2008 diy winners: 3rd place

by Grace Bonney

to say that our third place winner was a bit controversial this year would be a dramatic understatement. just about everyone on the internet has weighed in on this project and i appreciate everyone’s comments, concerns and all of the information and educational links on safety restrictions for cribs. i have learned so much this week and i have the commenters to thank. after all was said and done, thousands of you voted for melissa‘s diy crib project and today she’s our third place winner and the recipient of a check for $300.

before the comment section becomes a frenzy of angry parents again, i want to say a few things. first, i think what drew most of us to this project were the positive aspects of the design: the beautiful fabric on the bedding and the detailed hand-painted floral elements on the wood. not to mention how much the diy crib aspects appealed to hundreds of you who wrote in to tell me that you wish you had the time to create something custom for your own children. i think what i have taken away from this project is that parenting is something that brings out the most personal and passionate sides of people so i hope everyone can remember that this project is merely a jumping off point for creating your own custom piece. perhaps this will inspire someone to create a hand-painted pattern on their baby’s crib or just to incorporate custom fabric on their baby’s mattress (if you want to use flat sheets at all). that said, custom or not, there are safety standards on cribs for a reason and i have researched them over the past week and take them very seriously.

the crib instructions below pertain to melissa’s crib as is, but i’ve changed portions to reflect the national safety standards here, here, here, here and here. obviously some people feel that things like bumpers and sheets are a no-no but i was bombarded by hundreds of emails from those of you who think they’re perfectly fine. i found research online to suggest both cases but first and foremost: if you have a child and would like to build this project, please research all available safety standards to make sure your child is as protected as possible.

that said, i hope you’ll all enjoy melissa’s project and use it as a jumping off point and inspiration for creating something custom in your own room. i think we can all agree that there’s something very special about expressing your love through hand-crafted work that is safe and appropriate for your child. click here for the full post or click “read more” below.

*Please note that you should read and follow all safety instructions provided by national safety groups (here and here) before building any crib on your own*

Melissa’s DIY Crib

Material Costs (approximate):

Wood and hardware: $80
High density foam: $10
Bumper pad kit: $15
1 yard of oilcloth: $6
3 yards of decorative cotton fabric: $15

First, we went to the hardware store and bought all of our supplies; 3/4 inch plywood for the base, 1″x3″ boards for the frame for the base, casters, 1″x2″ boards for the external framework, 1/2″x6″ and 1/2″x8″ boards for the slats (slats should be placed no more than 2 3/8″ apart and none should be loose or missing) and two solid wood pieces to close the front and back of the crib (please see note below). If you plan on doing this project or something similar, you’ll want to draw out detailed plans ahead of time and bring a calculator with you to the hardware store to figure out quantity. Remember that lumber is labeled according to its PRE milled size, e.g. a 1×3 is really 3/4″x2 1/2″.

After cutting out the base to size, I reinforced the bottom with 1″x3″ boards cut at 45º angles at the corners. Then I cut out notches to fit the 1″x2″ boards to make the vertical frame. After cutting all of the vertical boards to length, I cut notches out of the top of the 1″x2″ boards for the cross bars. Before assembling everything, I sanded all of the wood until smooth (all wood should be sanded completely smooth and constructed without lips or overhangs that may catch baby’s clothes), then applied a few coats of child-safe wood finish (ask your local hardware store for non-toxic options available). Once assembled, I added the finishing touches of white paint to the exterior.

[PLEASE NOTE: Crib slats or spindles should be spaced no more than 2 3/8″ apart, and none should be loose or missing. In addition, the back and front of a crib should always be solid with no decorative cutouts. If you follow these instructions you’ll need to use additional wood to completely close each end of the crib]

I used the bumper pad kit (found at JoAnn Fabrics), and cut the pads to fit the dimensions of my crib/co sleeper. Bumpers should never be thick or pillow-like, if you choose to use them make sure they are thin and are removed when the child is old or large enough to stand (they can be used to climb out of the crib and there is a recorded risk of suffocation). I followed the pattern provided in the kit, making the appropriate adjustments to fit our crib design. For the mattress, I used a high density foam cut to fit snugly in the crib frame and to be no less than 26″ below the crib sides (if you can fit two fingers between the crib and the mattress the mattress is too small). Once it was cut to size, I made a cover for it by measuring the dimensions plus half the thickness of the pad, plus seam allowances. I inserted a zipper to the cover to allow for easy removal.

[PLEASE NOTE: the photo above was arranged and styled for a photoshoot. Cribs should always be placed away from windows to prevent children from potential danger with cords, curtains or blinds]

[PLEASE NOTE: Bumper pads have been linked to infant suffocation in some cases. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that, if you decide to use thin, non-pillow-like, bumpers you remove them when the baby begins to stand]

Additional guidelines from the American Association of Pediatrics:

As you look at a crib, make sure you check the following, especially if you choose a used crib that may have been built before current crib safety standards were set.

* When purchasing a crib, look for Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA) certification.
* The slats should be no more than 2-3/8 inches apart. Widely spaced slats can trap an infant’s head.
* All joints and parts should fit tightly, and the wood must be smooth and free of splinters.
* Check for cracked and peeling paint. All surfaces should be covered with lead-free paint safe for nursery furniture.
* The end panels should be solid, without decorative cutouts. Cutout areas on panels can trap an infant’s head.
* Corner posts should be flush with the end panels or else be very, very tall (such as posts on a canopy bed). Clothing and ribbons can catch on tall corner posts and strangle an infant.
* The lowered crib sides should be at least 9 inches above the mattress support to prevent the infant from falling out. Raised crib sides should be at least 26 inches above the mattress support in its lowest position.
* The drop sides should have a locking, hand-operated latch that will not release unintentionally.
* The mattress should be the same size as the crib so there are no gaps to trap arms, body, or legs. If you can fit 2 fingers between the mattress and the side of the crib, the crib should not be used.


