The 80/20 Rule in Designing a Room around a Specific Piece of Art -Part 3

Designing a Room Using Specific Artwork –   Part 3

The 80/20 Rule

This Blog is the third instalment which will provide a more complex design principal to apply to “Designing a Room around a Specific Piece of Art” called the 80/20 Design Rule. Since these blogs focus on using your beloved “Artwork” as the inspiration for the design/renovation of a room and using that Art as the “Focal Point” of the room, please read my first 2 Blogs for the foundational information required to understand this 3rd Blog instalment. The 80/20 Design Rule will help create a more beautiful complex and sophisticated room which will help showcase your amazing Artwork. 


The 80/20 Design Rule can apply to using “colour” in the design of a room and it also applies to mixing “design styles” in a room:

Colour: 80/20 Design Rule

The 80/20 design rule is very important when using colour in your decorating. See my first and second blog on selecting colours from the Artwork to use in your rooms design. Many designers recommend the following:

  • 80% of the room should be in a neutral less saturated shade of the main colour you have selected
  • 20% of the room can be the brighter shade of that same colour.

Note: there will be the “right amount” of the brightest 20% colour to “create a statement” but not “so much colour” that the intensity of it becomes “an eyesore”. Determining this can be difficult for the beginner designer and as suggested in my first Blog having a Interior Designer/Decorator help guide you at important stages in the designing process can be valuable and save you a tremendous amount of money in design mistakes.

Here is an example: if 80% of a room could be a dulled greyed down tone of yellow on the walls which could then be complimented with an intense lemon couch for the perfect contemporary statement. But as discussed in my first blog its important to remember if you want to ensure your large beloved “Artwork” remains the “Focal Point” you have to keep several things in mind. If for example the large artwork is neutral in colour but very textured with various neutral colours like browns, creams and whites then selecting the colour yellow is not going to work on the wall or the couch and this is because the yellow walls and then a bright lemon yellow couch will become the focal point of the room and that’s not what you want. So to keep your Art as the focal point and to consider even having a bright lemon yellow couch the Artwork itself should already have at least 1/4 of the entire paintings in a yellow colour to ensure that the artwork would stay the “Focal Point”.

Design Styles: 80/20 Design Rule

Our lives are complex, our tastes unique and varied so our home is like a blank canvas to create and express who we are. Surrounding ourselves with the things we truly love, we realize our home is the perfect place to express our personal styles. We may love a certain style or two and our spouse may like something completely different so its good to know that we can combine several styles in the design of a home. Design styles such as Contemporary, Mediterranean, Rustic, Victorian and Modern home designs all make a statement and a combination of the different styles can work if we apply the 80/20 Design Rule.

The following are examples of popular design styles that you can combine while combining the 80/20 Rule.

  • 80% of the rooms design should coincide with one style
  • 20% of the rooms design applies to your accent style.

Note: Do not try to go 50/50 with your design style combinations. The result will be more busy, distracting and unbalanced than truly beautiful.

Design Style Combinations that work well together:

Rustic Style with Tuscany

This style is best created by using rustic style as your 80% design and Tuscany/Mediterranean your 20% accent style. The deep rich colours of wooden furniture furniture make a perfect back drop. Add touches of rich colours in your accent decor such as vases, pillows and throw blankets. Subtly layering the richness of Mediterranean design over the rustic design backdrop creates a sense of warmth and comfortable beauty.

Classic Style With Abstract

The traditional simplicity of Classic design works spectacularly with abstract design. Classic design is one of the most desired home styles due to the comfortable and safe atmosphere it creates. Abstract elements add wonderful colour and vitality. I suggest 80% classic design with 20% abstract design. To achieve this unique combination, begin with classic pieces such as sofas and coffee tables. Then add touches of abstract with items like Art, throw pillows in loud prints and rugs in eye-catching solid colours. Solid muted colours combined with vivacious Art and even animal prints bring the sophistication of traditional style and striking modernism.

