Nursery in a loft: are we crazy?
July 10, 2012 8:32 PM   Subscribe

Would you set up a nursery in a mostly enclosed loft area? Wife and I love a potential new apartment, but a steep staircase is making us a bit worried.

We have a wonderful 8-month old son, who is crawling and generally up to no good like most kids his age. From the perspective of maximizing the space in the apartment, putting his crib in the loft bedroom upstairs makes the most sense. Plus the ceilings are low (perfect for glow-in-the-dark stickers) and there's a skylight. We would obviously install gates on both ends of the stairs and set up netting around all the bannisters... but the idea of carrying the baby up and down some steep stairs makes us both queasy.

An alternative would be to install a temporary wall in the master bedroom and give him a little room next to ours. This is less ideal in any number of ways, but I think we'd sleep better at night.

So... what's the considered wisdom of putting a crib in a mostly enclosed loft at the top of the stairs? Do people do this? Will we get comfortable with the stairs after a while?
posted by BobbyVan to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I wouldn't personally. He'll still need to be carried when he's one, two, two and a half years old. He'll weigh 30 lbs and up at that age. Even when he's older and bigger there will be times you're carrying him up there. You may need to carry him up there fighting (say if he gets feisty when you're sleep training him as a toddler.) There may be times when your knee or shoulder is acting up or whatever. I wouldn't want a steep staircase involved in any of those scenarios.

Plus, he's going to tumble down the stairs every so often. I wouldn't want him toddling up and down one where he could break his neck. (My own children's nursery is upstairs, but I put in carpet and the staircase is divided in half by a landing; every time they've tumbled I have thanked God for both of those elements.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:37 PM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I would be concerned about the lack of an alternative fire escape route. Can you get out through the skyight?
posted by jamaro at 8:41 PM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: By "steep stairs" I assume you mean stairs that are like a ladder and require one hand while going up them? If not, then I don't see a problem with it. My ten month old daughter's room is upstairs (normal stairs) and it has been no problem. If I could comfortably walk up the stairs with both hands free, I think it would be fine. If I would need one hand for the stairs and one for the kid, then maybe I wouldn't want to do it (and my wife almost certainly wouldn't).
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:47 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Not sure about the skylight -- gave the apartment two quick looks today (it's currently occupied) and we're submitting the application tomorrow (this is on New York's Upper East Side, so you snooze you lose). But that issue is definitely something to raise with the building management.

As for the steepness of the stairs, they're kind of in between a ladder and traditional stairs. Basically the pitch is significantly steeper than most stairs, so my wife and I felt like we needed to hold the railing when we ascended and descended.

Right now we're leaning towards adding a wall to our bedroom and creating a nursery there... but if there was a way to make a nursery work in the loft, we'd be interested in how it could be done in the safest way possible.

Has anyone else done this before?
posted by BobbyVan at 9:00 PM on July 10, 2012

Response by poster: Just saw that a somewhat related question was asked previously. Some helpful stuff in there.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:09 PM on July 10, 2012

Is there a rail and other stability-enhancement tools? How many steps are we talking here? I think what's key to assess are two metrics: Chance of falling + damage of potential fall.

Obviously, everyone's different, but with our 8 month old daughter, I would want both counts as low as possible. Low chance wouldn't sway me if the results of a fall could be catastrophic.

Remember too, as your son gets older he will get more crafty and mobile - how are you gonna keep him save around the stairs during that danger age of 18months - 4 years old (mobile, but still really dumb if you know what I mean).
posted by smoke at 9:20 PM on July 10, 2012

Teach the kid to scoot down the stairs on his butt and crawl up them.

I lived in a third floor walk up in Germany when my oldest was 13 months to 22 months. He got tall enough to open the door and escape the apartment but he got down the stairs safely, without cracking his skull open. It took him forever, giving me time to notice his escape and catch him.
posted by Michele in California at 9:22 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by oceano at 9:25 PM on July 10, 2012

Best answer: Honestly, I would put the baby in your room, maybe with a temporary wall or curtain. Others have outlined various safety concerns. I'd be really worried about being on a different floor than my kids in a fire and, once he's about 18 months old, he may be monkey-ish enough to climb over the gates. Even a 4yo can pose safety concerns in a situation like that, depending on the child's personality.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:34 PM on July 10, 2012

Not quite the same, but when our kids were toddlers we lived in a duplex apartment with a steep spiral staircase (open treads, iron railings with gaps large enough to squeeze through) -- we were initially worried about it, but it turned out that it was never a problem. We had a gate to keep them away, obviously, but as soon as they could crawl confidently all three managed the stairs with ease and safety, always on their stomachs (like a ladder) in both directions.

