As Frida Ramsted explains in her book, The Interior Design Handbook, “If you feel you’ve hit a wall when trying to work out the colour scheme for a room, this model can be useful since it separates the colours into harmonious blocks and creates a balance between the various colours and shades in the scheme.
“It prevents, for instance, the whole thing becoming focused on a couple of cushions.”
How to use the 60-30-10 rule?
Based on the rule of thirds, the classic design principle uses three colour families distributed in a certain way. For example, 60% of the room will be one colour family. Think walls, floors and large items of furniture. The next 30% of the room will feature subtle accent colours (feature walls, curtains, rug, etc.), and 10% will be smaller, like picture frames and cushions with contrasting colours. Frida goes one step further and adds some black and white, creating the formula 60:30:10 plus black and white.
How to choose three colours
Still stuck on what colours to choose? There's a quick fix for that – grab a colour circle and experiment with these colour scheme palettes:
Analogous colour palette
The analogous colour palette is a harmonious colour scheme that uses colours next to each other on the colour wheel. For example, if you pick a base colour like blue, the analogous colours would be shades like blue-green and blue-violet. The key is to select colours with a similar undertone or hue to maintain a smooth and pleasing visual flow.
Complementary colour palette
The complementary colour palette is based on colours opposite each other on the colour wheel. This creates a high-contrast and dynamic colour scheme. The idea is to pair colours that, when combined, create a strong visual impact and enhance each other's intensity.
Triad colour palettes
The triad colour palette is based on three colours evenly spaced around the colour wheel, forming an equilateral triangle. This creates a balanced and harmonious colour scheme by combining contrasting and contrasting colours. The primary advantage of a triad colour scheme is that it offers more diversity than analogous colours while maintaining a sense of balance.
Examples of the 60-30-10 rule in action
Neutral tones are the dominant colours on the cabinetry in this kitchen. A third of the kitchen is a dusty pink. The accent colour in 10% of the space is the magenta shelf.
White takes up most of the space in this dining area. The not-so-subtle accent colour is the yellow table. Chairs and vases in contrasting colours make up 10% of the colour scheme. Black and white has also been introduced with the wall hanging.
In this living room, green is very much the dominant colour. It's combined with earthy neutrals in the walls and ceilings and topped off with pops of contrasting colours which can be seen in the cushions.
White is used here on the walls as the dominant colour. The accent colours used are navy and dusty pink. This is topped off with grey curtains.