Understanding the 60-30-10 Rule - post image background.

Understanding the 60-30-10 Rule

Choosing the right colour scheme is crucial to creating a visually appealing space. However, striking a perfect balance between the colours can be challenging as too many colours can make the area look overwhelming and distracting.

Design following the 60 30 10 ruleThe 60-30-10 rule can be applied and adapted to create a wide range of balanced and striking colour schemes | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London

The 60-30-10 rule is a simple interior design formula that interior decorators have used for decades. This technique has its roots in colour theory and is used to create a perfectly balanced colour scheme in a space.

In this guide from Minotti London, discover what the 60-30-10 rule is, why it’s considered a golden rule of interior design and how one can apply it when decorating a space.

How to Use the 60-30-10 Rule

Design following the 60 30 10 ruleHere, a range of warm and neutral tones have been used, but the 10% blue accent adds personality to this bedroom | Designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for © Minotti London

The 60-30-10 colour rule is based on the idea that the human eye is drawn to three different levels of colour:

  • 60% background colour
  • 30% contrasting colour
  • 10% accent colour

Using this rule allows one to create visually-balanced and harmonious interior spaces. It’s especially useful when decorating a room with a lot of furniture as it helps to choose colours that work well together.

60% of the colour scheme is the predominant colour in the room. It’s usually a neutral or pastel colour, used on larger elements in the room, such as walls, area rugs and large sofas. The 60% colour serves as a background for the other colours and aims to anchor the space into a cohesive whole.

The secondary colour in the room is the next 30% of the chosen colour scheme. Its purpose is to visually support the primary colour and add dimension to the space. This colour can be used on large pieces of furniture and other distinctive elements in the room, such as chairs, curtains, area rugs – or a feature wall.

The remaining 10%, is the accent colour. This colour should be used sparingly, adding contrast to the space and complementing the existing colour scheme. The accent colour can be used on throw pillows, decorative items, wall decor, candles and lamps.

The idea behind the 60-30-10 rule is that the neutral tones will create a backdrop for furniture and accessories, while the bold colours will help bring it all together. The accent colours add liveliness and provide contrast against the neutrals.

How to Break the 60-30-10 Colour Rule

The 60-30-10 rule is a basic guideline for interior design. It’s a simple formula, but it can be broken to create some stunning results. For example, spaces with various decorative items such as plants, wall decor, and antiques often require going beyond the 60-30-10 colour scheme.

Add an Extra 10%

For some interior spaces, having just three colours may not be enough. To experiment with the 60-30-10 rule, add one extra accent colour at a time. Using this method will create plenty of contrast and more visually appealing elements around the space to catch the eye.

In this case, one can use two 10% colours instead of just one. For example, in a living room where white walls make up 60%, a blue sofa 30% and yellow throw pillows 10%, adding an extra 10% of green will liven up the space and create a tropical feel.

When adding an extra accent colour, it’s essential to choose colours that complement each other. Using too many different colours can create excess noise in the room. Unless that’s the intended effect, following the 60-30-10, even with an extra 10%, will create a balance between all the colours.

Choose a Monochromatic Colour Scheme

In interior design styles that focus on minimalism and neutral-coloured furnishings, the 60-30-10 rule can be applied as a monochromatic colour scheme. Using colours that only vary in tones gives the space a touch of subtle elegance and simplicity.

To create a monochromatic scheme following the 60-30-10 rule, choose one dominant colour, such as light blue or white and complement it by adding a large furniture piece in another shade of this colour. A good example is adding a dark blue sofa against a light blue wall where the two shades compliment each other beautifully.

Create a Unique Decorating Formula

Design following the 60 30 10 ruleIn this seating area, the primary colour, grey, takes up 60% of the space while the accent colours, brown, black and white take up 35% and the contrast, yellow, uses just 5% | Designed by Marcio Kogan / studio mk27 design for © Minotti London

While the 60-30-10 rule can be helpful in creating well-balanced and harmonious colour schemes, it might not suit everyone’s taste and style

For those who prefer more colour in their designs, one may consider changing the formula to accommodate more than three colours. For example, rather than using three colours to suit the 60-30-10 rule, one could instead use four colours and adjust the formula to 30-30-20-20 or 50-30-10-10.

On the other hand, if the goal is to emphasise a specific colour, one may wish to increase the use of that colour while reducing the contrast and accent colours, perhaps by using a 70-20-10 formula.

The 60-30-10 Colour Rule: A Harmonising Formula

A unified and well-balanced colour scheme in a space ensures the aesthetic is pleasant to the eye and doesn’t distract from the focal point of the room but provides just enough contrast to make it interesting. The 60-30-10 colour rule helps to achieve this balance.

To summarise, when utilising the 60-30-10 rule, one should distribute their colours as described below:

  • Use 60% of the primary colour on walls and large furniture that will serve as the focal point of the room
  • Use 30% of the secondary colour on furniture, curtains and other distinctive elements in the room
  • Use 10% of accent colours on throw pillows, decorative items and small accessories

While interior designers and colourists unanimously agree that the 60-30-10 rule is an excellent starting point when choosing a palette, it’s widely known in the world of design that this formula can be adapted to suit one’s tastes and the desired effect in a room.

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