* Read the directions to set up, use, and care for the crib.
* Never use a crib with loose or missing attachments or support hardware.
* Never leave the crib sides down when the baby is in the crib.
* Hanging crib toys (mobiles, crib gyms) should be out of the baby’s reach. Any hanging crib toy must be removed when your baby first begins to push up on his or her hands and knees or when the baby is 5 months old, whichever occurs first. These toys can strangle a baby.
* If bumper pads are used, remove them when the baby begins to stand so that they can’t be used as steps.
* The crib mattress should be lowered before the baby can sit alone. The mattress should be at its lowest point before the baby can stand.
* Children should be taken out of a crib by the time they are 35 inches tall.
* Never place a crib near cords from a hanging window blind or drapery. Children can get caught in the cords and strangle.
* Be sure to inspect every crib your child uses for safety – those at the grandparent’s home, the baby-sitter’s home, or the child care center.
* Hammocks and other swinging devices should not be installed onto a crib because the baby may be strangled.
* If parts are missing, contact the crib manufacturer for replacement hardware.


* Place baby on his or her back on a firm tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
* Remove pillows, pillow-like bumper pads, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, and other soft products from the crib.
* Consider using a sleeper or other sleep clothing as an alternative to blankets, with no other covering.
* If using a blanket, put baby with feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, reaching only as far as the baby’s chest.
* Make sure your baby’s head remains uncovered during sleep.
* Do not place baby on a water bed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow, or other soft surface.

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  • Wow, as any baby of mine is in the far future, it honestly didn’t cross my mind about all the regulations. Grace you did a great job of making everyone aware. And Congratulations Melissa – the crib is super cute and a great idea!!

  • Simply beautiful! I love the hand painted details. Well deserved recognition! Congratulations.

  • I really love this, the colors are magnificent. That being said, I have found my own little solution to bumpers, put them on the outside of the crib. It takes away the intended purpose, but still allows the beautiful workmanship and pattern to be prevelant.

    Congratulations to you. :)

  • congrats melissa! the crib was my favorite. i think it is a lovely design and definitely inspiring.

  • I love the idea of the crib but as a former product manager for baby furniture, all I can think when I see it is how dangerous it is! That poor baby could get her head caught in the slats. I don’t feel it’s responsible to market this diy design based on US safety standards. I’m actually shocked the more I look at the design. If it was on the market it would be a product recall.

  • as both a mother and a home daycare provider, the safety of babies is something i must think about often, and was the first thing i thought about when i saw this project. having said that, this is the one i voted for without hesitation because both the idea and execution were beautiful. good work, guys.

  • here we go with the safety regulations again… if you don’t think it’s safe, then don’t build it. I think Melissa did a great job!!! and Grace CYAed by posting the disclaimers and notes regarding safety issues. I think this is an absolutely adorable crib and a true DIY. Melissa truly deserves this one.

  • I voted for this! I love it! Yes, modifications are necessary, but it is a beautiful idea and execution. I plan on making my own crib and sheets (and yes, bumpers) — so this has really bouyed my dream.

  • “Sorry, one more thing — it’s not true that the back and front should be completely solid.”

    That wording was confusing- it’s not that the ends have to be solid, but if you do use a solid panel you shouldn’t cut openings out of it. The exception if if they are too small to allow a head to pass through, and oriented such that they don’t create a toehold. And never cut any abrupt shape changes into a top rail.

  • Congratulations Melissa! You did an amazing job and I’m also glad you could rise above all of the crazy and sometimes mean comments sent your way. Fabulous!

  • Hi Grace, I just wanted to write a quick note to commend you on handling a controversial situation so well. I can only imagine what negativity you filtered to post your response. Your ability to refrain from a reactionary response enables your blog to remain the wonderful place to visit its been to me for some time. Thanks!

  • My husband wanted to make a crib for our grandson when he was born but couldn’t think up something as wonderful as this. I love the nearness to the floor. My daughter climbed out of her standard size crib and fell to the floor. She was not injured but I put pillows around her bed(s) from then out until I knew she wouldn’t fall out of bed. Another thing that my mother used was an old style playpen as a sleep over for my children when they were little (now 30 & 33). My father had made some adaptions to it to make it safer for them.

    Another thing to parents with decks, there now are standards for the width between slats or spindles on your decks similar to cribs. Make sure yours meet the building codes to prevent injury to your children. Make sure your builder knows the laws before he starts. Don’t just ask him if he knows them, ask them what they are. My husband is a licensed builder and will not build a deck that is not legal.

  • I know that this is an old post, but I would like to know if you could tell me where to get the high density foam that you used for her crib? Thank you

  • I ADORE this!! Makes me want to have another baby( that would make 7) just to use this!!

  • I’m coming into this 4 years late, but I had to put in 2 cents – if you look back to before we had “safety regulations” for cribs, children did just as fine as they do now. So thank you ancestors for taking a chance and realizing that bumps and bruises and scrapes are a natural part of life. Let’s get back to basics!