Pink for Boys (Pink for All!)

A reader named Karin wrote to me with a request.

“Nicole, I am wondering if you have a suggestion for pink shades in a boy child’s room. My youngest (3) loves pink. His room needs painting, and he’s been clear about pink being the color for months. I have never had a pink room, am a blue, silver lover, so I’m at a loss for how to make pink work in a boys room. I would love if you did some suggestions on your blog for how to honor little boys who love pink – what colors would go with it, shades you suggest, etc… any thoughts would be so appreciated.”

This is totally in my wheelhouse. First, up: paint colors, as requested! I put together a post years ago on picking perfect pink paint colors, and that’s a good place to start. The trick to choosing a color for a boy is to avoid baby pink, but then I also think that’s a good idea in general. You can go subtle or muted, bright and clear, or more toward the coral end of pink. Below are some excellent choices, depending on your personal preference.

Pink Paint

Row One – Subtle ChoicesWild Aster, Benjamin MoorePeony Blush, BehrRosy Outlook, Sherwin-WilliamsBarely Blush, Glidden
Row Two – Bright and ClearCarnation Bloom, BehrPink Moment, Sherwin-WilliamsPantone Quartz Pink, ValsparHopeful, Sherwin-Williams
Row 3 – Coral PinkStrawberry Mousse, BehrFruit Shake, Benjamin MoorePale Shrimp, BehrRed Grapefruit, Behr

There are also some fantastic pink wallpapers out there.

Pink Wallpaper

Harlequin (Rose) Wallpaper, Ferm LivingSpear (Rose) Wallpaper, Ferm LivingTriangles (White, Gray, & Pink), Lisa Congdon for Hygge & West

Pink is a warm color, and it mixes well with a combination of reds and oranges, which would be great for a boy’s room. Pink and yellow, pink and green, and pink and blue are also fantastic (especially if you’re already a fan of blue), and pink with black and white can look awesome. Below are a few accessories and pieces of furniture that could also be worked in to a pink room for a boy.

Pink Accents

  1. TPS Pink File Cabinet, CB2

  2. Cargo Pink Bedding, The Land of Nod

  3. Snöig Wall Lamp, IKEA

  4. Stella Cabinet, CB2

  5. Alfabet by Leise Dich Abrahamsen, Stilleben, via Door Sixteen

  6. Wire Basket in Rose, Ferm Living

  7. Canted Wool Rug in Salmon, West Elm

Karin, and anyone else looking to do a not-so-girly pink room, I hope that helps!

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  • Feisty Harriet
    January 22, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I love this post!! I think pink has been malaligned to be this super girly princessy color, where so many of the options you’ve put here are neither of those things! Thank you! Pink can be for boys too!

    I also think that adding some warmer woods (instead of crisp whites) would be great for a little boy.


    • Making it Lovely
      January 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Yes! Thanks for bringing that up. Pink with a lot of white does read as feminine, but bringing in wood tones helps make it less girly.

  • amanda
    January 22, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    This is awesome of you to do–and kudos to Karin for being willing to give her boy what he wants, even if it goes against gender ideology!

    Just FYI, a little more than a hundred years ago, pink was considered a perfect color for boys because it combined red (for bravery) and white (for innocence).

    • jacqueline | the hourglass files
      January 22, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      Not even 100 years ago we still saw preference for blue for girls and pink for boys, especially in religious communities and wear clothing was homemade. Girls were dressed in blue because it was associated with the Virgin Mary and boys were dressed in pink because it was a diminutive form of red, which is a masculine color. I’ve never heard of red for bravery combined with white for innocence, but I can see that being a regional added association.

      Jo Paoletti has done great research on this issue. In the chart on Paoletti’s research gallery you can see that the preference was regional, with a majority department stores in the United States still leaning toward pink for boys and blue for girls even in 1927! It’s amazing how ingrained it is that pink is for girls and blue is for boys now, considering the history.

      I applaud Karin for not confining her son to contemporary gendered colors!

      • jacqueline | the hourglass files
        January 22, 2014 at 4:01 pm

        Oh man typos! *where clothing was homemade* *majority of department stores*

      • Jenn
        January 22, 2014 at 4:07 pm

        The book “cinderella ate my daughter” came up in one of my grad classes while we were talking about this same exact thing! I believe it goes over the transition of blue and pink changing gender identities (among other things, of course!)

