Mud rooms have been a staple of large houses, especially in climates with plenty of rain and snow. But increasingly, a mud room has become a design essential even for apartment dwellers and those with small houses.
"Just like the kitchen has become so central to how everybody uses their home and lives their lives, a mud room has become an expectation," says designer Vern Yip, an HGTV host and author of the new book Vern Yip's Design Wise, published by Running Press.
Interior designer Bennett Leifer agrees and often helps clients with New York apartments create a proper mud room. "People try and find space where they can do that, whether they have a large family or whether it's just for themselves," Leifer says.
Some tips for designing a functional, durable and even stylish mud room, even in the smallest of houses.
Analyze how you really come and go
"Think about how your family uses the space," Yip says, and be honest about how much clutter you're likely to create. People often want to see themselves as neater than they are, which leads them to create a mud-room entrance that soon becomes chaotic.
Will everyone take their shoes off there each day, for instance, or only when they're wet or muddy?
"We run an Asian household," Yip says. "Take off your shoes when you come in the door."
So his mud room includes ample shoe storage, plus a spot to sit while putting shoes on.
Lots of sports equipment means more large storage. And those who'll want to charge the whole family's digital devices for easy grabbing when everyone leaves the house in the morning should put in counter space or shelves with plenty of power strips or electrical outlets nearby.
In your design, Yip advises, include about 10 per cent to 15 per cent more storage than you expect to need.
Your best drop zone
The mud room is your daily "drop zone," says designer Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for the Home Depot. So choose the mix of closed storage, hooks, shelves and countertops that serves your needs.
Custom, built-in storage is popular in mud rooms, but there are also many units available in a range of styles and prices.
Leifer points out that built-ins can work well in small or awkward spaces. He's seen Manhattan apartment dwellers build around a garbage chute or wall soffit in the service entrance to turn that space into a mud room. Built-ins also offer stability: Unlike freestanding furniture, they can't be knocked over by kids rushing by with backpacks.
Open lockers and cubbies are popular, mimicking the style of an athletic locker room, but Yip reminds clients that closed storage and hooks tucked away behind doors will help keep your mud room from looking cluttered.
However you design your storage, delineate one vertical space for each family member.
Mud rooms should be lit as if they're kitchens, with plenty of overhead and task light, Fishburne says. This may be the first place a skinned knee gets attention, or the last place searched at night for a missing textbook. And because you might come home on dark fall and winter nights, the mud room's a great place to have at least one light on a timer.
Infusing your style
Other items that can "visually soften the space" and express your style include artwork (safely framed) and window treatments that don't extend to the floor, Yip says.
Leifer adds flooring to that list: Mud rooms need durable, water-friendly flooring, but are great places to try bold colours or favourite patterns. He suggests FLOR carpet squares, which come in a range of designs and are easily washable or replaceable, or woven vinyl floor covering from the Swedish company Bolon.
And don't forget the ceiling: Consider dreamy cloud wallpaper or other whimsical styles, Leifer says, or go sophisticated with a high-end wall covering from Cole and Sons. The cost may be surprisingly reasonable if your mud room isn't large.
Will this be a family communication centre? If so, include cork boards or magnetic boards, and perhaps a countertop or small desk where you can fill out school forms.
One wall can be enough
If you don't have a mud room or foyer space, these ideas can be pared down into an area just a few feet wide along one wall.
Start by delineating that section of wall visually with paint, wallpaper or tile. Or add board-and-batten paneling halfway up the wall, Fishburne says.
Once the area is marked, assign a narrow space within it for each family member. Add hooks, and a bench with cubbies or baskets underneath.
Above, add a shelving unit with additional cubbies. Then hang a rectangle of galvanized steel (make sure it's magnetized) for each person to tack up items, plus a bit of chalkboard or white-board paint around it for jotting down notes or appointments.