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Anna G. Larson, Published March 16 2013

Parents add handmade touches and functional furniture to baby rooms

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 Wal-Mart 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 andoff 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 in order 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 such as Wal-Mart, 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.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525