Color has a range of impacts on the human psyche. Certain hues will make you feel more energized, while others relax you. Some colors are more likely to make you feel angry or excitable — and it's not just adults who feel these impacts. Your baby can feel the effect, too.
Because of this, choosing the colors that you paint your entire home is an important decision. There are some rooms in your home where you'll likely want to feel more relaxed and at ease (such as in the bedroom), while there are other areas where you might want to feel more awake and energized (like in the kitchen.)
If you're preparing to welcome a new baby and in the process of decorating and outfitting your baby's room, there's no better time to choose a new paint color for that area of your home. As you put together baby furniture, try out nursery DIYs and choose color schemes, start by looking at your walls. What color are they and could you improve them with a new coat of paint? Probably.
But don't choose just any hue. You'll want to take color psychology into consideration.
How Do Colors Impact Babies Specifically?
If you can't detect the various ways that colors impact your own psyche and you're wondering if there's really anything to all this color psychology and color theory nonsense, just wait. Little ones can often be more stimulated by color than adults, just like children might more acutely feel the impacts of small amounts of sugar. You'll soon notice a big difference in your child's behavior if you plop them in a nursery filled with bright, bold, agitating hues.
The various ways that babies are stimulated by color can differ and are often debated within the scientific community. Still, there are some common themes surrounding the questions that new parents often ask regarding their nursery paint colors, and research has done its best to answer those questions.
For example, what color will help stimulate mental growth in my child? What colors are too harsh or bright for a baby's nursery? What's the best color to get my child to go to sleep?
To answer these questions, we often break down nursery color options into three categories: warm colors, cool colors and neutrals.
What Do Warm Colors Do in a Home?
Warm colors (orange, red, yellow, etc.) are often considered energizing or stimulating (for better or worse). Because of this, you don't often find warm colors in bedrooms or other areas meant for relaxation (for example, you likely have never gone to a spa and walked into a bright yellow treatment room, no matter how cheery that daffodil shade might be). More often, warm colors are used as accent colors.
You may want to use warm, bold colors in larger spaces for feelings of warmth and excitement, but then avoid them in bedrooms — especially your nursery.
The last thing you want is a very excitable child at bedtime, each and every night. If you do want to incorporate these bold splashes of color in your nursery decor, opt for accents. Even an accent wall might work when paired with cool shades.
Both red and yellow are used within a lot of food joints and restaurants. Why? Because both colors can make you feel hungrier! (Just think of McDonald's all-red and yellow color scheme.)
Bright red is also associated with strong negative emotions, such as anger, and can actually have physiological effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. Red even causes headaches in some instances.
Studies have shown that red can increase athletic ability, which might be a good thing for your child, but other studies have shown that red can negatively impact academic performance.
However, a warm orange tone is often seen as inviting and friendly (think fall!). You can use a warm orange to create a cozy and comforting nursery atmosphere.
As you'll see, though, going bold can promote energy and excitement when it comes to warm colors. They also become over-stimulating over time, so it's best to go with softer warm shades for larger spaces and leave the bold hues to your accent pieces.
Yellow is often used as a gender-neutral nursery color, but you want to be careful before you splash a sunshine-y hue across all of your nursery walls. Too much bright yellow can be agitating (and since yellow is the first color the human eye can see, it means that's all your baby is going to see; that's a lot of agitation).
On the flip side, though, soft yellows can promote concentration, memory function and energy. And, as already mentioned, bright yellows can increase hunger, just like reds can.
Related: 43 Easy Ways to Childproof Your Home
Pink is an entirely popular nursery shade for baby girls, and for good reason. While red can promote too much excitement, pink tones are seen as calming (and some parents even claim that pink hues help with children that are prone to tantrums!)… but only for a short time. Other studies have found that overexposure to pink can create anxiety and irritation.
Don't worry, though; that short time period of pink offering a calming effect is actually a few years, so if you're dying for a pink nursery, you've got some time before you might want to consider repainting the walls.
Another benefit of pink, according to Founder of Home Living Lab Albert Reyes, is that “because there is an element of white in pink, the color also increases the amount of light to make the room appear bigger and brighter than it is.”
Additionally, you can make your pink hue more palatable, longer by pairing it with a lot of neutral accents or going with a more orange-pink hue, like a peach shade.
What Do Cool Colors Do in a Home?
Cool colors include shades of blue, green and purple. Cool colors are generally used in lighter tones for full rooms, while cool colors in darker tones are used as accents (mostly because using a dark purple, green or blue can sometimes make a room feel smaller and darker).
