items would you pair on your tabletop?


Caitlyn is a RESA Certified Staging Advocate. 

10 Replies to “3 Basic Elements of Home Design”

    1. You’re very welcome! 5 pieces together can be pretty effective as well, but I personally prefer to use 3 larger items as opposed to 5 smaller ones.

  1. That’s a really nice light fixture in that Coastal Office. Who in the world did you get to hang it??? Must have cost you a fortune!

    1. Thank you! It was actually fairly tricky to hang as the ceilings are so tall and the chandelier is very heavy. Luckily, I have a connection- as in- electrical connection 😉 I can never miss an opportunity for a corny Dad joke!

        1. Hi Alisa!

          It’s ‘Canvas Tan’ from Sherwin Williams. A great neutral “greige” that can look tan or gray depending on the amount of light in the room.

    1. Hi Suzanne!
      That table was actually a HomeGoods score. I don’t see any kind of brand or marking anywhere on it or I would gladly pass it along. Hopefully you have one near you, its one of my absolute favorite places to treasure hunt!

    1. Hi Kathy!

      My rug under the driftwood is from At Home (formally Garden Ridge). You may be able to find it on their website. It is super soft and it has a slight sheen to it that picks up the light. They had gorgeous chairs in the same hue blue as well.

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