This article is from the Baby Proofing FAQ, by Sandra Smith, email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
We have a free-standing fireplace in the middle of our living room (we
didn't design the layout!). It's our primary source of heat, and we
have a 3yr old and a 19 mo old, so we need pretty good child-proofing.
We use a big child-gate -- I think they're also called portable
playyards. It's one of those accordian things made out of panels; each
panel about 3 ft long, 18 ft long total. We wrap it all the way
I bought it at a garage sale for $5. I've seen them in stores
(ToysRUs, baby stores) and catalogs for alot more -- about $60-$70.
The other similar situtation we had was with the coffee table -- we
decided it's an essential piece of furniture, but it's also the source
of alot of bumps. When my son was learning to walk, I made a pad out
of foam rubber covered with cloth. It wrapped all the way around the
table and fastened with velcro. Unfortunately we took it off when he
seemed steady on his feet, and didn't put it back on for the 2nd child
until AFTER she ran into it with enough force to require 4 stitches.
The pad isn't pretty, but neither were the stitches!