Cool colors are often found to be relaxing and calming, though not quite as inviting as their warm counterparts. Additionally, cool colors require a bit of texture and comfortable furnishings in order to counteract the sometimes stark and isolating vibe.
When it comes to blue, all of the hues are generally considered positive and low-key, but be careful with your particular shade. The wrong shade of blue (ones that tend toward gray) can become depressing if not used correctly. The right shade, however, can increase productivity.
Be careful, though. Blue has been shown to decrease appetite, so you don't want to use it in any areas where you expect your baby to eat. Other physiological effects include the lowering of blood pressure and heart rate. Blue can also help with sleep issues (if it's a light blue; dark blue can be more energizing) and behavioral problems, as well as actually help the body cool down (making it a great fit if you live in a hot climate).
Shades of blues suitable for nursery use include powder blue, turquoise, duck egg, periwinkle and aqua.
Green is considered calming — possibly due to the green shades that we often see in nature. A soft green hue can promote learning and concentration, healing and decreased anxiety. In children, green environments can help with reading comprehension and speed.
Sage, apple, olive and moss hues are popular in nurseries, but you can reap the benefits of both green and light blue hues when you opt for a green shade with blue tones, such as mint, aquamarine or seafoam.
A splash of purple can make any room feel a little more luxurious. Pastel purples, like lavender and lilac hues, trend toward more calming, while a richer, bolder shade can make a space seem more "adult" and should be used sparingly in nursery settings.
Unfortunately, purple can trend either more toward red or more toward blue, so whichever way your purple shade lies, that's the kind of impact you can expect. Tread carefully.
Likewise, the experts recommend that, if you go purple, go lighter than you think you want to find what your room actually needs. You'll be surprised at just how dark the shade you initially pick looks once you get it home and out of the hardware store.
What Do Neutral Colors Do in the Home?
While white has been a popular wall color choice for years, gray and black are becoming more popular in nurseries.
A bit of white can make a room feel clean and breezy, but keep in mind that white also attracts a lot of dirt and dust. You'll need to work extra hard to keep your nursery clean if you use white in your decor. Additionally, too much white can make a space feel barren and cold. Instead of basing your entire nursery color palette around the use of white, mix it up with other hues.
Beyond this, really look at the shade of white you're choosing; not all whites are the same. Blue-toned whites can be harsh, whereas ivory and antique whites can feel more cozy and comfortable.
While a lot of homeowners avoid using too much white paint in their homes for fear of being boring, many turn to a cool gray for a subtle backdrop that similarly works with any accent or color palette.
As such, gray is becoming a much more popular color for nurseries. Modern, introspective and sophisticated, gray can promote deep thinking and emotive thoughts. However, just like with blue, you want to be careful with the gray tones you choose; if you get into the cloudy, rainstorm-y area, your gray walls could inspire more depression and sadness than positive thoughts. Look for grays with blue tints.
Another color to use sparingly, but that can be used to great effect when done well, black is dark, strong and sophisticated. Elegant and powerful, it is no longer used only as an accent. Think furnishings, doors, trim and windows, versus large accent walls.
A very natural color, brown can make a room seem earthy and rooted. However, brown should be used with caution, as you want to avoid any sort of hues that could look, well, undesirable. Opt for light tans and khakis or mocha hues, versus going somewhere in the middle.
When you opt for the lighter side, you get the additional benefits of having a space that's quite literally easy on the eyes, as well as a space that promotes sleep, thanks to the lack of over-stimulation that can occur in brightly colored spaces.
Take Personal Preferences into Account, Too
While the above is more or less scientific data/trends seen across the board, keep in mind that there are (pretty much) always outliers to studies like these. While too much gray paint might make some children depressed, it might be inspiring to others. Take your and your family's preferences, likes and dislikes into account when picking your nursery color scheme.
You also may want to consider cultural preferences and the meanings that your family puts behind certain colors and nursery decorating choices. What might work for one culture may not be suitable for another.
So, What Color Should You Paint The Nursery?
With all these color options and considerations, you may just find yourself asking, "So, what color should I paint the nursery? Can you just tell me?"
And if you just want the quick truth, you can't go wrong with one of these shades:
- Pale green
- Pale blue
- Pale purple
- Pale gray
With the right accents, you can paint the entire walls of your nursery with any of the four options above and come out with a beautiful nursery that you (and your baby, of course!) love.
You might also be interested in: Building a Nursery for First-Time Parents [With Complete Check-List]