The dirt stops here: 5 ways mudrooms can shine
These utilitarian rooms can be more than just a spot to shed your gear and gunk. They also can serve as the well-organized nerve center of a home.
The perfect home is like a well-oiled machine. Dishes are tidily placed in the dishwasher after use. Soiled clothes are promptly deposited into sorted hampers. Conscientious children stow books and papers in well-vacuumed bedrooms, and muddy boots are carefully cleaned on the porch and then hurried into the master closet.
But for mere mortals, this familial perfection is hard to come by. Just staying on top of all the daily tasks can be a challenge, without accounting for the random piles of backpacks, sports equipment, sunglasses, keys, camp-registration forms, handbags, junk mail and cat food.
The question is: Where is all this stuff supposed to go?
For some families, the saving grace is a full-fledged mudroom that lives up to the adage "a place for everything and everything in its place." Although mudrooms once might have been just a coat hook and a console by the back door, these spaces are being expanded, heated, customized and combined with other utilitarian rooms. (Bing Cube: Browse images of mudrooms)
Here are five ways that organization-savvy homeowners and builders are making the humble mudroom one of new homes' hottest must-haves.
1. Mudroom as nerve center
Greg Wiedemann, principal of Wiedemann Architects in Bethesda, Md., has designed several custom mudrooms for his clients. One of his favorite concepts combines a "mom office" with the mudroom, which helps the space serve as catch-all, message center and office.
Article continues below
"It's the central space where all of the day-to-day stuff can be managed with the least amount of stress and clutter," he says.
For one shingle-style home in Bethesda, Wiedemann placed the mudroom on the side of the house, steps from the driveway. Painted lockers and open shelves are within reach of a cherry-topped desk with built-in cubbies for the printer, paper-shredder and recycling bin.
"The owners pick up their mail from the mail slot, and then they sort it here," Wiedemann says.
Just below a cherry bench are five pullout drawers, roomy enough for multiple pairs of shoes. Above the desk is a message board for the family and additional storage for mom to keep track of field-trip permission forms, doctor appointments and ballet recitals.
2. Mudroom as laundry room
Traditionally, laundries have been tucked out of sight, often in the recesses of unfinished basements. But some savvy builders are placing laundry rooms where they should have been all along: close to the bedrooms.
- MSN Lifestyle: Disastrous rooms transformed
Luxury builder Gary Knight, owner of Knight Construction Design Inc. in Chanhassen, Minn., took that idea a step further when he reconfigured a rambler in Edina, Minn. Knight combined the mudroom and laundry room, just off the home's back door and near the main-floor bedrooms. This offered his clients the perfect foil to Minnesota's snowy winters — a space to dump their winter trappings and rinse off snow and dirt-packed boots, while stowing their book bags, helmets and other daily essentials.
3. Heated floors
The mudroom is not the place for pristine white tiles or light-colored carpeting — maybe not carpeting of any kind. Tough, impermeable materials such as slate and dark-colored tile are best, covered with an area rug that is not too precious to be pitched in the wash.
Chelsea Bandy, principal at Chelsea+Remy Design in Austin, Texas, says she always encourages her clients to use in-floor radiant-heating technology in the mudroom, even in Texas.
Explore our Design Center
"The heat keeps everything nice and dry, and it makes the room less of a pain to clean," she says, adding that in-floor heating in such “transitional” spaces helps to save on energy costs.
She also says she favors placing drains in the floor so mopping up is quick, quick, quick.
4. Mudroom as pet central
With its durable flooring and utilitarian persona, the mudroom can be a practical place to store pet provisions, such as medication, toys, food, food bowls and litter boxes.
For one mudroom, Bandy designed a special cabinet with deep, roll-out bins for pet food. She also created a tiled dog wash with a handheld sprayer hanging low on the wall.
"It's important that any dog wash has its own corner with walls, because dogs will shake the water everywhere," she says.
5. Smart cabinetry
What makes a mudroom exceptional is the level of customization. Master cabinetmaker John Lomas, principal at Cotswold Furniture Makers in Stowe, Vt., documents not only the number of people in the household but also all of their activities, from badminton to ballet, that generate stuff.
For one ski-loving family, Lomas designed a cabinet to hold ski poles with additional cubbies for helmets and goggles. Another vertical cabinet opened to pullout trays holding each family member's ski boots, he says.
Bandy says she is a proponent of built-in charging stations for mobile devices and hidden cubbies for handbags, as well as deep, pullout bins housing inexpensive plastic trash cans.
"You can use these for separating your recycling," she says, "but a lot of my clients use them to store things for errands, like library books or clothes for Goodwill."
With so many options, the humble mudroom could be well on its way to becoming the most indispensable room.
Alyssa Ford is an architecture and interior-design writer. She lives in Minneapolis. SwitchYard Media is a multimedia journalism studio in Seattle.