How to Decorate Using the 60-30-10 Color Rule
What is the 60-30-10 Rule? It’s a classic decor rule that helps create a color palette for a space. It states that 60% of the room should be a dominant color, 30% should be the secondary color or texture and the last 10% should be an accent.
Adding color to your home can be intimidating, especially if you want to introduce a new palette or make a bold statement. But it doesn’t have to be. By using the 60-30-10 rule for decorating, you can bring color into a space with confidence.
What is the 60-30-10 rule?
The 60-30-10 rule is simple. For a balanced, well-designed look, 60 percent of the room should be one color (the dominant color), 30 percent a complementary color (the secondary color) and 10 percent an accent color. Study the pictures of professionally-styled rooms in home decorating magazines or on HGTV, and you’ll see this rule at work in most of them.
While it isn’t an exact science, the 60-30-10 rule does help strike a balance in terms of color. It gives your room a “put together” feel and makes selecting colors for a space much easier. And, once you understand its basic principles, it gives you the freedom to confidently play with the formula. Can’t decide between two accent colors? Experiment with a 60-30-5-5 approach.
Assess the space
Before you rush out to the paint or home store, think about the space you want to decorate in terms of the 60-30-10 rule. What feeling do you want to create in the room? A relaxing color palette works well in the bedroom while a more vibrant approach can make a kitchen feel lively.
Also, if you have an incredible view of the ocean from your family room window, don’t distract from it with bright colors. Instead, let the view steal the show by keeping your palette neutral and monotone.
Consider permeance, too. It’s easy to replace an orange lamp shade when you want to change accent colors but a challenge when dealing with a more permanent piece, like the kitchen backsplash. Expense is another factor.
You might not be able to afford a new sofa when you tire of the green one you purchased for your current color scheme. Instead, stick with more neutral colors for your dominant and secondary colors—these are usually the ones that are more permanent and expensive to replace—and save the bolder colors for accent pieces.
Choose your colors
Sure, you can scroll through Pinterest for examples of color schemes that work well together. But what if you have a specific painting or piece of furniture you want to incorporate into your home décor? Or, maybe you want something other than the same tired look everyone else has. You can easily choose a color scheme based on the 60-30-10 rule using a color wheel.
Monochromatic: To apply this approach, choose one color for your dominant color, and use lighter and darker variations of it for your secondary and accent colors. Monochromatic works best with neutral colors such as gray, cream, white or greige. Consider it in the bathroom, bedroom or any room with an outstanding view.
Complementary: Select two colors opposite from each other on the color wheel, like blue and orange. One will be warm and the other cool, giving the room balance. (Warm and cool colors can be used with great effectiveness throughout your home.) Because you’ll be using only two colors, the style will be a modified 70-30 or 60-40 approach.
Split complementary: This color scheme adds a third color to the mix—one of the colors adjacent to the secondary color. In other words, if blue is the dominate color and orange the secondary one, red would be the accent color.
Analogous: For this look, select three colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel. The middle color is the dominant color; the colors on either side become the secondary and accent colors. As an example, you might choose orange-yellow, yellow and green yellow. Yellow would be the dominant color. The other two—both variations of yellow—would be the secondary and accent colors.
How to use your colors
Once you’ve decided on your colors, apply them strategically. Your dominant color almost always serves as the paint color on your walls while your accent color pops as a throw pillow or piece of art. Here’s where to use each color for the right balance.
Dominant color: Applying the 60-30-10 rule, 60 percent of a room should be in your dominant color. That means most walls should be painted in this color as well as large accents like the sofa or area rugs. However, you don’t have to use the exact same hue for each part of the rule. It’s okay for the walls to be a light gray and the area rug to be a slightly darker gray. In fact, that difference can add visual texture to the room.
Secondary color: This color has a supporting role, filling the space half as much as the dominant one. Use it for draperies, accent walls, chairs, painted furniture or a small area rug. In the kitchen, it works well for the color of the countertops while, in the bedroom, it’s a good choice for the color of the bed linens.
Accent color: The accent color makes the room pop. You can add it with artwork, throw pillows, lamps, small pieces of furniture like an ottoman, candles and small decorative pieces. Usually, the accent color is a bright, complementary color, but it can also be black, dark brown or a natural material like wood or metal. Almost any color will work as long as it offers contrast but also complements the dominant and secondary colors.
Breaking the rule
Now that you understand how the 60-30-10 rule works, you can tweak it to serve your purposes. One common variation is to add a second accent color. In this scenario, you would use 60 percent of your dominant color, 30 percent of your secondary color and 5 percent each of your accent colors (60-30-5-5). A popular example would be a kitchen with white cabinets and walls, black countertops, and red and turquoise accents.
You can also experiment with your own percentages. The key is to create a balance of color in the space. A mix of 30-30-30-20 might work with the right colors. Or, maybe 75-15-10 is the better call. Be prepared to play with the proportions. It might take a few attempts to get the look just right.
Ideas to get started
Ready to apply the 60-30-10 but not comfortable using a color wheel? That’s okay. These color combinations are classics.
- White as the dominant color, gray as the secondary color and red as the accent
- Gray as the dominant color, white as the secondary color and natural wood or fiber as the accent
- Blue as the dominant color, white as the secondary color and red as accent
- Yellow as the dominant color, green as the secondary color and white as the accent
- Brown as the dominant color, white as the secondary color and black as the accent
- Greige as the dominant color, light greige as the secondary color and white as the accent
- White as the dominant color, natural wood as the secondary color and blue as the accent
- Light blue as the dominant color, cream as the secondary color and dark blue as the accent
- Gray as the dominant color, white as the second color and pink as the accent
- Yellow as the dominate color, natural wood as the secondary color and white as the accent
- Beige as the dominate color, brown as the secondary color and turquoise as the accent