Made to make for an interesting childhood? Fireplace with glass doors, brick hearth, stairs with wrought iron bannisters (just the right space to stick a three year-old head through). Photo by Brad Moon
Made to make for an interesting childhood? Fireplace with glass doors, brick hearth, stairs with wrought iron bannisters (just the right space to stick a 3-year-old head through). Photo by Brad Moon

A long, long time ago — let’s call it 13 years ago or so — my wife and I lived in a house that seemed ideal for us in our pre-kids state. It was a townhouse made out of reclaimed brick shipped from Detroit (we bought it some 15 years ago, before reclaimed brick was Detroit’s biggest export), built in a Victorian style with ivy covered brick walls. It was perched on the bank of the river and nestled up against some woods, offering a natural setting with easy access to hiking trails.

When we had our daughter, we decided it was a deathtrap. Long, steep flights of stairs, that easy river access and a very small back yard. Not kid-friendly at all.

We ended up buying a 1960s era side split that seemed to embody family needs and kid-friendliness. On the surface, at least. It was a Brady house, right down to the shag carpet that was officially the first item we ripped out upon taking possession. Over the years, we’ve come to recognize the many questionable design choices the home builders made and we’ve had our share of incidents, split lips and stitches. When I came across Projectophile’s piece on “15 Mid-Century Modern Dream Homes That Will Kill Your Children,” I had to smile, knowingly. Been there…

We’ve run into so many little things in the house that have turned out to be kid traps — luckily none yet fatal — each being addressed as we discover them. It seems like a never-ending battle. Baby-proofing was an ordeal, but even then, we missed stuff. Clearly home designers back then may have had family-friendly on the brain, but kid-friendly was apparently a few decades away from being in vogue.

There were the wrought iron bannisters that turned out to be the perfect width for a kid to stick her head through. I had to remove the offending wrought iron in order to free a panicked toddler who was ensnared in the diabolical trap (a little tough to do when you’re freaked out as well). Those have been replaced with a wooden version that doesn’t offer the same “stick your head through here” invitation — although at 13 now, hopefully she’s old enough not to be tempted.

There’s the fireplace with the glass doors and the brick hearth. For the first few years, we had protective foam bumpers (tres chic) glued to the hearth to prevent serious injury, while the fireplace was protected by an assembly of gates to keep young fingers away from the hot glass. That didn’t prevent the boys from getting through the defenses (weeks after the last fire, fortunately) and spreading the ashes all over the rec room floor. Then there were the play room windows that are on ground level and were simple push-out versions (easier to clean, I suppose?) that even a two year-old could shove out to escape into the back yard, after stacking a few items of play furniture. The windows were quickly replaced with modern triple pane sliders, with locks and an alarm system.

Like I said, we’ve been working at this for around 13 years now. As we’ve added kids and they’ve grown older, we’re still finding new questionable design choices. At least we don’t have to deal with a water feature in the living room, though.

Mid-Century Modern housing designs vs. children (via BoingBoing).

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