The Modern Mudroom: Inviting Organization
Q&A With Byggmeister Architect Doug Ruther
Most traditional New England homes have two entrances: the formal entryway for guests, and the side door for family members and, most importantly, their stuff. One sets the scene for a lovely first impression. The other is often the scene of disorganized crime. While the modern-day mudroom should contain and conceal all that daily debris, it commonly morphs into an inside-out closet. Byggmeister architect Doug Ruther recently tackled this problem as part of larger renovation in Wellesley by creating an elegant entryway that is as useful to the family of five as it is inviting to their friends. The secret is behind closed doors.
This does not appear to be your typical mudroom. What were the design goals?
The design evolved out of a change of address actually. The house is on a corner lot with the front door facing a busy main street. The renovation gave the homeowners the opportunity to redo the entry on the quieter street side and change the address to that street. After making that decision, we knew that the informal side was going to become the room that people would use for entry, so we didn't want it to feel like you were coming through someone's mudroom.
They have three children, right? Where on Earth is all the stuff?
We put all the storage behind closed doors. There is a double-door walk-in closet on the left that houses cubbies, one for each child. Each cubby has hooks and space underneath for shoes. You have to use hooks for kids. Hangers don't work because if it's difficult, they won't put their things away themselves. The adults have another closet with a single door on the right. That one has both hooks and hangers.
Is there more storage in the bench?
Yes. That has drawers that are perfect for hats and mittens, seasonal kind of things. Benches should always do double duty either with drawers or space underneath for shoes. Again, it's all about creating designated places for things and thinking about transitions.
Coming and going—there is a stairway that leads to the basement playroom right there, so the kids and their friends can come through the door, take off their shoes and go straight downstairs without traipsing through the house. The goal with any entryway storage and flow is to lessen the stress of transitioning in and out, especially in winter around here when the children have all those clothes coming on and off. It's workable. Everyone can find things.
This entryway was part of an addition with a large footprint, what about creating a mudroom when you don't have that much space?
Sometimes I've used kitchen cabinets that are designed for pantries. They are 24 inches deep, so you can hang coats. You can use a line of hooks, but make sure they look nice and organized in a way that doesn't overwhelm the space. Look for a bench that is open below for shoes. Anything that is more like furniture works well because it is visually appealing and useful. And, look at how you use your kitchen and dining room because maybe there is a way to create a mudroom. If you don't use your dining room, that's a good place to break into, expand the kitchen and build a mudroom.
What are the most common mudroom design mistakes?
The spaces are too small, or they don't have things like drop-key functionality, meaning a place to plop down keys and mail when you come in, or a bulletin board space. You really have to think about congestion in a mudroom or any entryway. If you have a husband, wife and two kids you end up with four people trying to get in and out. If opening the closet door prevents you from opening the outside door or moving into the room, that's a problem.
How about finishes like flooring?
Tile is a really good floor choice because there is always a lot of water coming in. When considering tile, porcelain is actually more durable than stone and you have more selection. Stone is still a good choice, though you don't want to pick one that is too porous and stains easily. If you have wood, rugs can absorb the water.
What is one of the more interesting mudroom features you've designed?
One client had a son and a dad who were both really into hockey. We put an exhaust fan in the mudroom because that gear can get really stinky. That room had to be vented!
How do these rooms stand the test of time once kids have grown?
That's the nice thing about closet systems, which I highly recommend. They can be rearranged and cubby shelving and hooks can be adjustable too. But, the mudroom function doesn't go away when it's just the wife and husband. You still have people coming and going even though the demands lessen as the kids age. Benches are important for little ones putting boots on, and as we get older, we'll need them for getting our own boots on.
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