How to Use the 60-30-10 Color Rule in Your Home & How to Break It

How to Use the 60-30-10 Color Rule in Your Home & How to Break It

The classic 60-30-10 rule is all about balance. Its advocates swear that following the rule will automatically create a harmonious aesthetic pretty much anywhere you apply it, from your kitchen to your bathroom to your living room to your bedroom.

Of course, even the rule’s staunchest supporters will tell you that it’s not a hard-and-fast requirement but rather a helpful guideline for when you’re thinking about how to decorate your space. Keeping that in mind, read on to discover how to apply this versatile decorating creed and its endless possible variants.

What Is the 60-30-10 Color Rule?

It’s simple. The numbers refer to the desired percentage breakdown of the colors in your room. The lion’s share (60%) should be a single dominant color around which you orient the rest of your palette. Using one color to cover 60% of your space will help to provide a touchstone for the entire color scheme. Usually, the 60% is achieved primarily through the wall color as well as via other sizable pieces like furniture and large rugs. Whether you’ve already chosen your base color or are simply looking for inspiration, check out our collection of wallpaper by color.

Next, 30% of the room should be adorned in a secondary color, which complements the base color. The secondary color generally comes from special one-off furniture pieces, area rugs, textiles, curtains and wood trim. The final 10% should be devoted to an accent color, often brighter or more unusual than the dominant and secondary colors. You can bring the accent color to light through the addition of throw pillows, artwork and other types of décor items. Explore our framed wall art to find pieces in your accent color.

How to Use the 60-30-10 Rule

First, keep in mind that you do not necessarily need to stick to just three hues in order to observe the 60-30-10 rule. Depending on whom you ask, your base “color” could be comprised of various neutrals, your secondary “color” could include both brown and wood and your accent “color” could employ green and blue.

As with nearly everything else in the visual world, interior color palettes chosen with a view towards color theory tend to work best, so if you’re familiar with color theory, then you have a big leg up. However, if visual art isn’t your area of expertise, don’t worry! You’ve probably seen a color wheel before, right? Basically, all you’ll need to do is to pick a few colors from the wheel according to one of several color combination principles:

  1. Monochromatic: It might sound boring, but a monochromatic color scheme can actually be quite classy and even interesting. All you’ll need to do is find a color you like and then select darker and lighter variations. This generally works best with dark, light and neutral wallpaper colors --think charcoal grey, black, off-white and cream.
  2. Complimentary: For a striking yet balanced look, choose colors directly across from one another on the color wheel.
  3. Analogous: To use this color scheme, you’ll need to pick three adjacent colors on the wheel, then use the middle color as the base.
  4. Split-Complimentary: This complex strategy involves choosing a base color, then using its opposite across the color wheel in addition to another color next door.


How to Break It

Although you may respect the spirit, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to truly keep a lived-in space limited to three color categories in everyday life. Whether the “extra” colors come from artwork or other everyday objects, it’s nearly impossible to follow the letter of the law when it comes to the 60-30-10 rule. However, rather than bemoaning this fact, you can easily use it to your advantage.

There are many ways to embrace variations to the 60-30-10 rule--or even break the rule entirely--while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing space. As previously discussed, the rule itself is up for interpretation. You can use a color family rather than a single color for your dominant and secondary colors, or you can pick more than one accent color. If you’re feeling particularly daring, you can even shake it up and create your own percentages according to what feels right to you.

Another situation in which you could successfully break the rule is if you’re leaning towards a design style that typically incorporates more than three colors. For instance, eclectic and bohemian styles typically utilize a greater array. In this case, you probably don’t need to worry too much about the rule. In fact, you can breathe easy and embrace the freedom that comes with the ability to populate your space with design elements in whatever hue suits your fancy.


The 60-30-10 rule is timeless and respected for a reason. Decorators and homeowners alike routinely apply it to create stunning spaces. While the more stringent applicators of the rule may not accept, say, choosing rainbow or a combination of metallic colors as the 10%, there’s absolutely room for experimentation. Decisions like this can add interest to your space if carefully chosen.

However you choose to employ the rule or its variations, look no further than Wallshoppe for all your décor needs!