1. What to do with the walls?
When confronted with a gender neutral nursery, the kneejerk reaction often is to simply paint the room one of the two traditionally gender-neutral colors, yellow or green. However, painting the entire room a single pastel color tends to be a mistake–regardless of the color. I call it the “Easter Egg Syndrome,” where you feel like you’re living in a giant Easter Egg. Simply put, using a single pastel tone throughout the room is just not a visually interesting approach. Instead, try one of my three recommended options below.
a. Use a neutral base such as a pale grey or beige and an accent wall. My go-to gender-neutral accent color that I’m loving right now is a pale teal. The teal can go either way, great for a boy but also reminiscent of a Tiffany box so imminently girly. I recently used Benjamin Moore At Sea (#666) as the accent wall in a coed nursery for a twin girl & boy. This wall was an excellent backdrop to the twins’ white cribs and was not overpowering, even in a small space. The remaining walls were painted Benjamin Moore Pale Oak, a beautiful warm pale grey and another go-to (#OC-20). The effect was modern and adorable, and the parents were able to use other gender-neutral accent colors throughout the space, like orange, red, and kelly green as their color pops.
b. I am obsessed with stripes in nurseries and kids’ rooms. Stripes have such great energy and allow for a lot of creativity. You can have one stripe going around the whole room, emulating a chair rail, or you could have an accent wall of stripes, using the neutral tones on the remaining walls. The accent wall of stripes could be done either regularly, e.g. alternating every 12 inches (grey and white stripes are an amazing backdrop for bright, fun artwork), or in a random pattern (alternating narrow stripes in with the wider stripes). There are just so many different directions you can take it! If you are going to use my second-favorite gender neutral color, yellow, as an accent, a good way to use it is in a stripe, so as not to be overwhelming. Grey and yellow is a very trendy color combination right now, but some other “new neutrals,” like navy or olive green, also pair well with yellow. Yellow is a good option in a variety of tones, from pale to bright, but should not be used as more than an accent color as all-yellow nurseries are associated with anxiety in babies. Here I show Benjamin Moore Sundance (2022-50) with Simply White (OC-117) and Titanium (2141-60).
c. Wallpaper and decals. Wallpaper is back, and the new patterns are absolutely wonderful in nurseries. I recently used the Tiny Train paper from Ferm Living in another coed nursery I designed. It’s perfect! Teal, yellow, and absolutely adorable.
For those who do not want to use permanent wallpaper, the solution is either a decal or temporary wallpaper, which is basically a giant decal in a roll which can be used on an accent wall but removed easily. I’ve put some down below.
The rule of thumb when wallpapering is not to overdo it. You can either use it on one accent wall or use it on a half wall (put in a chair rail and wallpaper only above). You can also use wood trim to create one or more “frames” on the wall and install the wallpaper only within those frames.When matching with a paint color to use on the remaining walls, you want to take the wallpaper sample to the paint store and make sure that the paint color you’re using elsewhere in the room is pulled directly from the wallpaper sample– don’t leave it to guesswork! It’s important to make sure that the accent walls match well and the only way to do that is to hold the actual wallpaper sample up against the paint chips.
2. Furniture colors.
My only advice here is to avoid dark colors in furniture, which can read overly masculine. Stick with light wood, white wood, or distressed tones or greys.
Bright color pops are the key to a fun nursery! Many times mothers err on the side of using very soft, delicate shades. The problem is that babies’ eyes are not developed well enough to actually see subtle colors. Experienced moms know that when faced with a toy in a soft pastel shade and a brightly colored toy, the baby will choose the bright, poppy color every time. So why shouldn’t their nursery use bright, fun colors as well? With my teal/grey nursery, I love using pops of red or orange, both of which are gender-neutral, bright, and fun. These can be incorporated into accents throughout the room… certainly objects like mobiles, that babies are actually interacting with, but also in the room decor accents, like rugs, throw pillows, window treatments, decorative objects like piggy banks, and bright, fun artwork, like these:
Fun bright colors can also be used as paint colors that are used in accent pieces throughout the nursery, like on a bookcase, stool, or wood trim. Just remember, the brighter the color, the less of it should be used. That one bright red pillow and a red trim on a curtain can be just enough in a room of neutrals.
About the Author:
Susie Kurkowski, ASID is an interior designer working in New York City. She owns a full-service interior design firm, DesignCorp, as well as Brooklyn home goods boutique, Items of Interest. She is a graduate of the New York School of Interior Design.