In New England’s bleak mid-winter, thoughts are firmly fixed on the weather, and turn longingly to… mudrooms. You know, those little anterooms that serve as a transition from the outdoors or a garage into our living space. Mudrooms evolved to deal with New England’s fifth season, mud season, the damp, yucky time between the last real snowfall and spring’s lush lawns and blooming bulbs. They’re the first line of defense between the elements–including slush, sand and mud–and your lovely floors or carpets.
If you don’t have one, you probably want one, so read on. If you already have one, but it looks and functions as well as, well, a muddy room, read on. We can help you make it a welcoming area where you can shed the grime of the outdoors and transition easily into the interior of your home… or just give you some ideas.
Because so many New Englanders don’t use their front door in the winter, mudrooms are typically in a breezeway, often between the house and the garage, or a closed-in stoop overhang or add-on. Antique homes may have a butler’s pantry that’s ideal if there’s direct access outside.
In the design tradition of form following function, no matter the size, the mudroom must be functional—otherwise, it’s just another space collecting dirt and odds and ends. So you need to determine how your mudroom will work for you.
Depending on available space, a foyer, entryway or front hall can serve as the mudroom with treatments as simple as a Shaker bench or old church pew with a mat underneath for boots and a peg rail on the wall to hang coats. Or, it could be as elaborate as a combination laundry room, pet-washing station, locker room and potting shed. Think carefully as you make your wish list, but it must include a bench, banquette or something to sit on while you pull on and tug off wet boots.
Focus on flooring
Whatever you choose, make it low maintenance. Slate or stone floors are lovely and functional, plus, if you’re starting from the ground up, you can install radiant heat underneath. Tile is very easy to clean and there are color and design choices to go with any décor. If you prefer wood for a seamless transition into the next room, consider easy-care, lookalike laminate. A sturdy indoor/outdoor rug like Sisal visually warms up the area, and captures a lot of dirt. It’s also not slippery when wet. (One that can be hosed off after mud season is even better.)
“Cubbies” or individual areas for each family member are very popular, especially with kids who can learn to put their boots, shoes and jackets in their special slot.
Use under-bench space for rubber mats to protect the floor from wet footwear, skates & ski boots, or slide baskets or colorful bins underneath to hold gloves, hats and scarves in the winter, and baseball mitts, footballs, Frisbees and tennis balls in the summer.
Hooks need to be reachable for kids, and could also hold backpacks, tote bags or handbags, and reusable bags for shopping. Hanging straw or canvas totes can provide storage for lighter items and look nice too. You can even do a seasonal swap-out: display straw beach baskets and straw hats in the summer, and a collection of arty museum, public TV or bookstore canvas bags in the winter.
Beadboard wainscoting is an easy-to-wipe-clean, traditional look for Yankee homes, and provides a little insulation for breezeways. If your mud “room” is a narrow hallway, look up for more storage space, with shelves or cubbies or even short cabinets for out-of-season items and gear.
Space and budget permitting, for a one-and-done, overall coordinated look, consider a built-in cabinet/closet unit incorporating open and closed storage, and even counter space. Counter space could function as a re-potting place, or even a work station. Include a charging station for electronics. Make even more of the available space by making a narrow broom closet for brooms, mops, or an ironing board.
Put the “fun” in functional
Mudrooms may be humble and informal, but artistic touches personalize the space.
An antique umbrella stand can do double-duty holding hockey or lacrosse sticks or ski poles, broom or show shovel or roof rake if there’s no garage. For practical purposes, though, you may prefer a garbage bin that can be washed out.
- Repurpose old skis—find at the dump—with hooks, and hang horizontally on the wall.
- How about a fold-out drying rack—or a vertical slot to tuck one away—for wet mittens, scarves and hats?
- Display a collection of ball caps
- Color-code each kid’s space
- Stencil or outline sports gear on a pegboard to ensure gear gets put back in place.
- Make a funky hat and scarf holder by hanging a wooden cut-out of a moose head with pegs coming off of it.
If your “kids” have four paws, decorate accordingly, and have a place for old towels, dog sweaters etc. Hooks can hold leashes, harnesses and collars. A quick and unexpected art project could be framing Victorian-style silhouettes of your pets on the wall. Could you use a utility sink, or a pet-washing station for larger beasts?
See how much you can do with a humble little mudroom? Now get your wish list ready! Our design professionals can create the mudroom or entryway of your dreams just in time for mud season!