      • Stephany Aulenback
        January 23, 2014 at 8:54 am

        I was just going to leave a link to the Smithsonian article about Paoletti’s research. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/when-did-girls-start-wearing-pink-1370097/

      • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
        January 23, 2014 at 2:14 pm

        Yes! I was gonna say all that Jacqueline! Read somewhere not that long ago re pink for boy babies. Surprises me how over these years it all changed. The thing is, fellas really enjoy wearing pink shirts, ties and even socks. Among other clothings. Purple shades are also “in” …. which I think look absolutely great on all men. As well as women of course! Here’s to p-i-n-k …. a happy toast for a happy shade!

  • Adrienne
    January 22, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Love this topic. Here’s an image that has sort of a dark dusty pink that looks like it works well mixed with reds and dark brown furniture – http://st.houzz.com/simgs/38d22d0f010e9285_7-9512/home-design.jpg

  • Linda
    January 22, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    What cute choices of furnishings for anyone. – You can add the pink into the decor without it being overwhelming. And with kids in a matter of a couple months they’ll move on to their new favorite color and you aren’t stuck with an overall color theme.

  • Amy Beam
    January 22, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I think that Pink and Navy would look excellent in a boys room. I think especially if you used accents of pink and navy in plaid or argile it would lend itself nicely to a boys room.

    • erin k
      January 23, 2014 at 7:08 am

      I love this idea!

  • Catherine
    January 22, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Such a great post! My five-year-old son loves everything pink, too.

  • Karin
    January 22, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Thank you Nicole!!!!!

    This is so helpful and gives me all kinds of inspiration that I could not find within myself. I love the idea of a wall of that black white and pink paper (It reminds me of the vans I wore in 8th grade!) and I know Julian would too.

    This helps steer me in the direction I needed with furniture purchases too (he needs a bed — I am considering a land of nod twin in wood or grey or maybe the black jenny lind…). It may take me a few months to get this done, but I finally feel like I “get” how it could work.

    Again, thank you!

    • Heather W
      January 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      Bravo to you for being such a good Mom to not worry about stereotypes and give your son what he wants!

  • AC
    January 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    I think that a key to making it look less little girly will be using a non-standard pink, something that leans grey or a little bit to brown. And, as already mentioned, mixing with more masculine wood tones and dark colors. I think it will be great. Also try keeping the pink as an accent color in case he changes his mind soon.

  • Lynnor
    January 22, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Some other images for ideas
    This http://st.houzz.com/simgs/c9b2fdf5010e99ee_7-1409/home-design.jpg I think would be great with dark furniture, perhaps? (Might be a Target bedspread)
    Or something like this http://st.houzz.com/simgs/a4121a2f010e9286_7-9513/home-design.jpg with dark pink rather than the red? same here http://www.cupersia.com/bedroom-design-ideas-for-hers-and-for-his/rustic-masculine-bedroom/
    More grown-up:

    Sorry for all the links. I’m someone that needs to “see” ideas rather than have them described.

    • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
      January 23, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      Love the spearmintdecor. Really nice and looks totally comfy for anyone!

  • Elizabeth
    January 22, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    I have nothing useful to add, design-wise, but this post makes me really, really happy. Thanks, Nicole and Karin!

  • Kayli Schattner
    January 22, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    What great, feasible tips! Have never thought to incorporate pink in such a subtle way. Love it!

  • Jessica
    January 22, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    Amazing post and amazing mom! I think most parents would “convince” their kids to stick with stereotypical colours. I hope this sort of discussion opens up a dialogue between parents and their kids.

  • MelD
    January 23, 2014 at 2:40 am

    Dare I suggest that as we are mostly women, we are maybe looking at the wrong shades of pink, here??
    I am delighted when a boy likes pink, though it usually doesn’t last, in my experience. However, the several boys I have known who like pink are the same as most men, they have difficulty describing colour. The ones I knew said pink when they meant PINK, i.e. strong, cool fuchsia pinks, not soft, dainty, dusty or whatever pinks… soft coral would be the last thing I’d suggest!
    Wouldn’t it make sense to have a neutral room and to use strong pink accents and accessories, probably choosing from adult ranges rather than children’s, using picture frames, pop art, textiles etc. for the colour? Because you know it won’t last, the minute a boy has other boys over who tease him, it’s all going to go belly-up….
    PINK stands a chance, though some (boy) kids can’t even tell the difference between pink and purple and will still make a kid’s life a misery over a purple bike, I’ve seen it!

