Choosing Your Nursery Colours

Choosing Your Nursery Colours

The arrival of a new baby is a much anticipated event, particularly if it is the first one! Planning and decorating a nursery therefore can be one of the happiest times for a family. You want the room to be right for the newborn but also a place of refuge for parents too. Babies don't see colour properly until they are about 6 months old? While their eyesight is developing they will see red first and then progress towards seeing blue. People claim that to begin with, babies only see black and white, but it is far more complex than this and studies have shown that they do begin to see some colour from a very early stage.

The Psychology behind how to choose colours for a Nursery

Children respond well to colour. They love it and learn a lot by being surrounded by it. Hattwick and Alschuler have studied children's paintings and are quoted as saying “Colour, more than any other single aspect of painting, has been of particular value in offering clues to the nature and degree of children's emotional life”. They have found that infants are influenced by luminous colours such as yellow, white, pink and red.

The warm colours of the spectrum

It is believed that warm colour preferences suggest an intimate relationship with the visual world. Warm feelings are expressed in this environment with extroverts preferring the warmer colours of the spectrum.


In addition to a psychological effect on the mind, the colour red also has a physiological affect too. Red will make the pulse quicken and stimulate our appetites. It is worth noting though that this physiological response only lasts for a very short time and the body adjusts, so this is certainly not a reason to shun red and other warmer colours.

As this is the first colour that a baby will see it is excellent to use in toys and in small amounts in artworks to stimulate a baby. Try to avoid using this in bedding or other accessories in a nursery. Red is however a gorgeous warm colour and this is why pink has become so popular for nurseries. Pink has soothing and restful qualities and symbolises love and affection.


Orange is the convivial colour of the spectrum and loved by gregarious souls with an outgoing personality. In its full saturation, this is still too bright for a nursery but in its incarnations of soft terracotta and coral, you get the same happy and uplifting feeling, without the brightness. A neutral with this base is actually perfect for a nursery.


Yellow is a classic nursery colour and often used for a gender neutral scheme. Babies love it but as we age, the preference for it declines. Bright yellow should be avoided. Great for short periods of stimulation, but when used as a bright wall colour, it promotes feelings of unease and grumpiness.

The cool colours of the spectrum


Blue has the opposite physiological effect on the body to red. It will lower blood pressure and pulse rate and lessen the appetite. The most conservative of the colours, with its shorter wavelengths, this is not seen as a preference for infants. Pale blue though is a very restful colour but avoid large expanses of it without visual relief as it can be too cold and bleak.


The appeal of green is that it is a neutral. The eye doesn't need to adjust to see it and it is therefore the most relaxing of all the colours in the spectrum. It isn't one of the luminous colours that infants respond to but it's tranquility makes it an excellent backdrop for other colours.


Purple is generally not seen as a Nursery colour. Children don't particularly respond to it and with its mystical associations, it is perceived as an adult colour. In its lighter incarnations, lavender and soft violet, it is far more approachable but can be a little flat and cool on a large expanse of wall.

Black and White

The neutrals of white, black and grey are rarely favourites for children. A white wall without any visual relief can promote eyestrain and the monotony of a blank wall can be as damaging as a full-on jumble of saturated colour for a baby.

The Symbolism to Nursery colours

Colour symbolism is learnt through our individual and cultural understanding of colours. Our inherited associations and impressions of colour are characteristic to specific groups and cultures and play a strong role in how colour is experienced. This of course is only pertinent to our preferences for nursery colours as a baby will not have this colour symbolism which is a learned response.

It's really interesting to note that it wasn't until the mid 1950s that we made the association of pink for girls and blue for boys. This is a relatively new phenomenon and until that time, pink was actually the colour favoured for boys as it is a derivative of strong and definite red. Blue is associated with the Virgin Mary and therefore was always a more feminine colour. These colour differences are so entrenched now in our modern day view of colours for boys and girls which is a shame.

Happy & Bright nursery

In order to choose colours for a nursery, you need to take all the knowledge from above, with your own preferences, to decide on the style of nursery that you would like for your baby. Instead of a large expanse of white, maybe use a soft warm neutral for walls. These tones create an environment that is welcoming and enveloping and will create a space that is loving and safe for a baby. While the injections of colour will add stimulation to help them develop well.

A warm and pretty Nursery

If you have a baby girl, it is very tempting to decorate with pink. And why not? Pink is the most nurturing of colours and when you consider which colours to choose for your nursery, it has be right near the top. Whether you opt for a salmon pink, or a more traditional sugary pink, the colour is just perfect. If you love pink but feel it can be overwhelming and too sugary, then consider partnering it with soft greige tones and white.

A calming influence for a nursery

The anticipation of a first baby is one of the happiest times of your life but when you choose colours for a nursery you need to be a little pragmatic too. Although your baby will bring you endless joy and love, it will also bring endless sleepless nights and tiredness! While you want to encourage your baby to be calm and happy, you will also appreciate this environment for yourself.

You could of course introduce some natural greenery into the room too. Plants contribute so much to our environment, as they clean our air of nasties.

Neutral Nursery tones

If you still love your neutral tones then remember to introduce stimulation and colour with books and toys.

Before designing a decorating scheme you could always put together a mood board to see how your ideas are coming together. Pastel tones are very easy to decorate with as they all contain a large degree of white and therefore you can be confident they will work together well.



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