I was really surprised by how little of an issue it turned out to be, though part of what helped was the fact of the curve -- as long as there was no slipping between the railings (which never even came close to happening in practice) -- there was never a tendency to slip more than a single tread even if the kids were being a little slapdash. You don't have the benefit of that curve in your set up, so things are a bit different for you, but not necessarily much worse, especially if the treads are open so that the kid can get a good hold of the back of the tread, like on a ladder.

I think that the issue is less the kid himself, but whether you will be comfortable carrying him on the staircase if you will always need to hold on to be safe. One hand for you, one for the kid is fine until you need to cary something else as well… needing to make two trips every time would get old quickly.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 11:18 PM on July 10, 2012

Via a counter opinion... We live on the ground floor, with stone steps just outside our front door. Son is now 15 months old and walking....

I would avoid steep stairs like the plague if I were you. Boys are reputed to be more exploratory, and so is mine. He LOVES stairs, and it is totally dangerous. We have to be really vigilant, and it is no fun. Mini's are so wobbly!

The question about the fire escape is BANG ON.

I've always lived on upper floors. It'll be another 5 years until I think that is OK again.
posted by jbenben at 11:34 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

BTW, I'm from Manhattan, currently live in LA. Had my RE license in NYC, back in the day.

Submit an app if you need to, but I feel this is not necessary. Plenty of apartments don't feature danger like this.

YES. I understand the pressure you are feeling. I still think you should not waste your time/money on this app.

Keep looking:)
posted by jbenben at 11:39 PM on July 10, 2012

What if you gave your kid the whole of "your" room, and took the lift room for yourselves?
posted by crabintheocean at 2:02 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

What if you gave your kid the whole of "your" room, and took the lift room for yourselves?

Agreed. Especially as his toys and books and animals and "stuff" takes up more space, if his room is on the main floor you won't have everything cluttering the common living area all the time.
posted by headnsouth at 4:30 AM on July 11, 2012

Best answer: From when I was about 2 until about 14, my bedroom in our summer place was almost exactly as you describe - low-ceilinged, lofty, skylight. I never once had an accident that I can recall, although as I got older and more fractious my dad had to fix the stair-ladder so I could no longer haul it up behind me when I was sulking.

I am pretty sure I recall my mom grumping about having to carry me up the stairs more than a few times when I got bigger, though.
posted by elizardbits at 5:22 AM on July 11, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for the advice.

To answer a couple of questions about the stairs themselves:

-we're talking about 10 to 12 steps in a single flight.
-there is a rail to hold on to for stability.

Here is a picture of them. From this angle the stairs look pretty normal, but I think it's a bit deceiving. We'll definitely be putting in some non-slip treads on each step.

Barring any other surprises, I think we're going to get the apartment. It has some great outdoor space which is something we've always wanted. My wife and I agreed that we will start out with the baby living downstairs until we get a better handle on the loft area. For now it will be used as storage and a guest bedroom. The question that did it for us was this: if the apartment had no loft at all, would we still want it? We answered yes, so we're taking it.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:11 AM on July 11, 2012

Okay, those stairs look about a thousand times safer than the ones I grew up with.
posted by elizardbits at 8:41 AM on July 11, 2012

I would totally turn that loft into a Mom and Dad's Private Retreat area, where no baby is allowed to go.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:09 AM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

This would really depend on the baby's temperament. My baby is mellow and when he sees a gate he looks at it and says in his little baby head "oh, I guess I can't go there, whatevs" and moves along. Conversely, I used to watch a baby who took gates as a personal challenge. So it would depend on the baby.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:00 AM on July 11, 2012

I live in an apartment with an upstairs loft area. We had originally thought of using it as a nursery area for our baby, but when we signed the lease it contained a specific line that forbids using that space for sleeping--since it only has one egress point (the stairway) and no window, it's against fire code to use it as a bedroom. I'm sure that others in our complex do use it as a bedroom, but I can't bring myself to put my child, or my husband and myself, at risk. And this is with a normal-height ceiling and regular, carpeted stairs! So definitely look into the fire thing before you decide on the place. It's possible the skylight counts as an egress point so maybe it's not a problem.
posted by Jemstar at 12:15 PM on July 11, 2012

Best answer: Honestly I think this is not that much different than having a house where the bedrooms are on the 2nd floor and that the "loft" aspect is kind of a red herring.

We live in a duplex apartment where the 2 bedrooms are up a similar steep, narrow flight of wooden stairs from the main living area--except we have 14 of them. It hasn't really been a problem. We installed gates at the top and bottom of the stairs--the kind you mount on the walls, not the pressure kind.

Toddler Architeuthis, now 18 months, just doesn't go up and down without a parent. He has been fascinated by the stairs since about 11 months and learned to crawl up and down pretty early and then walk up and down, but he knows he is supposed to hold a hand and so far he's always done it. Lately he's been in an "up please" mode but at 30 lbs he is still manageable in 1 arm with the other for the handrail. The stairs outside on our stoop have actually been much more dangerous since there's no way to gate them off.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:51 PM on July 11, 2012

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