Mid-Century Modern housing designs vs children

Projectophile's Clare has a funny post about the hazards presented by beautiful mid-century modern home designs to children. My grandparents had a proper split-level MCM when I was a kid, and it's a wonder we survived. As Clare says, "I love open, flowing space as much as the next modern girl. But I know it would only be a matter of minutes before my kid flings himself off one of these deadly ledges..."

15 Mid-Century Modern Dream Homes that will Kill Your Children (via MeFi)


  1. Heh… my mom flipped herself off of the peaked roof of their perfectly sensible, humble, and traditional pier and beam non-dream home when she was a child.

    1.  Right!

      We lived in a split-level ranch home (where there’s a semi-submerged and a full submerged level). During that time, I:

      1. Dislocated my elbow while jumping off the top of the couch and bouncing off the cushion, skewed, so that I hit the ground elbow first.

      2. Hit my head on the bedpost of our brass bed while jumping on it.

      3. Hit my forehead on the edge of the ceiling beneath the first floor in the stairwell to the basement while pretending to be Superman.
      In perspective, we had been jumping and sliding down these same stairs for many years. This time I needed twelve stitches in my head. 30 minutes before, my mom promised to kill anyone who got caught jumping off the stairs. Luckily, I was granted a reprieve.

      4. Regularly climbed out of my window onto the roof over the porch, and up onto the main peak of the roof when my parents weren’t home.

      5. Also regularly, along with my brothers, placed bean bag chairs in the front yard, and jumped from their windows on the second level into these bean bag chairs.

      I don’t want to forget the time I almost put my eye out on the corner of the hearth at my grandparent’s single-level home while running through the den.

      So yeah…which came first, the chicken or the egg?

      1. We must be distantly related:

        “1. Dislocated my elbow while jumping off the top of the couch and bouncing off the cushion, skewed, so that I hit the ground elbow first.”

        Did the same thing but it was my shoulder because I sunk into the cushions instead of bouncing off of them.

  2. I’m skeptical.   Yes, you probably don’t want to bring a toddler up onto that roof, but once you get past five, I think the chances of a kid making a really bad mistake in that house are pretty slim, and not much different than any other house with windows.

    When I was a kid I jumped off a second-floor balcony, landed on my feet, and went down into a deep enough crouch taking the impact that I bit my own knee; I still have a scar.   The fall was about the same distance as from the roof of the house in the picture.

    Having said that, I’m sure there’s an Unhappy Hipsters posting idea in here somewhere.

    1. Apparently I rode a tricycle down the stairs from the second-floor balcony.  I was less than 5 at the time.

      I’ve also jumped off that same set of stairs when I was much older.  I don’t remember if I got injured or not, but I do remember landing on my feet which hurt alot so I stopped doing that.

      The stairs at the time lead directly to the yard, the grass field probably absorbed much of the energy.

      I think I’ll agree with your skeptism and toddler.

    2. The website’s having a bit of a joke, though those floating steps always make me nervous just looking at them, even in pictures.  Even though this particular house isn’t a particularly bad offender in this way, any time you have a drop where an adult could back up to it unaware is a disaster waiting to happen (I’ve got a room divided by a single step – it’s amazing how many times this has become a safety issue, despite warning people constantly about it). This particular house is wildly impractical in so many other ways, however…

      1. I’m pretty sure the house depicted above would not pass building inspection anywhere in the US, for multiple reasons.

          1. I dunno about US specifics, but the UK building regulations (part K) say any change of level has to be guarded by a barrier at least 900mm high (1100 for roofs), with no openings through which a 100mm sphere can pass.  Stairs must have a continuous handrail on at least one side, and a landing every 16 risers whose length is at least the width of the stair.  If the stair has open risers the treads must overlap by 16mm or more.

            It’s bits like that last detail that make you wonder, and then realise that it’s probably based on actual cases where someone has slipped and their foot has gone between the treads and snapped halfway off like an uncooked drumstick.

    3.  Have a motion detector that will play someone in a witch’s voice saying, “Yes, my pretty, jump . . ” ending with a cackle when someone approaches the edge . .

  3. While I can see the increased potential for risk…I also kind of think it doesn’t REALLY matter.

    I have vivid memories of my brothers and I climbing the stairs on the outside of the banister, fences, trees, a fascination with climbing small structures (restrooms in public parks, pavilions, houses, playground equipment, and proceeding to jump from them. We did a lot of “dangerous” stuff as kids (I didn’t get into “sword fights” with the biggest tree branches we could pick up, home-made bow and arrows, flamethrowers, pressurized air cannons from PVC, etc), but we survived to become college educated.

    Children are resilient. I think an adult (especially a drunken adult) is at more risk of injury to MCM architecture than a child is. 

    1. my co-worker’s step-aunt makes $75 every hour on the computer. She has been without work for 10 months but last month her check was $15661 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on  Fab99.c­om

    2. While the nanny-state bandwagon is tremendous fun to jump on I have to disagree with you.  Unguarded drops are just waiting for somebody to step backwards over and are just as dangerous to sober adults as drunken kids.  I don’t know about the US but any unprotected drop over 600mm (two feet or so) is illegal in any UK dwelling.


      Besides, any Evil Dead 3 fan will tell you that leaving a big hole in the floor can be hazardous to anyone’s health, even that of BRUCE CAMPBELL, the most resilient human ever to have lived.

      1. We can install the demon pit for you, but you’re going to need a standard railing on all exposed sides, with clear signs, visible from all directions, which read “Danger: Long Drop and Violent Possessed Individuals.”

      2. I used to climb dozens of meters up trees, wander a forest by myself, and in general do lots of mildly dangerous things.  Hell, to this day I still ski and go bike riding in the city.  Do these things come with some sort of danger?  Sure.  Is it a level of danger worth getting your panties in a twist about?  No.  The skiing and biking of ye later years is far more dangerous to my long term health than anything I did as a wild free range child.

        Accidents happen.  Covering everything in foam and railings to prevent a 1 in a million accident is a complete waste of time, money, and aesthetics.  It also fucks up your personality and helps make you a sniveling coward.

        Personally, I’m glad my parents let me run free.  As an adult, I have a sane perspective on danger, unlike some people who seem paralyzed by non-dangers while blithely ignoring real dangers.  I know my car and bike stand a solid chance of killing me and so I am careful with them.  I know that the terrorist, shark attacks, and serial killers stand almost no chance of killing me, and so slap them exactly bottom on my list of shit to worry about.  

        This nanny state crap breeds cowards with no real sense of what is a real danger and what is such a small danger it isn’t worth worrying about.

        1. I’m sure your parents did let you “run free” but did they choose to make your home inherently dangerous by putting a one-storey precipice in the living room?

          Shit, man; educating your kids about taking care to cross the road is one thing, suspending an axe above their bed because it looks rad is quite another.

          Signed, snivelling coward #94,334,671

          1. I had a “treehouse” which was really just a couple of open platforms in a tree with no railings.  I monkeyed up trees dozens of meters tall.  Both of those are easily more dangerous than a wee little fall at the edge off of the clearly area that is only a danger if you are dumb enough to jump off of it.

            If you looked at anyone of those houses and your inner danger detector started yammering incoherently, I mean no offense, but, um, yeah, you are kind of a coward.

            Honestly, people like you scare the living shit out of me.  You have a completely warped and utterly fucked sense of danger.  That isn’t bad for anyone but you inherently, but sadly, scared people vote and we get dumb shit like the PATRIOT Act, or (more harmlessly) building codes that don’t let you build awesome private residences.

            Slapping foam rubber on everything has done exactly zero to increase the average lifespan.  As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t measure the change in the number of deaths due a change, it was probably a fucking stupid change.  So, seatbelts?  That is a rational safety improvement.  Mandating that things a story up need safety rails?  Fuckin’ stupid.

    3. There is a huge difference between deliberately engaging in a risky activity, and living in a risky environment. You don’t spend 18 hours a day climbing trees and skiing downhill as a child, so if your odds are (random number) 0.5% per hour of having a bone-breaking accident climbing your tree, you’re looking at over 120 hours of risky playtime before you’re even looking at 50/50 odds. That’s 480 days of climbing a tree for 4 hours a day, and I doubt you did it every day straight.

      You spend a hell of a lot MORE time running around in your house than you ever do downhill skiing, biking, climbing trees, or any of the other athletic things kids do.

      Put it another way – most of the time running around you don’t trip and fall or slam into a wall, at least after the age of three or four or so. And by that age most kids can handle a sharp knife for modest periods of time.

      But if at their fourth birthday you gave a child a unsheathed sharp knife to carry in hand every moment of the day while they run around and do their usual every day activities, eventually that kid is going to stab themselves or someone else with it entirely by accident.

      1.  I understand your point, but I think I was more-so trying to comment on the fact that children will find a way to make even the most acceptable practices dangerous.

        Yes, an open drop from a roof/patio is dangerous if your children are not taught to exercise caution around it, just as a staircase is dangerous if you don’t teach your children not to run up and down it.

        Should we make sure our children attach a safety line do their climbing harness as the descend the stairs in case they trip? or should we warn them of the dangers of tripping and encourage they be careful on the stairs?

        1. You’re still missing the point.  Living rooms aren’t supposed to be dangerous.
          We’re the only species that radically adapts its environment to fit the needs of the individual.  If you choose to adapt your home – not your garden, mind, or your playground, but your home – to be pretty but inherently dangerous, so that you have to be pay attention every minute of every day not to tumble over the ten foot precipice mere inches from your couch, then you are denying yourself one of the great advantages of not being born a dog.

      2. Another difference is that kids usually climb the trees and/or the outside edges of the bannisters when they’re wide awake and alert. But kids still go up and down the stairs when they’re sleepy, or sick, too.

        1. I’ve been waiting for them to comment with their side. I assumed the lack of comments meant there weren’t any stories to tell.

      3. How much do you want to bet that someone who goes skiing 5 times a year is VASTLY more likely to get harmed from skiing than if his house doesn’t have enough rubber foam on every surface?

        Striking out at extremely small dangers and ignoring real ones is a waste of your time.  You are not going to throw  yourself off a porch even if it has no railings.  You do stand a fair chance of slipping in your bathtub.

        It isn’t that small dangers won’t kill you, it is that that it is the collection of small dangers that pose some marginal risk.  The chance of your house murdering you is fairly small, though measurable.  The chance of any one piece of your house (besides your shower) murdering you though is almost zero.  You have to add up all of the different ways your house can murder you to get a measurable (and still small) threat.  That means that going after the random small ways your house is going to kill you is a waste, but no one way is adding any significant danger, and you probably are not willing to wrap your house in bubble wrap to make it completely safe.

        Your house murdering you is a Black Swan style event, which means you are far better off being robust enough to survive the event, than to try and predict and defend against every single incredibly small but potentially lethal danger.  In other words, if you are afraid of your house killing you, you are better off making sure that your bones are strong so you can survive a fall, rather than wrapping the house up in bubble wrap.

  4. My older kid would turn it into a game, jumping from ever larger heights.  The younger one is more cautious.

    For all those people who say ‘we turned out OK so nothing is dangerous’, the fact of our own survival and lack of serious injury does not mean others did not survive (and are therefore unable to offer a different opinion).  Logical fallacy is not proof.

    That said, some of those homes look gorgeous, but I sure wouldn’t live there with my kids.  The point of being at home is to relax, not constantly worry that your toddler is about to stumble off a cliff.

    1. I agree. I’m neurotic enough as it is, and really fond of railings without large gaps. The constant low-level panic of this design and my adventurous kids would put me in an early grave, even if my youngest happened to bounce.  

  5. Our own 1939 Art Moderne house has some of the same problems.  marble is the slipperiest flooring material I can think of when wet.  Yet they used it in the bathrooms, and for steps to the stall shower.  It’s a skull fracture waiting to happen.  And who decided that a steeply pitched roof should have a big doorwall leading to it?  Keep that chained or expect falls.

    1. Modernism was about celebrating technology through form – ergonomics wasn’t just a non priority, it was a non entity.

  6. What happened to the whole “free-range-kids” meme? 

    Is this really more dangerous than having climbable trees around?

    Humans are actually hard-wired to have respect for, or fear of heights, babies won’t crawl off tables, kids understand that there is risk tied to vertical pretty much from day 1. Now they might be dumb enough to *jump* off many of these things, but that’s not something a railing can’t stop.  

    1.  Not only yes, but hell yes. Look up “visual cliff experiment”.

      Does anyone really think kids can’t or won’t find heights to explore, and to jump off if they’re determined to do so?

      I had a tilted tin roof outside my window, as a kid. It was one of my favorite places for napping during the summer (though I actually did rig a safety line, I don’t think I ever needed it). Our ape instincts still work just fine when we aren’t busy overriding them.

      Railings are one answer. Exclusion zones are another. My crowd learned some years ago that simply drawing a 10′ chalk circle around a charcoal grille and telling the kids that only adults who were actually cooking were allowed inside the circle was surprisingly effective, at surprisingly early ages. Below that age the kids should have been under supervision or on leash anyway; at the age where they started questioning it they were also reasonably competent to understand the hazard. I strongly suspect that a similar line — and demonstration that adults also respected the hazard — would be similarly effective.

      I’d be more concerned about whether there was significant risk under Attractive Nuisance laws. I suspect not unless you do something like setting up a tire swing which launched from the roof (which would be a fine idea, actually).

    2. Definitely don’t search youtube for ‘baby climbing off’ or ‘baby climbing out of’.

  7. Wow, a very real threat indeed, but “But I know it would only be a matter of minutes before my kid flings himself off one of these deadly ledges” is … well… wow. 
    Poor kids.

        1. We have a saying where I’m from, “Es cura tirandole a en serio” Which roughly translates to: I’m kidding but leaning towards being serious as well.

  8. I don’t really understand the child safety fetish currently terrorizing “parents” in this country. My scars are awesome because they’re examples of how I learned my limitations. I thought BoingBoing was kind of taking the pro “wandering child” stance…is this not the same?

    1. I, on the other hand, don’t understand how anyone could miss the word ‘funny’ in the post. Outrage addiction is a helluva disease.

      1.  I had a handle on my outrage addiction, but then my pills rolled off the goddamn rooftop tennis court down the hillside into the rocks.

  9. My God.  I clicked through, and I think the OP thinks her kids are as fragile as eggs.  None of those places would have been the least bit dangerous to me when I was a kid, and I would have loved them.

    1. It took me a while to realize that Cory wasn’t making fun of her. I’m still not sure he isn’t.

  10. Did I just read on Boing Boing a commentary advocating for Nanny building codes? 

    Perhaps we are all victims of the the Handrail Manufacturers of America lobby.

    1. Let’s all live in inflatable castles. 

      No wait, you could suffocate on the plastic. Let’s all live in jello and wear scuba gear at all times

      1. We could just live in vats with cables jacked into our senses, living in a safe virtual reality where we can’t get hurt and nothing bad ever happens while machines and computers carefully watch over our bodies.

        1. A good plan, but just in case, lets put handrails around the vats.

          This has been a PSA from your local Handrail Manufacturer of America Lodge.

  11. I agree with the rest here about the free-range kids. This isn’t an excessive danger like, say, a wall of knives. You can also temp install a handrail and then remove it later when the parent has gotten over their low opinion of their childrens’ intelligences.

    1. You can also temp install a handrail and then remove it later when the
      parent has gotten over their low opinion of their childrens’

      Or, remove it when the insurance company isn’t looking.

      Seriously, that’s just what me and the misses have done. We live in a MCM house, and despite the fact that no one has been injured in 53 years of continuous occupancy, the insurance company FREAKED OUT when we had an appraiser through as part of a re-finance. They required a handrail on a deck (about a six foot drop) for the refinancing to go through. We put one up, but the contractor who put it up understood that we’d probably want to be taking it down soon.

      And: Yes, I raised two kids in this house, and never once did one fall from the six foot, unprotected deck. Of course, we told them to be careful when they were back there.

    1. Perhaps Sunday mornings are a time when many are conditioned to take the most hilariously unlikely statements with solemn respect.

      “Children in mid-century modern homes are advised to wear flotation devices at all times.”


        Perhaps Sunday mornings are a time when many are conditioned to take the
        most hilariously unlikely statements with solemn respect.

        I see whut u did thar.

    2.  I was going to say that nobody read the actual article, which is hilarious, (rabid bats!) but even the comments there lack any awareness of the hu-man concept of humor.

    3. Normally I’d have to visit the airport to find this much “Whoosh!” in one place.

  12. It’s a good thing I don’t even like modern designs like these.

    I don’t even really understand what I’m seeing in that first picture.  You have the outside area above and a living space or so below.  Looks like it’d be nice in the right local, like at the beach, but anywhere that has bugs looks like it would suck.  Not to mention what happens when it storms?  Are there some roll down windows or something?

    1.  Not just you. If I were a kid stuck in one of these sterile collections of rectangles, I’d hoy meself off the top of it quick-smart too.

    1. On the other hand, one concussion (fall from the jungle gym) as a child gave my wife some inter-brain scar tissue which eventually resulted in epilepsy. It is a matter of luck.

  13. Meh. The world is fraught with danger and it is survival of the fittest.

    If a first-world rich-kid can’t survive due to a fall from a balcony / roof / staircase after the age of 3… well maybe there were some undesirable traits with the dame or the buck.

    No farmer would keep breeding sheep that threw themselves from cliffs.

  14. I am sorry, but if your kids do not have a lick of commonsense, or have not been taught how to deal with the trials and tribulations of life, who is to blame?

  15. I think what the author is joking about is, isn’t it funny in pursuit of style that we make these incredibly dangerous houses that would kill our kids in a second. But the author is not joking about the houses actually being dangerous, which under the layer of jokes they seem to earnestly believe. Which is why, despite having a sense of humor, I’m all, yawn.

  16. All of these houses look terrifying to me. My 3-year-old would probably be fine, she has a pretty reasonable fear level about these things. I, on the other hand, have to give myself a pep talk before getting onto an elevator with glass walls. I pretty much avoid floating stairs altogether.

    1. Due to prenatal brain damage, I spent much of my childhood pitching head-first down perfectly normal sensible carpeted and railing-ed stairs. I’m right with you on the phobia, with a light salting of “and I’m still a bit of a klutz”. You wouldn’t catch me in those houses for love nor money.

      They are very pretty though, and a couple of more-co-ordinated-than-I childfree adults would probably be quite happy in one of them. I’d install some glass-and-banister barriers if I had either housepets or children; if you can’t trust an adult cat not to randomly leap off a 4th floor balcony, I’m not crediting a 6 year old with never having that sort of whimsical thought enter their head. Put something in the way to slow them down long enough for the brains to re-assert themselves.

  17. It sounds like some folks posting here have a strong Libertarian inclination – let architects and builders do as they will, and to hell with codes. I can’t agree with this, and if you think it through, I think you’ll change your mind too.

    We have building codes for good reasons.  If you want to see what happens without them, just look at the disasters that have happened in nations that either don’t have codes or don’t enforce them. 

    Builders cut corners to maximize their profit.  As a result, a bridge built with inferior steel collapses and sends dozens of motorists into a river to drown.  A fire breaks out in a club and and kills hundreds.  A poorly designed gas line causes an explosion that kills a homeowner.  Improperly flameproofed subway upholstery turns a minor incident into a deadly conflagration. 

    I have read of and in some cases witnessed these tragedies in other countries where codes weren’t taken seriously or enforced.  Some of it even happens here.  I can tell you that the aftermath isn’t pretty.  I don’t think you really want this. 

    Nobody can make any building 100% safe.  You can’t eliminate all danger, nor should you try.  However, codes can and should guide sensible building and remodeling practices that minimize the hazards.  In effect, they can and should protect citizens from corporate fat-cat profiteers who would otherwise do things as cheaply as possible, safety be damned.

    You survived your falls from trees.  Great!  But the discussion is one-sided.  I don’t think we’ll be hearing from the ones who didn’t survive.

    I’m with you on the notion that kids today are too sheltered, too fearful, too conditioned to authoritarian overseers.  However, it’s not sensible and reasonable to build an open living area several feet above ground level with no railings at the edge.  Building codes *should* have prohibited that kind of foolhardy design then, and damnwell should now.

    1.  I think there might be a difference between a builder “cutting corners” or intentionally breaking code to finish a job faster and the idea that mid century modern houses sometimes have “dangerous” features in their design (such as drops without railings).

      leaving off the railing on a staircase for aesthetics isn’t going to cause the staircase to be less structurally stable. It may cause an individual to trip and fall over the edge and injure themselves.

    2. It sounds like some folks posting here have a strong Libertarian inclination

      Is that a euphemism for having a stick up the ass? Apparently, the free hand of the market has become uncomfortably wedged in some people’s sensitive parts.

  18.   If this weren’t a joke, it would be seriously missing the point. Why whine about houses that likely don’t have kids in them when cps in your state likely has serious funding issues.

  19. I’m trying to parse the design of the house above. Is the lower level just enclosed in glass that I’m not seeing reflections from, or is it really open to the elements?

  20. Mark Twain – “Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” I honesty don’t know why all designs everywhere must be safe for ‘the children.’ Think of ‘the children.’ I supposed the one exception would be the design of firearms, making them safer for ‘the children’ would be a delightful excuse to approach the regulation of firearms…. Wait I got turned around. Keep making houses like this. The bechildrened don’t have to buy them. 

  21. Once saw a girl die from sliding off the hood of a car she was sitting on. The car was going about 5mph in a parking lot. Sure kids are squishy, but squishy kid or hard adult skull, a head injury is a head injury. And yes, your drunken adult friends and children under 5 are probably at the highest risk from this house design. The drop off the roof could probably be mostly mitigated with some of that rubber “bark chips” material covered with soft sod. But someone who accidentally goes off the roof will have less of a chance to try and land properly. You don’t have a large tail to help rotate your body while falling. And I have yet to meet someone who is permanently paralyzed and said “damn that stupid fall was worth it”. All that aside, I do love that house design and would love to live in it.

  22. Wow the OP really hit a nerve.  People get really sniffy when others express caution about the relative safety of a place for children.

    As far as I’m concerned, adults can do whatever they like if it does not harm others.  Want to sleep on a hammock suspended over a bunch of rusty spikes?  Go right ahead. 

    But if I look at the hammock over the spikes in the guest room and decide maybe my kids won’t be sleeping there, don’t get all sniffy about it.

    There is a reason children are not called ‘adults’.  It is because they have not yet accumulated the wisdom to function as adults.  It is up to the parents to help the kids accumulate that wisdom.  Last summer I couldn’t work in my yard much because I could never turn my back on my 2 year old – every time I did he would beeline for the road, and he did not ‘get’ the hazard of cars.  This year he understands more and listens more – and the back fence is getting fixed.

    My 8 year old has climbed trees since forever.  I don’t worry about it much, but when he tries to climb the cliff at the end of the street, which overhangs many sharp edged rocks, I tell him to stop because he doesn’t get the risk/reward of such dangerous climbing.  He is only 8, he has much larger range and boundaries then most 8 year olds, but he does have boundaries.

    When I look at those houses I think that my kids would probably be fine, but it would be stressful as hell with young kids because they don’t always understand the danger. Instead of enjoying my glass of wine on that attractive rooftop terrace I would be subconsciously tracking the activities and whereabouts of my kids all the time – something that would not be an issue with a railing (as I have on my own 2nd floor deck).

    tldr: kids boundaries and understanding grow with time – the artchitecture in question assumes mature awareness of risk and rewards, which is fine, but the poster was viewing it through the lens of a more nuanced awareness of kids and their limitations as they grow.  The rest of you need to relax a bit and get over yourselves.

  23. I don’t understand how the safety issue only relates to children. If I rig an aerial work platform more than 6 feet off the ground it has to have a railing – or else every person working on it has to be wearing an approved harness and clipped in. This is the law, but it’s also common sense. Raised platforms without railings are unsafe places for adults . . . duh. People trip, people get tired or just plain clumsy. Let alone children. Living around these kinds of drops just seems foolhardy . . . no matter your age.

  24. Ignoring the safety questions for a moment… jeez, the walls of windows, the lines of the spaces and the materials used were interesting to look at.  I’m reminded why I stopped attending the Parade of Homes of Suburbia.  So boring!  And coincidentally, those were homes with little chance of children hurting themselves.

    1.  I’d like to think it is possible to build interesting and attractive homes that are also not dangerous.

      1. Me too, but for now builders seem to be going for building them as cheaply as possible, while maximizing their profit… where new homes are still being built, that is.

  25. annoying story about annoying 20 somethings worrying about their precious snowflake crotch-fruit. hint: we don’t care about your germ infested brats. move along, nothing to see here…

  26. Hilarious piece!! Thanks for the link…best laugh I’ve had all day.
    By the by…apparently a few people are missing a ‘humour gene’.

  27. Mid-century Modern, celebrating the brief moment before it got all cheap and oppressive.

  28. I grew up in a house with a fairly low deck with no railings… 3-4 feet I guess.  Not out of any plan, my parents just never got around to building the railing until they were trying to sell the place a decade and a half later, heh.  Still 3-4 feet falling onto grass… you are probably going to be ok.

    And, yea I had the usual handful of close calls to serious injury as a kid.  Don’t remember railings saving me from any of them… but if I had just run into a railing I doubt I would remember it.  

    I know I have on at least two occasions grabbed a railing and prevented a serious fall down the stairs as an adult… including one time where there was a worrying bit of 3/4″ steel pipe sticking up out of the ground about where I would have landed.

    I also know someone who failed the railing grab roll once and ended up with a badly shattered jaw and easily could have died.

    Really I would guess that the railing-less and otherwise just weird stairs are more dangerous than the railing-less or lightly railed edged platforms.  Stairs are, I think, a major source of household injuries.  Doesn’t take much distraction to make you start falling down them and without proper railings and landings the hit can get hard quick.

  29. Frank Lloyd Wright’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies:
    “A is for Anna, who fell down the stairs
     B is for Basil, who also fell down the stairs”

    This is not to be confused with Walter Gropius’ work of the same name. His deaths are mostly due to improper concrete mixes, or roof collapse due to excessive snowfall.

    1. C is for Cecil, who also fell down the stairs,
      D is for David, who’s fall was broken by Amy, Basil, and Cecil.

  30. I guess this was supposed to be funny? But it didn’t seem like in the satirical way, making fun of our safety fetish. So, I say not funny.

    I think people should read a book called “The Continuum Concept” about our cultural ideas of safety and childrearing. As others have pointed out, we’re hardwired not to plunge to our deaths, and a lot of it is conditioning. When we are raised protected from every potential threat, we learn little about how to protect ourselves from real dangers. There are places in the world where toddlers walk on the edge of cliffs and the survival rate is pretty high. I’d be happy to raise my kids in a house like that. It would require more vigilance at certain times, but I think the flipside of our childproof-everything approach is that it causes us to be too lax in paying attention to kids a lot of the time. Part of the continuum concept is that kids learn how to be safe because they’re always doing things *with* adults — babies are in slings or on a hip, little kids run around with bigger kids, etc.

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