Follow the 60-30-10 Rule for “Suitable” Color Schemes

To bring proper balance to a color scheme, keep in mind the image of a man in a business suit. The harmonious proportionality between the suit, the shirt, and the tie is a winning combination that can be mimicked to work wonders in any room.

Why does a well-dressed man look striking in business attire? Part of the reason is the relationship between the color “mass” of his clothes. As the dominant color, the suit makes up roughly 60% of the picture; the secondary color of the shirt, 30%; and the punch color in the tie, 10%. The percentages just look and feel right. You can use the same formula when outfitting a room.

The dominant hue in most interior spaces will be the paint color you use on the walls. Typically, that’s the simple part of the equation. Then the thinking begins.

Design-wise, you need to select a secondary color that will comprise 30% of the visual field in a room. This requires some discipline when furnishing the space. Keep in mind the classic appearance of a man in a suit. What would happen if he wore a patchwork plaid instead of a solid color shirt? It would ruin the color balance of the overall look. So, work hard to use a lot of your secondary color, rather than diluting its power by employing multiple, competing shades.

You can have a lot more fun and freedom with your necktie equivalent — the punch color in your décor. Often, this 10% of the color scheme can be introduced by way of decorative accents such as lamps, pillows, glassware, artwork, or area rugs. For the biggest impact, choose a bold hue. And to give structure to your color scheme, try to have the accents match as closely as possible, color-wise.

Of course, there are other ways to achieve 60-30-10 balance in a room. Rather than painting all of the walls the same color, you could incorporate an accent wall painted in your secondary color. That would enable you to include some furnishings in your dominant color. When these furnishings are taken together with the color of the three walls, you would still be at 60%, and the proportionality of things would still be intact.

While the 60-30-10 rule operates primarily as a guideline for interior color schemes, it can also help inform color choices on the home exterior. There, the siding would be painted the dominant color, the shutters and trim the secondary color, and the front door, a punch color. The percentages might not always be exact, but an exterior color scheme approximating the 60-30-10 formula will present a pleasant, harmonious look to all who pass by.