    • erin k
      January 23, 2014 at 7:07 am

      I think you’re right about children, and maybe boys in particular, having trouble accurately describing color. My son, however (who is about to turn three, so very close in age to the child who is the subject of this post) doesn’t call dark pink/fuschia “pink” at all–he calls it red. So, while the possibility exists that some kids may say “pink” and mean a dark/bold color, it is also entirely possible that they may say “pink” and be thinking of exactly the shades that were mentioned here in Nicole’s post.

      On a completely unrelated note, did anyone else keep hearing the voice of King Candy (from Wreck-It Ralph) while reading this post? “Salmon! That’s obviously salmon!” lol

      • erin k
        January 23, 2014 at 7:07 am

        (I meant the blog post, not your comment, MelD! :))

  • Amelia
    January 23, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I would lean toward the neon or darker pinks. There’s a lot of hot pink in sporting goods (especially skateboard, biking, snowboarding etc.), and that could be rad for a little guy!

  • Holly Fox
    January 23, 2014 at 10:57 am

    This post makes me happy, too!! Thanks, Nicole and Karin!

  • Jayme
    January 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    I love this post! My 3 year old boy also loves pink. Lets face it, it is a beautiful color. They say that the most preferred color shirt women chose on men for attractiveness rating is pink.

  • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
    January 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Oh. It’s so funny. Years ago, my sister-in-law received many gifts for the birth of her first, second third, etc. sons …. (4 in total … yes, all boys!) …. which may or may not have been (they were hopeful) a girl. Several of the items were jammies with footsies …. a pink and a bright pink! Haa.ha. It did not matter to the new mama. She used these jammies for the boys. Maybe not all of them because I think they wore out. I vividly remember (blue eyes shining) how absolutely gorgeous they looked in these pink-footed-jammies with freshly scrubed faces from bathtime. Especially the bright pink. Definitely fond memories. Sorry I never took photos.

  • Nora N
    January 23, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Ha i JUST picked up a swatch of Peony Blush from Behr yesterday! I have an all white room (which I was going for the airy look but looks plain instad) and I have a big walk in closet that’s painted turquoise….so I figured an accent wall in the bedroom would be nice and I fell in love with Peony Blush after searching thru the racks of colors =) it really is a lovely muted pink. I have a pink foyer that just glows =)

  • kate
    January 23, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Back in the 50’s pink and grey was a very hip combo for guys. Yay for pink!

  • heather
    January 23, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    I would love to see what Karin comes up with. would you do an update of her son’s room when she gets it done?

  • Diana
    January 23, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Pink is my favorite color to decorate, and I really love this. Thanks!

  • Holly
    January 24, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Funny how kids are. I have a girl whose first word was blue, all her life has been blue! blue! blue! At 11, her love affair with blue is still going strong. May Karin’s son enjoy his pink!

  • Alissa
    January 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Hooray for pink for boys! My 5 year old son has loved pink his whole life more than any other color… Every shade of pink too. He says it is a happy color. I agree, even though I am not a pink person myself. The way I figure things (as does his father) is that color hurts no one.

    Thanks Nichole for a great post!

  • anon
    February 1, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    i think pink and navy or green would look amazing for a boy. stripes or argyle, with some worn in cognac leather, it would be prep heaven.

  • Erin
    February 4, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I love the idea of using pink in a preppy style as above commenter suggested. Love the idea of using argyle. And I agree that the color of pink might be best narrowed down first by asking the little guy to look through color paint chip deck and asking him what he means by pink- a hot pink or a muted or grayish pink. We did a basement playroom for our kids and used hot pink with aqua and lime green. We just picked a couple great art pieces as inspiration for our color scheme and went with it. Our daughter and two sons LOVE the stuff we have going on in there and they like that pink canvas bins hold all their toys and the gray couch has lots of green and pink pillows. No one gender gets to hold any one color all for themselves! :)