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Parents add handmade touches and functional furniture to baby rooms

Hendrix Brodsho's nursery room in Moorhead. (David Samson/The Forum)

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- The newest members of the Ahrens and Brodsho families have extra special spaces.

Four-month-old Colin Ahrens rests peacefully in a modern woodland abode, while 10-month-old Hendrix Brodsho is mesmerized by the outdoor scenes in his colorful room.

Both pairs of new parents wanted to create personal, practical nurseries for their sons.

Kari and Ben Ahrens imagined a minimalistic room with clean lines and handmade touches for their baby. They adopted Colin in November and wanted a subtle theme for his nursery.

The idea to incorporate woodland creatures stemmed from the small deer on the fabric (by local fabric company Modern Textiles) that Kari Ahrens used in the bunting above Colin's crib.

"I just saw that fabric and knew that's what we were going to do - those cute little deer," she says.

Many items, like the square organizer that holds Colin's already growing selection of footwear, were purchased at Ikea. The solid wood dresser that doubles as a changing table is the sole piece of handmade furniture, crafted by Kari's dad.

"It's something Colin can grow with -- it's really special since my dad made it," Kari Ahrens says. "We didn't want to buy a changing table because we wanted him to be able to keep using the dresser throughout his life."

The Ahrenses found the simple white crib at Walmart and ordered an Eames-style chair on Amazon.

It was important to the couple to keep cost in check when they were furnishing the nursery.

"We didn't want to spend a lot of money, and we know that a baby room doesn't last all that long," Kari Ahrens says. "We figured that we'd buy as few items as we could so the room still looks like it has a little bit of a theme, but we didn't go crazy with a theme. We wanted clean lines."

It didn't take them long to piece together Colin's room -- Kari Ahrens says she could've put it together in a week had she not ordered items online. Furniture was purchased first, which was the largest expense. The décor was added gradually as the couple found items they liked.

Staying true to the minimalist style of the nursery, Ahrens used plain Ikea frames to complement the animal prints, which were ordered from flash-sale website Zulily. The moose rocker, also from Ikea, was once red, but she painted it white to fit in with the subdued décor.

The felt mobile was a Pinterest project, and the large alphabet letters that spell out Colin's name are from Hobby Lobby. Kari Ahrens first saw the "Love You" night light on Etsy years ago and purchased it once she knew she'd be a parent.

Ryan and Melissa Brodsho also created a personalized space for their almost 1-year-old son, Hendrix. They opted for a colorful, gender-neutral outdoor theme since they plan to have more children.

"We were trying to think of what we would want if we were a kid," Melissa Brodsho says.

The couple painted the outdoor scene on the walls using stencils out of cardboard to ensure fool-proof results. They pieced the scene together with ideas from baby books or Web searches. It took them about one month on and off painting to complete.

The Brodshos added extra-special touches to Hendrix's room by incorporating items they purchased while vacationing in Europe.

"It's fun to remember the day we were walking through the little village in Germany and stopped in a bookshop and got the poster," Melissa Brodsho says, referring to the "Lieselotte kommt!" poster in Hendrix's closet. "It helps you remember some of those things."

The flowers tied onto the clothing bins were purchased in Venice, and the hot air mobile above Hendrix's crib is inspired by a mobile Melissa adored in Athens. The couple handmade the mobile out of paper mache, fishing line, battery-operated tea lights and painted embroidery hoop.

Like the Ahrenses, it was important to the Brodshos to add handmade elements to their son's nursery.

"We enjoy doing those sorts of things, and we have a sense of pride knowing that we made it," Ryan says. "We want him to like to do those types of things as well. I think it's a neat example to show him that we made it and put the time and effort in to do it rather than hiring someone."

The Brodshos say they enjoy watching Hendrix grow and discover new points of interest in his nursery. His first focal point was the giraffe on the wall, and now he enjoys watching the mobile above his bed and the mini red Fokker tri-plane above his closet.

Kari Ahrens and the Brodshos shared tips for creating a sweet, functional nursery:

-- Think gender neutral.

Both families went with unisex décor to use it again for future babies.

-- Work within your capabilities.

Ryan and Melissa Brodsho say they're "crafty people," so painting the outdoor scene on Hendrix's wall was enjoyable. If it's not your thing, the couple recommends hiring a professional or trying a different theme.

-- Do projects early.

The Brodshos finished their son's room three months before he was born. Melissa says she had lots of energy in her second trimester.

Ben and Kari Ahrens started working on Colin's room about a year before meeting him. While Kari says she could have put it together quickly, they took their time finding items they love.

-- Keep it personal.

Both couples incorporated special, handmade items along with the purchased items to give the nurseries a personalized feel.

-- Pick a theme pre-baby shower.

The Brodshos recommend choosing a theme or décor style as early as possible so you can register for items that go with that specific theme. It keeps the cost down for the parents, they say.

-- Factor in furniture.

Furniture was the biggest expense for both couples. Seeking out retailers like Walmart, Target and Ikea can help keep cost down, Kari Ahrens says.

-- Don't stress.

Melissa and Ryan kept their stress in check when they were painting Hendrix's room. They say it's important to remember that "it's only paint" and you can always redo it.

-- Seek inspiration everywhere.

Kari Ahrens didn't expect to be inspired by going to a craft workshop and seeing the deer fabric, but she says it clarified the theme she wanted for Colin's nursery.

-- Experiment.

First-time parents especially should just go with the flow and see what works and what doesn't, the Brodshos say.

-- Realize a nursery isn't forever.

The Ahrenses didn't spend a lot of money on Colin's nursery because they know it won't last forever. They plan to invest money in a "big-boy room" that he'll be in longer.

-- Be practical.

Don't forget that nurseries need essentials like a changing area, crib and chair, Kari Ahrens says.

9 nursery décor trends for 2013

FARGO -- This is the year of the unconventional nursery.

Gone are the traditional, cutesy, pink and blue rooms. In their place are stylish rooms that incorporate modern design trends, whimsical touches and practicality.

Nine nursery décor trends prove that the baby's room doesn't have to be childish.

1. Chevron.

Chevron zig-zag prints are popular in home decor, and nurseries are no exception. Look for the trend in bedding, accessories and furniture.

2. Gray.

Furniture, bedding and walls are all getting a touch of gray this year. It's the new favorite neutral.

The unisex color works great as a base color to build on. Pops of yellow and blue are especially trendy when paired with gray.

3. Convertible cribs.

It changes from crib, to toddler bed, to headboard, so it can be used throughout a child's life.

4. Modern appeal.

Parents are steering away from cutesy stuffed animal designs and décor. Many are opting for more retro-inspired shapes and colors, sleek furniture and clutter-free lines.

5. Unique mobiles.

Making mobiles is a great way to inject a personal touch and have a keepsake for years to come. Pinterest and craft blogs have dozens of ideas for homemade mobiles.

6. Organic.

As parents become more educated about the risks of many modern chemicals, nontoxic paints, organic cotton bedding and mattresses free of dangerous chemicals are more popular.

7. Secondhand furniture finds.

A coat of paint can transform a thrift-store find into an affordable nursery gem.

8. Personal touches.

Don't be afraid to stray from traditional baby décor. Include photos, artwork and memorabilia that you enjoy.

9. Form and function.

Trendy chairs and stylish rockers combine function with fun.

Sources: and The Bump's blog