June 30, 2009

Finally, The DT Juddy Crib

I just posted some photos from a few months ago of the finished crib/toddler bed I made for the kid, which didn't get finished until K2 came along. And even then...

For those who have read my essay on oblivious- and superficial-sounding parental failure in Dooce's anthology, this is what I was talking about.

Maybe I've been so slow to post these pics because I've been waiting to see that no one brains herself on those Jorgensen clamp handles. [And no, no one has, not even ever close.]

DT Project: The Juddy crib/toddler bed photoset [flickr]

after the jump, a consolidated history of the 3.5-year crib/toddler bed project...

12/05: DT: The Crib Blog

It all began [to be blogged about] in December 2005, just as the kid was outgrowing her portable crib in NYC, and we needed a toddler bed. That was still smallish, and stylish, but that could be knocked down and built in the room, since we had a very tight hallway corner.

Also, after a year and a half of blogging, it was very obvious that there was a big gap in the modern design market between Ikea [$100] and everything else [$1000]. So the idea was to design a safe, modern crib that could be made--or homemade--for $300-500, depending on the amount of DIY input.

04/06: The Crib Blog update & Enzo Mari's autoprogettazione

While the furniture designs of Donald Judd were the major inspiration for the shape of the toddler bed [which could maybe be convertible back into a crib someday], Enzo Mari's 1973 autoprogettazione series of build-it-yourself furniture designs were even more influential on the whole project concept. At least as it was conceived and developed in 2005-6.

05/06: Cub-scouting

Clearly, I was not the only person to see the market gap--or to be inspired by Judd. In May 2006, the first images of David Netto's new, mid-priced Cub collection of nursery furniture appeared. Oeuf would soon launch their Sparrow collection, and Nurseryworks/Truck would come out with a mid-range crib, too, so there was finally some more affordable choice in the market.

Meanwhile, the kid was sleeping fine on the kid-sized futon mattress I'd bought for the toddler bed. This, unfortunately, alleviated a lot of the pressure on me to get the bed done and installed. Also, there was a lot of wrangling and experimentation to get truly invisible, but suitably strong hardware.

1/08: So...about that Juddy plywood crib

Then we were in Japan, in France, in China, the toddler bed/crib sat around for so long at the woodworker's shop, they started piling stuff on top of it, using it as storage. And before I knew it, the kid had basically outgrown the crib-sized bed anyway, so there was NO reason to finish it, except for as a product, which was like a 5th or 6th burner project at the time.

But with another kid in the house, we would be needing this as a crib in a couple of months, as soon as K2 outgrew the Bugaboo bassinet. So I blogged about it, got the first photo out there, partly to put myself on the hook to get it done, partly to solicit feedback. The ventilation issue, about perforating the mattress platform, was a very handy/valuable suggestion to come from that process.

And that's the first time I published the rather elaborate plans for creating the crib front. As K2 grew and needed a bed--and as my plexi guy upstate was, unbeknownst to me, going through a divorce and thus not getting any of the messages I was leaving on his phone or with his soon-to-be ex-wife, who strung me along repeatedly as some kind of bargaining tool/payback scheme toward her husband--these plans were never realized.

08/08: Juddy crib in the background

As a result, last summer/fall was kind of make-or-break, and so I jury-rigged a temporary crib front option on the Juddy, which had been serving as storage for us while K2 slept in the pack-n-play. The heavy canvas stretched over a wood frame like a painting worked fine, but we knew that as soon as K2 could stand or pull herself up, we wouldn't be comfortable with its stability.

So we had another couple of months in the portable crib as I tried to find someone in DC who could fabricate the crib front for me [it being too big to make it in NYC and bring it down in the car]. Finally, I gave up and decided to do it myself, or really, with my brother-in-law, at his dad's woodshop, where we killed a day over Christmas. I ended up shipping a box of plywood parts back from Utah. Crazy.

Since January or so, then, we've had K2 in the finished crib. Our regular crib mattress didn't fit with the stiff crib front, so we had to swap with the crib futon from NYC, the one the bed was originally designed for. That said, the only way we were comfortable using the futon is because K2 was already 13-mos old when she got in the crib, well beyond the highest risk zone for SIDS.

The toddler futon is stiff, and it has many layers, and it is much more breathable than the traditional mattress--which, let's face facts, is a plastic-enshrouded box--but it is also a bit soft. I would not be comfortable putting a newborn on it. There are newborn futons, but they are much denser and firmer, as they should be. If I'd gotten my shit together in time for K2 to go straight into the crib from the bassinet, I would have needed to buy a more appropriate mattress.

One unexpected consequence of the futon, is that fitted sheets compress it at the corners, leaving gaps that seem too large for me. Even though they diminish significantly as soon as you put a kid on the mattress. Still, we use flat sheets or a futon cover, which is like a duvet cover, or giant pillowcase.

We didn't use the crib for K2's first year, so we didn't have any issues with the kind of things that seem to freak the hell out of some people when they see the crib, like laying a sleeping infant down. The crib front is not meant to come off or open up in regular use; it's iron solid with the rest of the crib. We pick the kid up and plop her down over the side, and everyone's fine.

As for cleaning the plexi, it's been a complete non-issue. Maybe our kid is unusually drool-free, or it's because we don't feed her in bed, or leave her in bed when she's not sleeping, but all it ever takes is a quick wipedown with the plexi spray on a towel once a week or so, and that's it.

And yes, ventilation is an issue we've thought and talked about for years. And we've seen boxy European cribs and have had friends who used them for years, so we knew it was possibly a non-issue. And so far, in practice, it has been a complete non-issue. We have a ceiling fan in the kids' room, and we have an a/c which provides some white noise [we live on a busy street], and air circulation has never, ever been a problem.

I can already see that K2 is going to be transitioning to the toddler bed soon, anyway, so I'll have to dust off the plexi slab safety rail soon enough.


Very nice work. Looks like you're all ready for K3.

Looks good! Wish I was so handy!

gorgeous! nice work, greg. now you need to make a juddy student desk/loft bunk bed for the girls...

So do I. There's a marked difference in quality between the crib front, which I cut with my brother-in-law, and glued and finished by myself, and the bed, which I had made by an incredibly talented cabinetry shop in Brooklyn. They cut it on their CNC router, but finished it by hand. Cost a bomb.

This is going to sound weird - but does it get hot in there for her? My daughter gets very sweaty in her crib despite the C/A and ceiling fan.. would it be worse with limited air flow around her, I wonder?

not weird, we thought of that too. so far, it hasn't been an issue at all, but check back after August.

It's beautiful! I love it, and this is not meant to be negative, but it reminds me of the iguana tank I had in college.

Does a milk crate fit under that overhang?

Love it! What about K2, is she a fan?

Maybe you could get your mom to crochet little protective covers for the clamp handles.

Looks great! I agree, grandma's clamp cozies might be the way to go if you do get to the point of head bonking.

Should I ever remember to mail out those books for you (sitting by my door! Still!) I will flag "Crib O'Death" It is truly epic.

this'll work, from Swiss-Miss: socks for chairs.

Dude...you are getting thrashed over at Apartment Therapy Ohdeedoh: http://www.ohdeedoh.com/ohdeedoh/look/look-daddytypes-makes-his-own-crib-088934


thanks for the heads up, most are meaningless style comments, but there are plenty of other details that would've been answered if I'd been more exhaustive in linking to the previous posts. I love the people having heart palpitations who also clearly haven't bothered to read enough to know whether my kid is born yet, though.

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