I can't blame all of my baby proofing challenges on having an old home (built in 1890), but some I can. For example, because of the layout of our home, which involves four doors leading to the kitchen and two stair cases (not including the basement stairs), we need SEVEN baby gates. Some of our doorknobs aren't knobs at all, but lift latches that stick out right at a toddler's eye level. One staircase doesn't have a banister for the last five steps. Oy.
But there is one baby proofing challenge that isn't isolated to an old home: a raised brick hearth. Please see giant hazard below:
For the past eight months, we have padded the hearth with my pregnancy body pillow and every throw pillow we could get our hands on, but because the living room is the baby's primary play area, we wanted a better solution. We finally decided on turning the hearth into a padded bench that would serve the purpose of cushioning any falls while also offering a cozy place for little bums to sit.
For this project, we used:
1 sheet of 1/4-inch plywood cut in half the long way and trimmed to size
1-inch x 3-inch pine planks
2 large pieces of 1 1/2-inch foam (one of those foam mattress toppers could also do the trick)
2 1/2 yards "interior decor" fabric (at least that's what JoAnn's Fabric calls it)
My husband, Mr. Engineer, who built a room onto his grandparent's house when he was in high school, designed the simple bench in about 30 seconds flat. It's a piece of plywood the length and width of the top of the hearth with a three-inch lip on three sides. Here's what it looks like.
Now to add the foam. We wanted this bench to be well-padded, so we cut one piece of foam to the exact dimensions of the top of the wood base and one long and wide enough to curl over the edges of both the first piece of foam and the lip of the frame (to be stapled underneath). Therefore, the top has two layers of foam, but the sides only have one. Maybe a visual would help (don't mind Needy McFluffers). It's a little tough to see the two layers of foam unless you look carefully at the left corner of the base.
We have all four layers of the bench laid out here--the fabric went down first, then the large piece of foam, the second piece foam cut to the exact size of the bench, and then the base. Tip: Don't buy your foam from JoAnn's Fabric. I did, and it cost me $80 ($16.99 per yard x 5 yards). My husband found large pieces of 1 1/2 inch foam at Building 19 for $20. Good thing I kept my receipt! I don't recommend shopping at Building 19 for anything other than foam and cheap-o carpets, but if it's a deal, it's a deal.
Now, we start stapling. The plywood was tough to staple into, but the pine lip took it like a champ. The corners were a little tricky, since we're not furniture upholsterers by trade, but we made it work. In the view below, the large piece of foam has encased the exact-cut foam. Alternatively, you could choose to have the foam go all the way around the lip and staple on the inside, but you'll need to add a few inches to the dimensions of the wood base of the bench so it will fit over the hearth with all the extra padding.
After much grunting and groaning and a little mishap where I almost got a staple in the thigh, it looked a little something like this (upside down):
Flip it over, and now our giant baby hazard is a perfectly comfortable place for little ones to sit (furry species included). Needless to say, you can't use the fireplace with the bench sitting on the hearth, but it can be removed for the occasional roaring fire on a cold winter's night.
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you baby proof a raised brick hearth.