nursery decorating: what are the best colours to use?

There’s a lot to consider when decorating a nursery, from which furniture pieces to buy and how to plan the layout to what shades of paint to use. Before you know it, your baby will arrive, so you’ll want to have everything prepared for a welcome in flying colours.

From sunshine yellow and cherry red to snow white and avocado green, the options available to build a colour palette for your baby’s space are endless. Most of us aren’t so lucky as to being able to completely redo a room design or even paint its walls – there’s that green carpet that doesn’t really go with anything and that orange chair we can’t seem to get rid of. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop to consider how to plan and use colour effectively. Textiles, decorations and other easily changeable elements can be your canvas.

Colour can have an impact on baby’s developing vision. Some hues are naturally stimulating for a new arrival while others not so much. Room size, light and even mood can either influence or be influenced by your paint choices too. To help you get you started on the tour over the rainbow that is picking the best colours for your little one’s nursery, we’ve put together a whole spectrum of tips and insights:

 pink nursery design

carte blanche: what to consider when choosing your baby’s nursery colours

You have complete freedom to get creative and select whatever nursery colours you prefer. Just remember to check if your choices are baby-proof and safe first, whether you’re painting a changing unit (paint should be non-toxic), or simply adding some wall stickers to the ceiling (your baby is going to spend a lot of time looking up!). Equally, it may be useful to bear in mind:

your baby's developing vision: some colours naturally stimulate baby’s vision
room size: light colours make a room feel larger, dark colours make a room feel cosier
theme or mood: colours can help create a unique atmosphere in a room
light: different types of lamps and window direction can change the way colour looks
meaning: most colours have been attributed specific cultural and social meanings

colour me right: why is it important to use the right colours in your baby’s nursery?

Besides impacting the way the space looks and feels, the colours you pick also play an important part in stimulating your baby’s vision. Painting a nursery is not the same as painting a living room or a kitchen, assuming babies spend a lot of their time in their nursery. It’s true that little ones’ colour vision develops naturally, but there are a few things you can do to help ensure they’ve always got something interesting to look at.

 colourful nursery decoration

chasing rainbows: when do babies see colour?

Your baby’s first days in this dazzling, big world are blurry. Vision development begins in the womb, but little ones can’t see clearly when they’re born1. In their first week, they should be able to see objects that are 8-12 inches away from their face (which is the approximate distance between your baby’s face and yours when feeding), and can focus for just a few seconds2.

So when can babies see colour? In the beginning, newborn babies see in black, white, and some shades in between. Bright colours can also be distinguished right from the start. It’s at about four months, however, that little ones better develop their colour vision2.

Interesting fact: it usually takes longer for babies to see blue and violet, because these colours have shorter wavelengths – and there are fewer receptors for colour in the human retina for blue light3.

Keep in mind that little ones can develop at different paces – and this is normal. If you’re concerned about your baby’s vision, it’s best to schedule an appointment with their pediatrician (or pediatric ophthalmologist).

 paint colour samples for nursery

through a kaleidoscope: colour ideas for your baby’s nursery

Colours can generally be categorised into:

warm colours (reds, yellows, oranges)
cool colours (blues, greens, purples)
neutral colours (creams, greys, browns)

and, according to colour theory:

primary colours: the ‘parents’ of all other colours (red, blue and yellow)
secondary colours: the ‘children’ of primary colours, obtained by mixing the former (e.g. blue + yellow = green)
tertiary colours: the result of mixing a primary colour with one of its nearest secondary colours (e.g. blue + green = blue/green)

In the early days, babies respond best to primary, contrasting and bright colours such as black, white, yellow and red1. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to paint the whole nursery in these hues – phew! However, it may be a good idea to build a palette with a few elements and surfaces in these colours to create visual focal points and grab your little one’s attention. The same principle can be applied to your baby’s toys1.

Neutral colours, i.e. those with little saturation, can serve as a calming background or foundation for a baby’s room decoration. Neutrals let you incorporate more intense colours or patterns through furniture or other elements without creating an overwhelmingly busy space. As a feature, you can then use brighter colours to add interest and stimulate your baby’s vision.

colour(ful) language: gender-neutral colour options for your baby’s nursery

Colours take on different meanings within society and throughout time, but you don’t have to let this interfere with your decoration dreams. You don’t need to opt for either ‘gendered’ or ‘gender-neutral’ nursery colours. Did you know that it was only in the mid-twentieth century that the ‘strict pink-girl boy-blue’ divide emerged4? And who’s to say yellow and purple aren’t next? You have our green light to paint your baby’s nursery in whatever colours you want.

 neutral nursery colours

The decision of choosing your baby’s nursery colours isn’t black and white, so take some time to think and experiment. You could even create a moodboard for inspiration or get some paint samples to visualise your design ideas. Coming up with a nursery theme could also help.

Happy colouring.


[1]. your guide to baby's vision and hearing, Parents

[2]. understanding your baby's developing vision, Parents

[3]. your infant's vision development: what to know, All About Vision

[4]. ‘the secret lives of colour’ by Kassia St Clair (p. 115)


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