A rule of thumb would be a better suggestion, because as soon as someone states there should be a rule for this, that or the other, it immediately invites an urge to break it.

This is more like a suggestion to give your home that ‘home décor magazine’ appeal, and can give a room the ‘wow’ factor you might be looking for.

Let me explain the 60-30-10 rule if you haven’t heard of it before. It’s a classic décor rule that helps create a colour palette for a space. This could be one room, or linked rooms, or the whole house. It suggests that 60% of the room should be a dominant colour, 30% should be the secondary colour or texture and the last 10% should be an accent.

So… how to use this rule. The 60% is the overall colour of the room, the background colour if you like. When you look at the space you’ll say, it’s the ‘grey’ room (or whatever colour you have chosen). The next number is your 30%. It will become the secondary colour in your space and will support the main colour, but be different enough to give the room interest. You’ll be using half as much of this colour as you did for your main colour. In the case of a bedroom, it could be a pattern on the bedding or a coverlet, which picks out your main colour, or even a texture.

The final fun 10% percentage is your accent colour, and It can be as bold or as subtle as you like, depending on what look you want. This 10% can be what gives the character to the room or keeps it that much more neutral, it’s really up to you. This could be funky cushions in an otherwise plain room, or statement pieces of artwork for example.

This is a more difficult ‘rule’ to offer to Portuguese older homes, as they are traditionally painted white, and don’t lend themselves so well to the addition of coloured walls, but never say never! On a newer home, with high ceilings and large rooms, this 60-30-10 idea can work really well.

Lets take the grey theme, for instance. Imagine soft grey walls (the 60%), darker grey soft furnishings or curtains or even just one wall (the 30%). Then add in red (the 10%) for a dramatic effect, or a soft pink for a more subtle effect. This can work equally well with a monochrome look, white walls and black cushions or curtains, perhaps bringing some grey as an accent, or even yellow to lift the palette.

Like to go rogue? Then try the 30-30-20-20 option! The key to breaking the rules on this decorating idea is to pay attention to the colour balance in your space. Once you’re aware of the visual weight of these colours proportions, you can break the rules and find a balance that speaks for you.

There are also some rules that are just begging to be broken, and one of these might be that ceilings don’t have to be white! It’s a perfect place to add that accent colour. Another rule that you might like to break this using dark colours in a small room, but experiment with this idea, and remember that suitable lighting, whether natural or lamps, is the key to prevent the room looking gloomy.

And lastly, don’t assume that all neutrals will go together. They might have undertones of red or blue or green that aren’t always obvious, and you might need to experiment to find the right mix. For instance, your beige wall with a green undertone may not be obvious until the colour pops out as being wrong when it is against a red or orange chair perhaps. Or two beiges with different undertones might not work.

But ultimately, it is your home, your choices, your colours, your style.

I always liked the expression ‘home is where you find your slippers’, and as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz said, ‘there’s no place like home’ – so it doesn’t matter if that chair doesn’t match if it’s where you like to put your feet up at the end of the day!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan