Our little Lucy has been a speedy crawler for a long time now, but a week before her first birthday, she decided that it was time for her to walk! She chooses her steps selectively and is still quicker to crawl, but with her newfound sense of mobility she’s also discovered that climbing the staircase (with very close supervision) is her very favorite activity. In addition, she tends to leave a 14 foot ring of food crumbs around her high chair during mealtime, which is just a little too tempting for our furry family members – whom she also takes great joy in feeding food that was meant for her!
All this to say, we knew it was time to install a few gates around the house to keep both Lucy from quickly ending up near the stairs and to keep the dogs away while we eat together as a (human) family. (But don’t worry, Jack and CC are the quintessential vacuums, speedily slurping up any mushy remnants that have fallen to the rug.)
Baby/dog gates can be a tricky thing. Functionality often takes priority over form, which of course, but they can leave a lot to be desired in the style department. We’ve DIY’d a few gates in the past – like the ones in the OTAT dog adoption center, our friend Kiira’s home, and our own side yard – but the layout of our current home made the use of traditional gates (no matter how custom) a challenge. We searched high and low for the perfect solution, but in the end, we ended up finding a version that functions much like a retractable roller curtain. We also liked that this gate rolls out of the way when not in use, so while the roll and hooks will always be visible, the durable ‘gate’ fabric is out of the way when not necessary. This gate has been a game changer for us and we’ve even ordered a couple more to place elsewhere in the house. Gates everywhere!
Like most purchases we make online, we’re sure to read the reviews, and the reviews on this one? Well, they’re not stellar, but upon further digging, the majority of the negative comments are due to a fundamental misunderstand of how the gate works. There is a small round button at the top of the main portion of the gate that must be pushed in and turned 90 degrees in order for the gate to ‘release’. Once the button is turned and therefore released, the gate will roll out smoothly until it is placed on the ‘hook’ end. The gate then retracts a bit (similar to the function of a seat belt) and locks into place. Many of the negative reviews mention that the dial must be held with one hand while the gate is extended with the other, but this is simply not the case, and we’ve found the gate easy to use and very intuitive once used a few times.
After the initial test drive, we’ve also found these gates to be incredibly durable! CC decided to give the kitchen gate the ol’ flying hippo test and took a bumbling leap over it when a friend came to visit. With a complete and utter lack of grace, she barely made it over the top and landed unfazed on her goofy snout. Jack wouldn’t dare risk embarrassing himself as CC often does, so beyond that one incident, the dogs have stayed in the areas that we’ve intended after a few lessons where they were rewarded handsomely with treats.
Several days after trying our retractable gate in the kitchen during mealtimes, we ordered another to install at the landing at the top of the stairs. We mounted this on on the far side of the landing, which keeps the pups from being able to see down through the front door and to the sidewalk so they don’t bark every time our sweet mail lady (or a neighbor or another dog or, or, or!) comes by.
Having the gate on the small landing around the corner from stairs also keeps us from having to balance precariously on the top step while we open and close the gate. Old house stairs can be steep!
Although DIY was our first thought as we dove into this search, we’re happy to report that the retractable gate solution works really well for our family and the layout of our home. And although you can see the mechanism when rolled away, we’ve found that in the spaces where we need them, it’s more convenient than a door that needs to swing out of the way when not in use.
During our deep dive into all things baby-and-pet-gate, we also found a variety of gates we think would look great in any home, and we’ve rounded those up for you, below! As a bonus, several of these gates are from custom sellers that can customize shapes, sizes and finishes to meet your needs.
21 Baby Gates That Look Good Doing Their Thing