Soothing Neutrals vs. Stimulating Color: What’s the Right Choice for a Nursery?

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

My second baby is now four months old and I’ve transitioned her from the co-sleeper in our bedroom to the crib in her nursery. But other than sleep – at night and for naps, she actually doesn’t spend much of her time there. More often than not she’s in the main part of our house with my toddler and me, watching us play and interact, eat our meals, and go about our day.

My first daughter, on the other hand, spent a large portion of her time in the nursery – rocking, playing in her crib, and of course, sleeping. I remember designing her nursery and wondering to myself, “Should I make this a soothing, restful retreat for sleeping purposes or should it be a more stimulating environment?”

I, of course (being a first-time parent), read all the baby books, searched the internet for answers, and in the end worried myself into a compromise – playful, patterned fabrics, but otherwise a fairly restful design for the tiny space:

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

For other over-anxious first-time parents, the decision can be a confusing one. Just search the internet and you’ll receive so many conflicting ideas it’ll make your head spin. For example, according to Child’s World Academy:

When designing rooms, taking color and it’s meaning into consideration can have a significant impact on how your child responds. Simple rooms are much more effective for young children. Having too many colors can be over-stimulating and create confusion for them.

But jump over to and you’ll read this:

According to Health First and Enfamil, a baby raised in a stimulating environment is more likely to reach his developmental milestones faster. He is also more likely to have improved nervous system development and demonstrate a superior attention span, memory and sense of curiosity.

And not only do you have to worry about the amount of color, but even the shade itself can become debatable. claims that red and orange should be discouraged because they are “overstimulating,” another site states that yellow can be disturbing to babies and cause them to cry more, while black is, “draining and depressing.”

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

In the end, I’m not sure if I made the right choice or honestly if it even really matters. That’s why when I decorated my second daughter’s nursery I relied less on what the “experts” had to say and instead just had fun with it. I’m thinking the real answer may be closer to what Shashi Caan, chairwoman of the interior design program at Parsons School of Design, had to say about the matter:

We need to rely more on intuition, life is messy.

Simple and too true. So what do you think? Did you aim to create a soothing or a stimulating environment for your baby, or was your goal to simply create something beautiful for the two of you to enjoy together?

(Images: 1. Wee Textile/ Lowe’s Creative Ideas 2. A Lovely Lark 4. Harper’s Contrasting Colorful Nursey/it’s beautiful in here)