60-30-10 Color Rule: How to Use It & How to Break It

Illustration showing an example of the 60-30-10 Color Rule

The Spruce / Caitlin Rogers

60-30-10 is a timeless decorating rule that can help you put a color scheme together easily. The 60 percent + 30 percent + 10 percent proportion is meant to give balance to the colors used in any space. This concept is incredibly simple to use.

Here’s How to Use the 60-30-10 Rule

Your 60 percent is the main color for your room. Most likely the 60 percent in a living room would be most of your walls, large accent pieces like area rugs, and perhaps a sofa. The idea is that the 60 percent color anchors the space and also serves as a backdrop for what comes next. 

Your 30 percent is the secondary color. You’ll be using half as much of this color as your main color. So this could be draperies, accent chairs, bed linens, painted furniture, or even creating an accent wall. The idea is that the secondary color supports the main color, but is different enough to set them apart and give the room interest. The real fun comes with the accent color you’ll be adding next. 

Your 10 percent is your accent color. For a living room, this is your throw pillows, decorative accessories, and artwork. For a bedroom, this could be accent pillows on the bed, lamps on the bedside table, and candles on the nightstand. Your accent color can be pulled from artwork in the room, or from a printed fabric on larger items. 

Using the 60-30-10 rule can make choosing color simple, and help you achieve balance in decorating. To choose the three colors for your space, a color scheme based on the color wheel is the simplest method. Another quick trick used by decorators is to pull the colors from a fabric print because the fabric designer has already done the matching for you. 

Here's How to Break the 60-30-10 Rule

Using a tried and true decorating rule can make your color choices so easy that you may wonder why everyone doesn’t follow it. But perhaps you’re a decorating rebel who wants to think outside the box when it comes to creating a color scheme, or you feel that you need more than three choices to express your color ideas. Whatever your reason is for wanting to break the 60-30-10 rule, there are ways to do it while still creating color balance in your home.

The key to any great creative project has always been to learn the rules before you break them, so once you understand the basic premise of this rule, you can customize it for your own rooms. It also helps to learn the dos and don'ts of using color first.

Give 110 Percent

Like a cheeky upstart in a Broadway play, it’s really okay to give 110 percent when putting together your color scheme. This means that you can choose your 60 percent main color, your 30 percent secondary color, but choose two 10 percent accent colors instead of one. There are times when one accent color is just not enough, so go ahead and get that extra throw pillow or candle holder.

Go Monochromatic

When you create a monochromatic color scheme, your main, secondary, and accent colors, can be varying shades of the same color, rather than three separate colors. A neutral greige can be soothing as your 60 percent main color, a deep shade of the same greige is stunning as your 30 percent secondary color, and a pale shade of your greige lightens up the scheme as your 10 percent accent color. A neutral monochromatic color scheme creates an extremely relaxing color scheme.

Write Your Own Decorating Formula

Decorating rules are so helpful when we need some direction in decorating or choosing a color. So, what if you’re a rebel or just can’t envision a room so intricately balanced? That’s when it’s time to write your own formula. If 30-30-20-20 feels right to you, then experiment with that formula. The key to going rogue on this decorating rule is to pay attention to the color balance in your space. Once you’re aware of the visual weight of these color proportions, you can break the rules and find a balance that speaks to you. 

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