The perfect nursery: how to create a calm, soothing space for your little one
Welcoming a new baby into your home is an exciting moment in family life. There is so much to think about in the time leading up to it – we have to prepare ourselves, our homes and our families for the new arrival.
Preparing our homes is an important part of this. Known as “nesting”, it’s a recognised feature of a pregnancy’s third trimester – but it can apply to any expectant parent, including fathers and adoptive families. It’s one of the ways we help ourselves to feel ready.
Nesting behaviours can apply to the whole home but may centre around the nursery, the hub of a baby’s first years. A recent study (by retailer Next) found that 68% of parents agree that design and décor in a nursery is important, but why is this? What elements should we think about most?
Why does design and décor matter in a nursery?
With a whole new world to adjust to, it’s important to provide a soothing space (this is beneficial for both parents and child) for a newborn. Aim for “a calm environment, conducive to feeling safe, warm and protected (conducive for sleep too!),” explains child psychologist Hannah Abrahams.
And although it might seem a long way off at first, the needs of your baby will change as they grow; creating a room that can adapt with them and last throughout a childhood is a wonderful way to support development.
Hannah Abrahams and colour psychologist June McLeod talk us through some simple considerations that can help to guide decisions when decorating a nursery.
Start with soothing, neutral colours
Colour is important because it can have a real impact on our mood, explains June McLeod. “The right colour choice can create a haven for relaxation…stimulate the mind, or raise energy levels.”
For babies soft, pale colours are gentle and comforting, helping them to sleep. “I would advise calm, soothing colours and patterns – pastels,” agrees Hannah.
Next’s survey highlighted how more parents are turning away from traditional ‘pink for a girl, blue for a boy’ colour schemes, with 57% opting instead for gender-neutral hues like greys or yellows (this rises to 69% in the East of England!). Light shades of these are ideal for creating the soothing environment a newborn needs.
Work with the space you have
If you are considering using stronger colours in darker shades (for babies or older children) make sure you think about the size of the room and how much natural light it receives. June confirms that “you can make any room work for you,” but remember the effects light and dark colours can have:
“Darker shades of colour seem to shrink a space, the colours come towards you” (they may also absorb more natural light)
“Lighter colours recede, they seem further away, making a room feel bigger”
One top tip from June is to paint a low ceiling in white or a lighter colour than the walls, to help it appear higher and help the room feel more spacious.
Simple shapes and patterns
Simple shapes help babies to learn and navigate their surroundings. For very young infants, “shapes [that] are most recognisable and soothing – zigzags and circles, non-complex patterns and ones that resemble faces,” are ones that Hannah recommends for a nursery.
With today’s protocol being to lay babies on their backs to sleep, painting the ceiling in an additional soft shade or with simple patterns is a great way to introduce additional colour and shapes.
Keep a classic, clean base: accessorise with bold colours
Use soft furnishings to incorporate pops of colour. This is a fantastic way of introducing new shades, and of updating them over the years – with a neutral base, accessories like cushions, toys, bed throws and wall art are all you need to create a colour scheme.
Brightly-coloured soft furnishings are also ideal for being portable as your child grows. Toddlers are more suited to short bursts of louder colour, but it’s important that these are temporary as a child could become overstimulated and restless. Putting away colourful items will help to bring the atmosphere back to “soothing” when it’s time to rest.
Once your child is old enough to have their own say, a new set of soft furnishings and wall art will be easier, cheaper and most likely faster than trying to renovate an entire room.
You can also experiment together with the colours they like, before committing to a full refurbish – which for parents in the East of England comes once every 2 years for a child’s room, on average.
Declutter for both parent and child
The final point is to keep spaces clean: not just for practicality, but for peace of mind in both parents and children. Physical clutter has a mental effect and looking at it can be stressful, a visual reminder of unfinished tasks.
“Declutter for the adults too in the nursery, for safety and also to encourage gentle exploration for the baby on the move,” agrees Hannah. Little ones need a little space to roam around without hurting themselves, which a nursery is ideal for as they’re already somewhat familiar with the room.
Learn more about wellbeing for babies and children with our wealth of articles.
*Statistics from Next’s For The Kids survey. See more from the survey here.