Organizational Bliss: Make Way for the Mudroom

blue_roomYes, neat-nicks, there is nirvana. It’s called the mudroom. Here, you can shed the dirt and baggage of the day and enter the house ready to relax and unwind. Having a mudroom means no muddy footprints in the house, and always knowing where you left the keys the night before. Whether it’s the size of a short hallway or large enough to accommodate utility sinks and laundry appliances, the mudroom can help keep your home clean and your family organized.

Step inside and this room, one of the hardest working rooms in the house, will catch the mud-encrusted shoes, wet coats, backpacks and keys so owners can enter the house unencumbered. “It keeps all of the clutter out of the living space,” says Heidi Hunt, owner of Designs by Heidi. Having recently added a mudroom to her home, she says it’s great for husbands coming in from lawn work and boisterous kids who tend to drop everything at the door when they come in.

House hunters will be happy to learn that mudrooms will be increasingly prevalent in new home construction. Builders expect them to become a standard in new homes because of their usefulness.

Ideally mudrooms are nestled just inside the doorway that the family uses most often. Homeowners today are using the spaces near their garage entryways, side doors, basement doors and back doors as places to locate their mudrooms.

But if you don’t already have a designated mudroom, Gary Schmincke and Jay Coulson, co-owners of Wellington Builders Inc., say a mudroom can be established in as little as a 5- by 8-foot space. Those with the luxury of space can spread things out to 8 by 12 feet or more. Regardless, when you think bigger, you want to add to the length, not width, says Schmincke. Wall space, not floor space, is the most important aspect of a mudroom. With your location and space set aside, look around and determine exactly what you will ask the room to do.

wide_mudConsider your lifestyle and family. Active lifestyles, for example, may require mudrooms with hanging bike racks and specialized storage for sports equipment; animal lovers may want utility sinks, grooming tables and pet beds, while children need washable baskets, lots of hooks, and a designated place for each child’s belongings. Your needs, combined with what the house can accommodate, will determine what kind of space you need to set aside. Hunt, for example, needed to keep her family organized, which meant putting her mudroom at the basement entrance, using bins as catchalls and installing heavy-duty wall hooks.

“It helps me find things in the mornings,” says Hunt, who believes that if you don’t have a garage, a mudroom is an absolute necessity.

The mudroom is the most customizable room in the home, says Schmincke. It can organize the kids, hold your spring gardening gear, become a laundry room, and even offer expanded pantry space. So, what do you need from your mudroom?

“This is more than just a place to walk in and drop your keys,” says Schmincke—so dream big. Some clients of Wellington Builders Inc. are putting utility sinks in mudrooms so they can bring the dog in and wash it off before entering the house. Others are requesting cabinets with countertops and wall-mounted ironing boards. Some people want them fully wired so the room acts as a docking station for cell phones, laptops and other devices that they need the next day. Rooms outfitted with washing machines and dryers that can quickly accept muddy and wet clothes are the norm.

And of course the one thing most often asked of a mudroom is to keep the children organized. Coulson and Schmincke each have mudrooms at their homes and have lockers assigned to each child so they know where to look for their belongings.

“The locker thing is cool; everything is right there,” says Schmincke, who also put in lockers for himself and his wife.

When it comes to children, Hunt stresses “washable” and “sturdy.” Whether you use bins or buckets, choose materials you can wash. Other important considerations? Make sure they have a bench to sit on, and hooks that can withstand the daily abuse of heavy backpacks and the constant flurry of comings and goings. Kids do best, she says, when there is a designated space for everything. Of course a mudroom can continually evolve with your family and its changing needs, says Hunt. The next thing she would love to add is a sink.

But before putting any mudroom to work, you do need to protect it. That means skipping the carpet, which can’t stand up to the demands of the room. Tile is always the first choice for mudrooms because it’s easy to clean and won’t warp or tear under the pressure. Next, protect the walls with washable or eggshell paint. You need to be able to clean the walls, because everyone will be bumping up against them. If you have the ability to go the extra mile, putting in a hose spigot and a floor drain so that you can rinse dirt down the drain makes cleaning a cinch.

After that, sit back and enjoy spring’s showers and blooms knowing that the mud outside won’t get past your mudroom.

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