Living room from
60 per cent of a main colour, 30 per cent of a secondary colour and 10 per cent of an accent colour is a tried-and-tested rule. Image Credit: Designecologist/

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

The classic décor rule and hack for balancing colour 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 colour and 10 per cent in an accent shade. Slightly different tones of the same colour can be included.

Why? This creates a visual balance, with a balanced background colour, a supporting colour 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 colour

60-30-10 home colour palette room interior
The 60 per cent hue is a light greige, the complementary colour in tones of brown and orange, and an accent black and green plants. Image Credit: Unsplash/Spacejoy

This is the background colour 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 colour here in UAE, explains Clarke.

Here are some spaces they can be expressed in:

• Walls

• Area rug or wall-to-wall rug

• Cabinets in a kitchen space

2. 30 per cent : Secondary colour

60-30-10 rule home interior design room
A secondary, grey colour is the 30 per cent. White is the 60 per cent dominant hue, and the accent colours are tones of brown and gold. Image Credit: Unsplash/Spacejoy

This colour 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 colour is usually a neutral shade, but if you choose to go bold with that, that would be the main colour.

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

• Living room sofa set

• Side table

• Curtains

• Countertops and cupboards

• Area rugs

3. 10 per cent : Accent colour

60-30-10 rule interior design home room
The 10 per cent accent pop of electric blue brings to life a neutral grey 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 colour, you end up with the feeling that something 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 colour or accent colour. That usually means it is at the opposite end of the colour wheel.” Clarke gives an example of coastal-style interiors with lots of white and airy blue colours, with a coral-like colour for accent to create a striking contrast.

If you don’t do the accent colour, you end up with the feeling that something 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 colour or accent colour. That usually means it is at the opposite end of the colour wheel.

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

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

• Accent chairs and cushions

• Accent wall with a painted wall, or print wallpaper

• Décor items

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

• Artwork

• Lampshades

• Throws

What if you’re not really looking for any bright pops of colour 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 colours in a space, as that may look garish and overdone.

UAE's favourite colour palettes
What colours do UAE’s homes favour? 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 colour 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 colours should I use?

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

You can go about this three ways:

1. Use a colour wheel

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

a. Harmony in colour: Analogous colours that are next to each other on the colour 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 colour wheel, or I can go into a more fiery side, where I do more yellows, oranges, reds, pinks and peaches.

b. Complementary colours: 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 colours that you’re drawn to. If you’re unsure, 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 colours from there, as the colours 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 colour 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 colour of the year is a bright lavender shade titled ‘Very Peri’, and the Benjamin Moore colour of the year 2022 is a neutral shade between a sage green and a greige, called October Mist.

Breaking the rule?

60-30-10 rule interior design home room
Wait a second, many rooms have more than just three colours 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 famed American interior designer known for her startling colour palettes, for inspiration.

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