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

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

The classic décor rule and hack for balancing color in your room, the 60-30-10 rule, goes as follows:

When you design a room, use three main shades – 60 per cent of a dominant hue, 30 per cent in a supporting, complementary color and 10 per cent in an accent shade. Slightly different tones of the same color can be included.

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

Anam Clarke, Founder and CEO at 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, just like an old wives’ tale, some might even say.”

1. 60 per cent : Main color

60-30-10 home color palette room interior

The 60 per cent hue is a light greige, the complementary color in tones 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 backdrop to everything else.

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

Here are some spaces they can be expressed in:

• Area rug or wall-to-wall rug

• Cabinets in a kitchen space

2. 30 per cent : Secondary color

60-30-10 rule home interior design room

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

This color is complementary to your main hue, supporting it but different enough to create an interesting space. Clarke says, “So the 30 per cent is kind of the main color, if that makes sense – though it’s not a dominant 60 per cent colour. For example, if you have a blue sofa and blue drapes – you normally walk in and say, yes, blue room.” This is because the 60 per cent color is usually a neutral shade, but if you choose to go bold with that, that would be the main color.

Add your 30 per cent of secondary hue through these items or spaces in your room:

• Countertops and cupboards

3. 10 per cent : Accent color

60-30-10 rule interior design home room

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

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

“If you don’t do the accent color, you end up with the feeling that something is missing, with a je ne sais quoi (French for ‘an indefinable quality’) of ‘oh it’s nice, but it’s not beautiful’. It brings it over the edge, that little extra pop.

“Usually it is a contrasting color or accent color. That usually means it is at the opposite end of the color wheel.” Clarke gives an example of coastal-style interiors with lots of white and airy blue colours, with a coral-like color for accent to create a striking contrast.

If you don’t do the accent colour, you end up with the feeling that something is missing, with a je ne sais quoi (French for ‘an indefinable quality’) of ‘oh it’s nice, but it’s not beautiful’. It brings it over the edge, that little extra pop. Usually it is a contrasting color or accent color. That usually means it is at the opposite end of the color wheel.

– Anam Clarke, Founder and CEO at The Designers’ Studio

These don’t necessarily need to be in one color, and includes variations that can be expressed through:

• Accent chairs and cushions

• Accent wall with a painted wall, or print wallpaper

• Even home appliances like a fridge and stove can function as your accent

What if you’re not really looking for any bright pops of color in your space? Clarke says, “Even if you’re doing a neutral scheme, there needs to be something – it could just be the black or gold of a furniture leg, or alternatively, it could even come in with Nature, so plants and greenery.”

However, she warns that it’s important not to overdo the accent colors in a space, as that may look Garish and overdone.

UAE’s favorite color palettes

What colors do UAE’s homes favourite? Anam Clarke, Founder and CEO at The Designers’ Studio, a Dubai-based interior design studio and institute, says, “Because we have bright blue skies and beautiful sunlight every single day – the blue palette and neutral palette are very popular. I see a lot more cool, light and airy blues and more of metal-based accents, and less of color accents. For example, gold and silver accents.”

As for the 60 per cent, she says, “Because many properties are rentals, and it’s just easier, I normally see very neutral 60s – wood floors, marble floors, tiled floors – they’re normally in white, beige, brown, so that’s kind of already kind of setting the tone.”

“Then I see a lot of white, beige, gray walls, that’s pretty neutral. Moreover, the ceilings are predominantly white.

What colors should I use?

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

You can go about this three ways:

1. Use a color wheel

Color wheel palette

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

a. Harmony in color: Analogous colors that are next to each other on the color wheel makes the space harmonious and are simpler to do. Clarke says, “It’ll kind of be my greens, my blues going into kind of turquoise on the cooler side of the color wheel, or I can go into a more fiery side, where I do more yellows, oranges, reds, pinks and peaches.

b. Complementary colors: These are opposite to each other on the wheel, and are tricky to do, but are what really adds the interest.

Clarke says, “I’d say, choose colors that you’re drawn to. If you’re elements, then I always recommend then keeping a neutral base and playing more with the 30 and the 10 because that can be interchangeable – it might be a cushion or a chair.

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

2. Work outwards from a statement piece

You can also buy a statement piece first – such as an artwork or a rug – and pull out colors from there, as the colors are already matched within the artwork. Clarke says, “It’s a lot going on, but there is always a dominant color with everything.” You can pull out the dominant color and use it for the 30 per cent in your space.

3. Neutral scheme

60-30-10 rule interior design home room

A neutral room balancing warm and cool undertones.
Image Credit: Unsplash/Collov Home Design

You can also go for an entirely neutral scheme and still use this rule. Clarke says, “You could have very white base, then you can have a slightly more taupe-y brown or slightly grayish beige as the 30s, and then a 10 would be a metal.

“When you’re doing neutrals, you never want to have just one type of undertone – you want to have a yellow-based or a blue-based, kind of marrying each other. Otherwise it gets 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 a sage green and a greige, called October Mist.

Breaking the rules?

60-30-10 rule interior design home room

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

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

“So if you want to as you’re developing, play around with the ratios – maybe I want five or six different colors, maybe I want something really bohemian, maybe I want something eclectic. Therefore, you can absolutely do that 100 per cent. But again, that will kind of go down to the seven principles of design, where one of the principles of design basically states visual balance.”

She advises looking to Kelly Wearstler, a renowned American interior designer known for her startingling color palettes, for inspiration.

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