What is the best color for a nursery? Design experts and sleep psychologists advise

Designers and color experts provide inspiration for decorating a new arrival’s room

What is the best color for a nursery: nursery with orange painted wardrobe and blue accents, light wood crib with bunting and cushions. weaved laundry basket and rug on painted white wood floor
(Image credit: Matt Clayton Photography Limited)

If you're wondering what the best color is for a nursery, it's likely you're decorating for the arrival of a new family member. It is an exciting time, but choosing the best color for a nursery can create a dilemma for every parent.

You might plan nursery ideas with shades such as blue or pink in mind, or be focusing on creating a color scheme that can be easily adapted as your child grows. Or maybe hues that soothe, or alternatively those that provide some stimulation, might be on your mind. 

To help you decide, we’ve asked color experts and interior designers to name the best color for a nursery – and the reasons for their selection.

What is the best color for a nursery?

The best color for a nursery might be influenced by how much longevity you want to give the design or perhaps you want to base your choice around getting the baby to sleep better

‘Something soft as a backdrop tends to work well so that you can add in brighter colors and patterns through accessories such as lamps, storage boxes, and soft furnishings that can later be switched out if your child grows out of them,’ suggests Jessica Hubner, founder of Hubner Studio

‘Dusky colors tend to work well for this such as plaster pinks, chalky neutrals and blues or greens with a gray undertone and warmth, such as Pale Powder by Farrow & Ball.’

Whether you are concentrating on baby girl nursery ideas, baby boy nursery ideas, or prefer gender neutral nursery ideas instead, be inspired by the experts.

1. Choose pale green or blue to induce sleep

A baby boy nursery idea with blue floral wallpaper and white crib

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

Think about bringing the color of the outside into the nursery. Pale blue is said by sleep experts to be the best color for a bedroom (for baby or adults) because it creates a restful atmosphere that helps you sleep better. 

Another popular option is sage green. ‘We feel the best color for a nursery is green because it brings in nature and a nurturing vibe to the room,’ say Tavia Forbes and Monet Masters of luxury interior design studio Forbes Masters.

‘This color is said to improve concentration and reading ability and provides a soothing effect to the room.’

‘Pastel greens and blues are soothing and cause less stimulation of the senses compared to other colors. Pastel green is an excellent color choice for nurseries that will not look out of place in a bedroom as your little one grows,’ says Cathryn Sanders, head of creative at Earthborn Paints.

2. Pick yellow to create a happy mood

A nursery room painted in pale yellow with white dot motif

(Image credit: Future/Polly Wreford)

Color and mood are closely connected, so you might want to pick a shade that promotes happiness for a nursery.

‘Over the past few years there has been a surge in yellow nurseries,’ says color consultant and senior designer at Crown Justyna Korczynska. ‘Yellow is commonly thought of as a gender-neutral shade. It is considered a stimulating and happy color.

Rather than use yellow all round, consider it for accents. ‘Yellow hues are great for creating a focal point in a room,’ says Justyna. ‘Highlight interesting architectural features, paint a mural, or add color to furniture and accessories to create an engaging space.’

3. Opt for calming neutrals they can grow with

Child's room with blue wall leading to space with neutral wall

(Image credit: Earthborn Paints)

Considering decorating with white as a base color? You might find decorating with neutrals a better way to go when it comes to the best color for a nursery.

‘Neutral colors such as creams, grays and beige are perfect choices for a nursery,’ says Cathryn Sanders, head of creative at Earthborn Paints. ‘Not only are they super versatile but they aren’t distracting and can have a calming effect on emotions. White should be avoided as it can appear too bright, cold, and overwhelming in certain lights.’

4. Choose pretty pinks and lilacs for a pretty, calm space

Pink nursery with pink painted wall, cream carpet and rug, white crib with pink painted rattan cabinet

(Image credit: Future)

There are other calming tones you might think about, though, if neutrals don’t deliver enough color in your eyes.

‘Using different shades of pastel pinks and lilacs can help to create a calm and tranquil space that envelops your little one like a comfort blanket,’ says Cathryn Sanders, head of creative at Earthborn Paints.

5. Pick color that’s cozy, perfect for small, dark rooms

Nursery with animal print wallpaper and wood cot

(Image credit: Emma Green Design)

An alternative approach to selecting the best color for a nursery is to think cozy, boho nursery decor. This works really well in light-starved or small rooms where battling the light levels and proportions with pale colors just won't work. Moody, warm colors also have the upside of ensuring the nursery is as dark as possible at night.

‘Instead of the traditional pale blues and pinks I like to create a more cocooning atmosphere in a nursery, which is both calming and induces sleep,’ says interior designer Emma Green. ‘Here I’ve chosen Farrow & Ball Inchyra Blue mixed with a fun, yet not too childish, animal wallpaper.’

6. Introduce warmth with earth shades

nursery with orange painted wardrobe and blue accents, light wood crib with bunting and cushions. weaved laundry basket and rug on painted white wood floor

(Image credit: Matt Clayton Photography Limited)

The best color for a nursery might be picked because it makes a larger room or one lit by cool, north- or east-facing light feel warmer and more welcoming. Interior designer Shanade McAllister-Fisher also suggests moving away from the often favored nursery color options.

‘Terracotta, rusts and burnt orange – these gorgeous warm color palettes are rich, calming, and bold,’ she says. ‘They are perfect for gender neutral nurseries where you want to create a modern less traditional take on the space.’

What color makes a baby sleep?

Pale blues are said to be the best colors to make humans sleep because they create a relaxing, soothing backdrop. However, in our experience, what makes baby sleep is a full tummy, a clean diaper and a quiet, dark room at just the right temperature. And even then they won't sleep for longer than it takes to empty that tummy and fill that diaper.

What color makes a baby happy?

It is difficult to know what color makes a room happy, though psychologists often espouse yellow as one of the best colors to make a room happy. However, they also warn that this is a color that is also associated with high energy, so if you buy into color psychology, you may want to choose a calmer shade.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.