After doing quite a bit of research on cribs, I decided to move forward with the "Montessori bed" (a mattress, on the floor, with no rails).
I thought the concept was a good one (although it terrifies some people I know). The child has full visibility and complete freedom of movement. When the child wakes up, she can amuse herself by exploring her room or playing with her toys. This approach is supposed to foster independence and creativity in the child.
As the child gets older, you slowly increase the distance between the bed and the floor.
Note: The key to "Montessori bed" success is your ability to childproof.