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Kimberley’s80/20 Rule for Home Decorating


Published: 12/02/2013

by Kimberley Seldon

Here is a recipe for maintaining focus and balance when decorating.


Merged households, inherited furnishings, well-intentioned gifts that miss the mark and the occasional impulse buy – all of these contribute to decorating dreams getting off-track. 


Alas, you can’t have it all, and calling things eclectic doesn’t help. But you can enjoy some variety in your home decorating and still keep the room focused and in balance. Here’s my recipe for getting the mix right. I call it my 80/20 rule and it works like this: as long as 80% of your interior is cohesive (same style, same period and same philosophy), you can deviate with the other 20%. Don’t worry if you inherited a fine antique and your look is ultra-modern.


It’s the unexpected 20% (the antique) that creates interest when it’s placed within the boundaries of the more modern interior.


Creating a period-perfect room – one that slavishly follows a style from the past – is boring and inappropriate for today’s modern lifestyle. It’s far more interesting to limit the featured style to about 80% of the room’s total furnishings. For example, in a living room that is English formal, you might find it contains furnishings by Chippendale and Hepplewhite, as well as traditional patterns and colours. Including some contrasting elements, say Italian modern lighting and sculptures, actually enlivens the space and lends it personality.


Beyond style, there are other instances where the 80/20 rule provides assistance with decorating decisions. Here are some of the most beneficial ways to use this principle. Mixing patterns and solids: 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. In a contemporary space, you’ll shake things up with a well-placed pattern or two. Conversely, a traditional pattern-filled room requires visual breathing space, which is easily provided by incorporating solid expanses of colour.


Mixing woods: 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 not with more formal varieties.


Cabinetry: Save money and create a more upscale look in the bathroom or kitchen by combining 80% stock cabinetry with 20% semi-custom or custom options.  


Kimberley Seldon Design Group offers consultations and full design-build services. For details, visit

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