Pattern and Texture: 80/20 Design Rule

If 80% of your room has subtle pattern and texture then 20% can be bolder textures and patterns which will stand out more against the subtle patterned/texture background.

General 80/20 Design Rules

When mixing and matching, remember the 80/20 Design Rule:

As long as 80% of your interior is unified by the same style, period, or philosophy, you can deviate with the other 20%. A fine antique can work in a modern space, just as long as there is a unifying factor. For a traditional pattern-filled room allow a visual break from the pattern by incorporating solid expanses of colour.

The following events can contribute to already decorated rooms getting off track such as couples merging households, inherited furnishings, well intentioned decorative gifts that just don’t work, and the occasional impulse buy.  Some people call this eclectic but it can lead to a very busy unattractive room with no cohesiveness or beauty.

Dos and Don’ts of the 80/20 Rule

  • DO revitalize neutral interiors 80%  with punctuation’s of colour. So 20% addition of striking colour in for example a series of vases in chartreuse or a pair of pillows in cobalt, can transform the mood and personality of a room.
  • DON’T rely solely on ambient or general illumination for rooms. If 80 per cent of your lighting is overhead, such as halogens or ceiling-mounted fixtures for example, incorporate a 20% of decorative lighting for example sconces, table lamps, art lamps and library lights to create interest and draw attention to collections and paintings.
  • DON’T show too much leg. When mixing upholstered furniture and occasional tables, it’s more attractive to vary the ratio of skirt to leg. In most cases, 20 per cent skirting (either a soft skirt like the apron of a sofa, or a piece of furniture with no legs) is ideal.
  • 80% Modern classic furniture works beautifully with a wonderful large antique piece 20%.
  • When mixing woods consider formality: mahogany,cherry and oak are formal, so they’ll go well with one another. Pine, maple, and bamboo are casual looking woods so they are compatible with one another but not with formal woods. I tend not to have more than 2 different woods in a space as well.
  • Contemporary interiors feature 20% multi tone patterns and 80% solid or tone on tone materials.
  • Traditional interiors favour patterns. So if your family room is modern with monochromatic neutral fabrics 80%, add some patterned or large floral-patterned pillows. A traditional pattern-filled room requires visual breathing space so incorporate solid expanses of colour.
  • DON’T mix Victorian decor which is all about ornate excess, while Arts and Crafts style favours simplicity. So Victorian style can work with Edwardian, Asian, formal English, and French furniture. Arts and Crafts is better with contemporary style or country styles like Shaker. But with the 80/20 Design Rule you can mix almost anything.
  • In general, contemporary interiors feature 20% multi-tone patterns and 80 % solid or tone-on-tone materials.
  • DO save money and create an expensive look by combining 80% stock pre-made cabinetry with 20% semi-custom or custom options.
  • Every room should have 5 textures: shiny, matte, smooth, flat and rough. Adding these different textures make a room look more sophisticated and expensive, keeping in mind the 80/20 rule.
  • This 80/20 Rule applies to so many aspects of designing a room

About the pics in this Article:

The first picture is an example of my laundry room with 80% neutral colours with grey on the walls, white trim/accessories and touches of black throughout and the Artwork is brightly coloured which makes it the Focal point of the rooms design. The Art stands out because of the intense red, yellows, greens and blues against the neutral room colour but notice that the sky and pathway in the painting has the colour “grey” that match the wall colour allowing the Artwork to blend in and work in the room.

The second pic is one of my latest 30″ x 36″ Original Oil paintings titled “White Peonies VIII” from my “White Peony Series”. See my website under the “Gallery” tab, then “Oils” drop down, then select “White Peony Series” tab.

About Artist Kimberley Cook:

Artist Kimberley Cook AFCA CSPWC has been painting in Oils and Watercolours for over 25 years and she loves to make her surroundings beautiful whether in her home, studio or garden with her creative ideas and wants to help others create their own gorgeous space! To Kimberley “creating is like breathing” a very necessary part of her life!

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