As soon as my daughter announced that she was expecting, and her Eclectic-Gender Neutral Nursery was ready, thoughts of future grandchildren crawling, walking and running around the house began. I started a search for stairway gates. The stairway in my Alabama Stone Cottage is wide and the opening is arched to mimic the kitchen entrance. I searched the internet for pre-built wooden baby and pet gates but everything I found that would fit would stick out like a sore thumb. I wanted the gate to blend in with the rest of our home. That’s when I began to consider numerous custom options to rework: a pair of vintage shutters, cutting down a vintage door, repurposing an iron gate, decorative metal sheets, metal scissor gates and vintage elevator doors. It was sort of like The Three Bears — pieces I found were either too big or too small, but never just right.
Then along came Larry. I emailed him pictures of rustic garden gates and he promised he could build us a sturdy and safe gate using salvaged wood and copper piping. That would keep Baby J upstairs but still be pet-friendly and allow our three cats slip downstairs for their daily naps. For me, a perfect gate should slide to the left when opened, in front of the wall. As luck would have it, the wall is not quite wide enough. But Larry came up with a great solution: he built a gate that appears to be a pair of gates when closed but is hinged to fold back against the wall when open. He used old hinges for their patina. And he mounted our gate just above the baseboard to give the cats space to slip under. Our habit now is to leave it closed 24/7 and I really like the secure feeling it gives when going out to the garage. I’ve already started watching etsy for the perfect set of vintage strap hinges and/or decorative handles. The hunt for those is part of the fun. Meanwhile our dogs Dubya and Coco [top] approve of Larry’s handiwork. Baby J will be walking soon, and our first granddaughter, Baby E, is due in June.
Here is custom pet-friendly iron gate that keeps the dog out of the cat food bowls. We contemplated a similar design with the copper pipes spaced so the cats could walk through, but two of ours are rather large and we decided the gate would not be baby friendly.
Custom gates are an easy addition to new construction and pre-built homes. This gate features a small wheel underneath the open end, which helps keep the weight evenly distributed. The sliding hinge mechanism on the gate allows it to be easily removed when not in use.
This homeowner simply cut down a wood panel door, similar to a Dutch door, but without the top half. We had a stairway like this in our last home — stairs that led to an attic eventually which became a master suite addition. The door was removed and the stairway was left open. Be sure to check local building codes. We were told this was considered a hazard during a fire emergency and, therefore, was against code. That said, it is a charming option in the right location.
A more rustic version looks like a simple panel that swings open. Knowing the owner, none other than Rachel Ashwell of Shabby Chic, she spotted it during one of her antique outings when shopping for The Prairie B&B.
This contemporary wooden slat gate is reminiscent of a mid-century modern bench top.
The wrought iron motif in the hand rail of the stairwell was repeated in this custom wood and iron gate. Designing a gate like this might take time given all the hand forged metal art and decorative parts, balusters, and panels available.
This one is very simple, and sits against the wall when not in use. One concern I had in our space was that no one coming in or should be visually fooled by the gate. I didn’t want it too low, in fear that someone might lean too far and tumble over the top. We found that chest high was much better than waist high.
Here’s a great example of modern, yet traditional — what’s called “transitional.” If you can dream it, someone can build it.
Continuing staircases need more than one gate, and sometimes adjustments to the existing railing as well. Here, blackened steel tubing and mesh panels were created and attached with custom hardware.
While I like this design, they must have dogs instead of children. My first thought is of a child climbing up and over the horizontal bars. This gate also has a wheel for operational ease.
A colorful Piet Mondrian color block gate is sure to please art lovers and children. This could be fashioned from painted wood or from transparent colored plexiglass sheets.
We all want our homes to be beautiful but our family, guests and pets must be kept safe. If you are adding a baby or pet gate to your home, be sure to read the suggestions at Safety Gate Standards at ASTM.org.
For more pet friendly ideas, don’t miss Built-ins For Pets. Shabby Chic fans should enjoy An Interview with Rachael Ashwell.
(Sources: Jezroc Metal, BILDnow.com, Internet, Holly Mathis Interiors, Blue Ant Studio, JD Stairs, HC Metals, Martel Fab, MILKdesign, Dijeau Poage Construction)
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