Kimberley Seldon’s 80/20 Rule featured image

Kimberley Seldon’s 80/20 Rule

April 4, 2012

Formula for Success 80/20
It’s a simple formula. I call it my 80/20 Rule. As long as 80% of an interior is cohesive—same style, same period, same philosophy—the other 20% can deviate. In twenty years I have never seen this rule of thumb fail. Here are some specific examples:

80% Traditional Furnishings + 20% Contemporary Furnishings = Decorating Success
80% Contemporary Furnishings + 20% Traditional Furnishings = Decorating Success
50% Traditional Furnishings + 50% Contemporary Furnishings = Visual Confusion

Period Perfect
In a living room that is 80% formal English (Chippendale, Hepplewhite or Sheraton) its the 20% of contrasting furnishings (say Italian modern lighting and sculpture) that enlivens the space and lends it personality. This is true working with any style.

80% English Country + 20% Industrial = Personal Country Style
30% English Country + 30% Industrial + 30% Contemporary = Visual Confusion

Design Tip: Certain styles, owing to diverging philosophies, just don’t mix. For example, in Victorian décor, furnishings are ornate, rooms are lavishly decorated and jewel toned colours feature prominently. In contrast, the Arts and Crafts movement favours a return to honest craftsmanship and simplicity. Victorian décor marries well with Edwardian, Asian, Formal English and Formal French. Arts and Crafts combine best with contemporary upholstered pieces and clean lined country styles. They just don’t work well together.

Wood Tones
When mixing various woods it’s important to consider the mood of individual species and the degree of formality each suggests. For example, mahogany, cherry, and oak are often considered “formal” woods, therefore, they combine well with one another, provided one variety is dominant (about 80%). Pine, maple and bamboo have a more casual attitude making them compatible with one another but less compatible with more formal wood.

80% Dark Wood + 20% Medium Toned Wood = Layered Warmth
50% Dark Wood + 50% Light Wood = Visual Confusion

Design Tip: The same principal applies when mixing wood tones with painted furnishings. Allow one of these finishes to dominate and success is guaranteed.

Open and Shut Storage
Relieve the monotony of endless cabinet doors in kitchens by incorporating specialty glass or wire on front doors or open shelving. Aim for 80% closed storage which is ideal for an average sized household and add 20% specialty or display.

80% Closed Storage + 20% Display Storage = Attention Directed to Display Areas
50% Closed Storage + 50% Open Storage = Visual Confusion

Design Tip: Save money and create a more upscale look in the bathroom or kitchen combining 80% stock cabinetry with 20% semi-custom options. This allows you to create one standout focal feature such as a stainless steel medicine cabinet or gothic arch valance above the sink.

As a general rule, contemporary interiors feature about 20% patterned textiles and 80% solid or tone-on-tone materials. Traditional interiors however, tip the balance in favour of patterns, through some like damask may be subtle.

Never rely solely on ambient or general illumination for rooms. Incorporate a 20% ratio of decorative lighting such as scones, table lamps and library lights to create interest and draw attention to collections and paintings.

Skirts and Legs
Showing excess leg is rarely a good idea. When mixing upholstered furniture and occasional tables it’s more attractive to vary the ratio of “skirt” to “leg”. In most cases 20% skirting (either the soft skirted apron of a sofa or a hard “skirt” such as a block furniture with no legs) works well.