Choosing colours for rooms is never easy at the best of times. For your nursery however, it’s even more confusing as you want to get a good mix between a soothing environment and one which stimulates baby and promotes development.
Black and White is on-trend.
Many of the current home decor trends for nurseries opt for pastel shades and muted colours to create a soft and relaxing atmosphere. You may already be aware, but at birth, your baby sees only in black and white and shades of gray. This is why typically black and white toys and those with multiple tones offer them the most interest. By two months, babies can tell red and green colours apart; a few weeks later, they can also tell apart blues and yellows. But the colours need to be strong.
Generally speaking muted colours are more visual appealing to adults and we associate them with calming relaxed atmospheres. When it comes to your baby, they will actually be more stimulated and develop quicker as a result of strong colour contrasts. Across all current research it is generally accepted that infants prefer high contrast and bold colours at their earlier stages of infancy, rather than saturated colours.
That said, it’s worth noting that a nursery is typically dual purpose. It’s for you as a parent, and it’s for baby. This room is often going to be the place where you often try to soothe your baby to sleep, and colours play a huge part in achieving the style and atmosphere you are after.
Here comes the science
According to research In the early stages of development, shades of black and white send the strongest signals to a baby’s brain. These strong signals can help stimulate brain growth and aid in visual development.
In the early 1960’s, Dr. Robert Fantz, a developmental psychologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, who believed that babies under two years of age could see well, designed a “peep box” that surrounded a baby sitting in an infant seat. He placed two objects directly in the baby’s view: a patterned black and white checkerboard and a plain gray card. Undetected, Dr. Fantz watched the baby through a little peephole and was able to determine that babies preferred the checkerboard to the non-patterned surface. Their eyes traveled consistently to the checkerboard.
Source: Fantz, R. “Maturation of Pattern Vision in Young Infants.” Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, Vol. 55 (1962), p. 907.
Once this was known, other studies followed in rapid succession. Dr. T.G.R. Bower, a behaviorial scientist at the University of Edinburgh, showed infants several different black and white shapes, as well as plain white, red, and yellow cards. Again, babies chose to look at the black and white items.
Source: Bower, T.G.R., “A Primer of Infant Development. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Co., 1977, p. 9.
Dr. Phillip Salapatek, a child psychologist at the University of Minnesota learned that infants move their eyes to the edge of a black triangle on a white background rather than looking at the center of the blackness or whiteness. It was then understood that babies’ eyes seek the border because it is there that the contrast between black and white is the greatest.
Source: Salapatek, P.H., Kessen, W., “Visual Scanning of Triangles by the Human Newborn.”, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Vol. 3 (1966), pp. 155-67.
More recent studies continue to show that infant vision capabilities include color vision for high contrast colors – with black, white, and red preferred – and contrast sensitivity for patterns with high contrast preferred.
Source: Dr. Craig, Ron, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, “Infant Physical Development”, 2006
For that reason, in the early stages of your baby’s life the best colour for a nursery is most likely monochrome tones. Going with blacks, whites and greys also has the added bonus of being completely gender neutral so you can get started on your nursery decor project that bit earlier.
If you do decide to go down the road of purely monochromatic the below images showcase some of our favourite nursery designs that show that black and white’s don’t have to be boring.
Black and White Nursery Ideas
Have you created a beautiful monochrome nursery? Share us a link in the comments.