Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Soothing Colors for Babies

Today's guest post comes from Kelly Berg, IIDA, IACC-NA, an interior designer, color consultant, and style expert. Her website is Arte Styling. Kelly is a woman of many talents - from set decorating for TV and film, to recipe development, to event decorating, to residential and commercial design work. She recently rediscovered her passion for color and become a member of the IACC- NA.

Soothing Colors for Babies

I recently received my new Baby & Child catalog from Restoration Hardware. Cute, but where is the color? I was hoping to see some great new color palettes - maybe some punchy tangerine? Shimmering turquoise? Apple green?
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Instead I got “cloud” (a pale sky blue), “petal” (a soft pink), “silver sage” (a soft grey-green), and “bisque” (a creamy neutral.) Not bad colors, but couldn’t Restoration Hardware have come up with something a little more original? Sure, they brought in a very sophisticated chocolate-y brown to change things up, but aren’t these still the same baby colors we’ve been seeing for years and years? Am I the only one a little bored with the colors in this “new” collection of baby goods?
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Restoration Hardware says it’s a soothing color palette for your little ones. But is it really soothing? Do we really know that pastel pinks and blues create a soothing environment for infants?

I was curious what sort of information was out there regarding the topic, so I did a little google search on “soothing colors for babies.” And, surprise, surprise - everyone seems to want “soothing” colors for baby. According to popular opinion (nothing scientific), “soothing” colors are pastels- soft yellows, blues, pinks and greens. Here are a few other babies’ rooms that celebrate pastel colors:
Again - not bad design or bad colors. They have sort of a “soothing” feel, right?

I continued googling and and uncovered recent research published in Wired magazine, suggesting that adults may not even see color the same as infants, making it even more difficult for us to determine what colors may or may not be “soothing” for babies.
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Another recent study from the Smith Kettelwell Eye Research Institute reports that
“Infants' color vision is not likely to be as rich and sensitive as adult color vision since the receptors and nerves in the eye that are most sensitive to color (again, in the fovea) are not yet mature. Thus, infants may not be able to distinguish very subtle color differences (like distinguishing between red and reddish-orange, or between very subtle pastel colors).”(source)

So all the “soothing” pastel colors we think are perfect for baby may not even be differentiated by an infants’ eye? Perhaps more vibrant nursery designs might be more interesting for baby?

What do you think? Do you like Restoration Hardware’s new Baby and Child catalog? Which nursery designs do you think might be better for babies? Is “soothing” really what babies need? Or is it better to add a bit more stimulation using more saturated colors?


Monica Kelly said...

I read somewhere, long ago, that bright yellow and/or a high contrast scheme was best for babies, because it stimulated their developing brains. It was interesting to read about their eye developement as it relates to color perception.

Washington Cube said...

They do need high contrast, hence the crib mobiles in black and white. I think that might make for a very sophisticated baby room and be silhouettes painted on the wall...trees...a picnic scene...airplanes...animal shapes...Mommy and Daddy and Baby's profile.

The old-timey entrepreneur, Billy Rose, knew advertising for Ziegfeld Follies. He once told a man making posters for his revue...make them black and yellow. I want someone to be able to see this on the side of a barn on a foggy night.

Or have someone come in and paint a canopy of trees that go up the wall and over the ceiling. In my "youth" and my first apartment, I was living on the penny. My bedroom had "a mattress." No boxspring..nothing, and I airbrushed the room (three times to get it right) as blue base and the clouds were given dimension with bursts of pink, lavender, gray...that was the tricky get them looking natural. Took practice. I sure hated painting that room over when I moved. People loved that room as a meditation. It felt like being in the sky.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that everyone read reknown color expert Faber Birren, "Color,Environment, and Human Response". He has research showing that I.Q. in infants can be positively influenced by the use of color, particularly clear bright colors. Restoration Hardware has it all wrong. Children prefer orange, yellow, red and blue which stimulate their interest and creativity resulting in an increase in IQ of as much as 12 points in the first year of life.

Anonymous said...

I always used to like the idea of the bright fun colors in a babies room. Though now that I am a second year Early Childhood Education student my feelings are different.

Research shows that babies can't even see color for the first 6 weeks, so for very young children the best thing to do is use a black and white checker pattern, sice they have the biggest contrast. Next, the two highest cntrasting colors are yellow and red. But, something to remember for the parents that want, patterns,color, this, that and everything else is that the more stimulation you provide, the more risk you run of over stimulation for the child and this dramatically increases the chance of ADD and ADHD.

So my feelings on this are,leave the bight colors and funky patterns for the teenage years and soothe and relax you baby while they are young.

Rachel said...

my feeling is, once baby arrives, parents have very little extra time (or energy!) to repaint the nursery. I say, the first 6 weeks come and go very quickly, so just paint the room as you intend for it to be decorated through their early years. Spending as much time in the nursery as you must, it should be a color that soothes and relaxes you, too!

Kelly Berg said...

so, Rachel - I'm dying to know! Do the colors in your nursery soothe and relax you???