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The Essential Guide to Using the 60-30-10 Rule in Interior Design


As an interior designer, one of the most important aspects of creating a cohesive and visually appealing space is understanding the principles of color theory and how to effectively use color in a room. One of the most widely used guidelines in interior design is the 60-30-10 rule, which is a simple yet effective way to create a balanced color scheme in any room. In this article, we will discuss the basics of the 60-30-10 rule, how to apply it in your design projects, and the right time to bend or break the rule to achieve the best results.

Understanding the 60-30-10 Rule

The 60-30-10 rule is a straightforward guideline that helps interior designers and homeowners create a harmonious color scheme in any space. The rule dictates that when decorating a room, you should allocate 60% of the room's color to a dominant color, 30% to a secondary color, and 10% to an accent color.

Dominant Color (60%)

The dominant color is the primary hue in the room and sets the overall tone for the space. It typically covers the largest areas such as walls, floors, and large furniture pieces. When selecting the dominant color, it's essential to consider the mood and ambiance you want to create in the room. Neutral colors like white, beige, and gray are commonly used as dominant colors, but bold and vibrant colors can also be used effectively based on the desired aesthetic.

Secondary Color (30%)

The secondary color complements the dominant color and adds depth and visual interest to the room. This color is often used for upholstery, drapery, accent walls, or additional large furniture pieces. The secondary color should harmonize with the dominant color while offering a contrast to create a balanced and dynamic color palette.

Accent Color (10%)

The accent color is the pop of color that adds personality and visual impact to the room. This color is used sparingly in accessories, artwork, throw pillows, and other décor elements. The accent color provides an opportunity to introduce a bolder or contrasting color that enlivens the space without overwhelming the overall color scheme.

Applying the 60-30-10 Rule in Interior Design

Now that we have a solid understanding of the 60-30-10 rule, let's explore how to apply it in real-world interior design projects.

Start with the Dominant Color

When beginning a new design project, it's crucial to start with the selection of the dominant color. Consider the purpose of the room, the existing architectural elements, and the desired atmosphere. If you're working with a neutral dominant color, such as white or beige, you have the flexibility to introduce a wide range of secondary and accent colors. However, if you opt for a bold dominant color, ensure that it complements the overall design vision and doesn't overshadow the secondary and accent colors.

Layer in the Secondary Color

Once the dominant color is established, incorporate the secondary color to build depth and visual interest. This could involve selecting upholstery in a contrasting color, painting an accent wall, or introducing a statement rug or drapery. The secondary color should seamlessly blend with the dominant color while adding a layer of complexity to the color palette.

Add the Accent Color

The final step is to integrate the accent color into the space. This is where you can get creative and add a pop of personality. Whether it's through throw pillows, artwork, decorative objects, or small pieces of furniture, the accent color should be strategically placed to draw the eye and create focal points within the room.

Knowing When to Bend or Break the Rule

While the 60-30-10 rule provides a solid framework for creating a balanced color scheme, there are instances where it's acceptable to deviate from the rule to achieve the best design outcome.

Personal Preferences and Functionality

Ultimately, the goal of interior design is to create spaces that reflect the preferences and lifestyle of the occupants. If a client has a strong preference for a specific color combination that doesn't align with the 60-30-10 rule, it's important to prioritize their individual taste and comfort. Additionally, the functional requirements of a space may dictate a different approach to color allocation. For example, in a children's playroom, it might be more appropriate to emphasize the use of vibrant and playful colors, deviating from the traditional 60-30-10 ratio.

Embracing Monochromatic Schemes

While the 60-30-10 rule highlights the use of three distinct colors, it doesn't account for the potential impact of monochromatic color schemes. In some cases, a monochromatic palette featuring varying shades and tints of a single color can create a sophisticated and harmonious aesthetic. When working with monochromatic schemes, the 60-30-10 rule may not apply in the traditional sense, but the principles of balance and proportion still play a crucial role in the design process.

Considering the Environment and Lighting

The lighting and environmental factors of a room can significantly influence the perception of color. In spaces with abundant natural light, colors may appear brighter and more saturated, prompting the need for a more restrained approach to color application. Conversely, in dimly lit rooms, using a higher percentage of lighter colors can help maximize the available light and create a more luminous atmosphere.

Reflecting Current Design Trends

Design trends evolve over time, and while the 60-30-10 rule provides a timeless framework for creating balanced color schemes, it's important to adapt to current trends and preferences. Experimenting with unconventional color combinations or adjusting the percentage allocation to suit contemporary aesthetics can result in innovative and captivating design solutions.


In conclusion, the 60-30-10 rule serves as an invaluable starting point for interior designers and homeowners seeking to establish a cohesive and visually engaging color scheme in their spaces. Understanding the principles of color allocation and knowing when to adhere to or deviate from the rule allows for flexibility and creativity in the design process. By incorporating the 60-30-10 rule as a foundational guideline and adapting it to suit specific design requirements, you can create personalized and captivating interiors that resonate with the occupants and elevate the overall aesthetic of the space.

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