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What is the 60 30 10 Color Rule of Interior Design? How to Use it and How to Break it.

February 19, 2021

I’m excited to have a guest post today on the blog! I hope you enjoy this article from Wallshoppe!

Most interior designers share the same goal: To create a space that looks sophisticated and deliberate but isnt matchy-matchy. One of the easiest ways to achieve this classic cohesion is to follow the 60-30-10 rule.

Pulling It All Together

The 60-30-10 rule is based on the rule of three, a simple premise thats used in a variety of creative pursuits — everything from telling jokes to arranging flowers. In design, it refers to the selection of three color families to serve as the palette for a room. 

Heres how it breaks down:

  • 60% of the color in the room comes from big spaces and items, such as painted walls or adhesive wallpaper, flooring, area rugs and large pieces of furniture
  • 30% of the space’s color derives from other furniture, lighting and curtains
  • 10% is leftover for accent items such as artwork, throw pillows and other elements of décor

It’s important to note that you aren’t limited to just three colors. You’re editing your palette down to three multifaceted color families — or, really, two color families and then a wild card. Consider that final piece of the design pie your playground to go big and go bold, with mixed materials, conversation pieces from your travels or pink patterned wallpaper in an unexpected place.

Breaking the Rules

If youre a design rebel, there are a variety of ways you can break the 60-30-10 rule without turning your room into a design nightmare.

Change the Proportions

Instead of 60-30-10, switch up the formula and add a fourth color family into the mix. You might use 50-30-10-10 as a guide, for example. Maybe you stick with three colors, but adjust the proportions to 75-15-10. The important thing is to avoid a level playing field that features” eight or nine colors. When you muddle that many colors together, its easy for a space to look perpetually disorganized.

Pick a Single Color

Another way to break the 60-30-10 rule is to opt for a single color family. Its a bold choice, but as long as you vary the shades used throughout the space, it can be striking and refined.

Given the level of color commitment involved, monochromatic style is often best deployed in small spaces. For example, in a blue bathroom, you might create depth by using navy blue wallpaper for walls and lighter, warmer blues that trend toward the indigo end of the spectrum for textiles and artwork. Whatever color you choose, mingling lighter and darker shades throughout the space is vital.

Mix and Match Your Woods

Conventional wisdom holds that all of the wood in a room should match. The problem is, a room full of matching wood furniture can look inexpensive or even suggest that you pointed at page 24 of the catalog and said, Give me that!” More and more, designers are choosing to mix stains and grains to add character and a level of warm sophistication.

Whether you stick to tried and true design traditions or forge your own path, the most important guide should always be your personality. Choose design elements that reflect your point of view and style, and you cant go wrong.

Niki French

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I'm Niki, founder of Midwestern Mama. This lifestyle blog is a place where I get to share things I am passionate about with people like you! I love fashion, home decor, DIY's and easy meals, among other things. I'm so glad you're here! Read More


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