60-30-10: The only simple rule for your perfect home color palette

Did you know that there is one surefire way to get the best color combination for your home?

The classic decor rule and hack for balancing color in your room, the 60-30-10 rule, goes like this:

When designing a room, use three main shades — 60 percent of a dominant shade, 30 percent of a supporting, complementary color, and 10 percent of an accent color. Slightly different shades of the same color may be included.

Why? This provides a visual balance, with a balanced background color, a supporting color and the accent tones to play with and create that interesting pop in your space.

Anam Clarke, founder and CEO of The Designers’ Studio, a Dubai-based interior design studio and KHDA-approved institute, says: “The 60-30-10 rule is one of the oldest rules in interior design – you would always know of it, like an old wives tale, some might even say.”

1. 60 percent: main color

The 60 percent shade is a light greige, the complementary color in shades of brown and orange, and an accent black and green plants.
Image Credit: Unsplash/Spacejoy

This is the background color of the room, the anchor and the background for everything else.

Since this is the most prominent shade, it is usually expressed or defined by the largest areas in your room – the walls, ceiling and floor, and is usually a white or neutral color here in the UAE, explains Clarke.

Here are some spaces in which they can be expressed:

• Rug or wall-to-wall carpet

• Cabinets in a kitchen area

2. 30 percent: secondary color

60-30-10 rule interior design room

A secondary, gray color is the 30 percent. White is the 60 percent dominant hue, and the accent colors are shades of brown and gold.
Image Credit: Unsplash/Spacejoy

This color complements and supports your main shade, but is different enough to create an interesting space. Clarke says, “So the 30 percent is kind of a main color, if that makes sense — although it’s not a 60 percent dominant color. For example, if you have a blue couch and blue curtains, you normally walk in and say, yes. This is because the 60 percent color is usually a neutral shade, but if you choose to go bold, that would be the main color.

Add your 30 percent secondary tint through these items or areas in your room:

• Worktops and cabinets

3. 10 percent: Accent color

60-30-10 rule interior living room

The 10 percent accent pop of electric blue brings a neutral gray room to life.
Image Credit: Pexels/StockSnap

This is where you add the pop, flair and excitement at the forefront of your space. Clarke says, “This is where people fundamentally go wrong, because they do the 60 percent really well, and then they do the 30 percent really well. And they all forget the 10.

“If you don’t do the accent color, you get the feeling that something is missing, with a I do not know what (French for ‘an indefinable quality’) or ‘oh it’s nice, but it’s not pretty’. It brings it over the edge, that little bit of extra pop.

“Usually it is a contrasting color or accent color. That usually means it’s on the other side of the color wheel.” Clarke exemplifies coastal style interiors with lots of white and airy blues, accented with a coral-like color to create a striking contrast.

Not doing the accent color makes you feel like something is missing, with a je ne sais quoi (French for “an indefinable quality”) of “oh it’s nice, but it’s not pretty.” It brings it over the edge, that little bit of extra pop. Usually it is a contrasting color or accent color. That usually means it’s on the other side of the color wheel.

– Anam Clarke, founder and CEO of The Designers’ Studio

These do not necessarily have to be one color and contain variations that can be expressed by:

• Accent chairs and cushions

• Accent wall with a painted wall, or print wallpaper

• Even household appliances such as a refrigerator and stove can act as your accent

What if you’re not really looking for bright pops of color in your space? Clarke says, “Even if you make a neutral scheme, there has to be something — it could just be the black or gold of a furniture leg, or it could even blend in with nature, so plants and greenery.”

She cautions, however, that it’s important not to overdo the accent colors in a room, as it will look garish and overdone.

The UAE’s Favorite Color Palettes

What colors do you prefer for houses in the UAE? Anam Clarke, founder and CEO of The Designers’ Studio, an interior design studio and institute in Dubai, says: “Because we have clear blue skies and beautiful sunlight every day, the blue palette and the neutral palette are very popular. much more cool, light and airy blues and more of metal-based accents, and less of color accents, such as gold and silver accents.”

As for the 60 percent, she says, “Because a lot of properties are rentals and it’s just easier, I usually see very neutral 60s – wood floors, marble floors, tile floors – they’re normally in white, beige, brown, so that already sets the tone.”

“Then I see a lot of white, beige, gray walls, which is quite neutral. In addition, the ceilings are predominantly white.

Which colors should I use?

Right, now that you have the proportions of the colors to use – how do you select which colors you really want to see in your space?

You can approach this in three ways:

1. Use a color wheel

Color wheel palette

As a starting point, choose a color that you like. Then, using these simple color theory-based combinations, you can choose different shades that can create a visual balance in your room.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

a. Harmony in color: Analog colors next to each other on the color wheel make the space harmonious and easier to do. Clarke says, “It’ll be kind of my green, my blue goes to a sort of turquoise on the cooler side of the color wheel, or I can go to a more fiery side, where I’ll do more yellows, oranges, reds, pinks and peaches.” .

b. Complementary colours: These face each other on the handlebars and are tricky to do, but are what really add the interest.

Clarke says, ‘I’d say pick colors that appeal to you. If you’re not sure, I always recommend keeping a neutral base and playing with the 30 and the 10 more as that can be interchangeable – it could be a pillow or a chair.

“A purple and yellow is always one of my favorites. I think that looks nice. That purple couch or the yellow accent color can tell you that. We also have a blue and corals.”

2. Work outward from a statement piece

You can also buy a statement piece first – such as a piece of art or a rug – and take colors from there, because the colors are already matched in the artwork. Clarke says, “There’s a lot going on, but there’s always a dominant color in everything.” You can take out the dominant color and use it for the 30 percent in your space.

3. Neutral scheme

60-30-10 rule interior living room

A neutral room with a balance of warm and cool undertones.
Image Credit: Unsplash/Collov Home Design

You can also go for a completely neutral scheme and still use this rule. Clarke says, “You could have a very white base, then you could have a little more taupe brown or something grayish beige like the 1930s, and then a 10 would be a metal.

“If you’re using neutrals, you never want to have just one type of undertone – you want to marry a yellow-based or a blue-based one. Otherwise it will be very monotonous.”

Finally, you can also work with shades that are trending right now in 2022. Pantone’s color of the year is a bright lavender shade titled ‘Very Peri’, and the Benjamin Moore color of the year 2022 is a neutral shade between sage green and a greige called October Mist.

Break the rule?

60-30-10 rule interior living room

Wait a minute, though, many rooms have more than just three colors?
Image Credit: Unsplash/Spacejoy

Clarke says, “You might be thinking — but I’ve seen schemes with lots of colors, like, what’s that about? Well, that’s broken the 60-30-10 rule.

“So if you want, while you’re developing, play with the proportions — maybe I want five or six different colors, maybe I want something really bohemian, maybe I want something eclectic. So you can absolutely do that 100 percent But again, that comes down to the seven design principles, where one of the design principles basically indicates visual balance.”

She advises taking inspiration from Kelly Wearstler, a famous American interior designer known for her surprising color palettes.

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