The entrance to your house – or your mud room if you’re lucky enough to have one – does a tough job.
It has to greet you and your guests with an inviting appearance. It also needs to withstand whatever weather you’re out and about – and have a place to stash the mounds of coats, boots, hats, and umbrellas that you take with you in winter.
“Especially in snow-covered climates, it is mandatory to have a transition point between outside and inside,” said Jean Stoffer, interior designer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While functionality is paramount, she added, “It’s always possible to make it look good too.”
It’s not easy to design a space that isn’t overwhelmed by all of these paraphernalia. But there are plenty of tricks that can help, even when dealing with a tiny hallway that leads into an apartment.
“Commitment to organizational and storage solutions,” said Sarah Richardson, Toronto-based interior designer and TV and YouTube personality, is particularly important in a small space.
“I’m the kind of person who needs to have a place for everything and find a place for everything,” said Ms. Richardson, whose own filthy room holds a family’s outerwear and accessories, from ski boots to flip flops. “There’s just so much equipment out there.”
Ms. Stoffer, Ms. Richardson, and other designers gave advice on designing an entrance that keeps the chaos at bay.
Assess your needs
“When we’re designing a project, everyone is very interested in talking about bedrooms and bathrooms, and open floor plans and shared spaces, but sometimes they overlook the dirty room,” said Rafe Churchill, partner at the architecture and design firm Hendricks Churchill New Offices York and Sharon, Conn. “So that’s what we always bring into the discussion.”
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, he said. Do you have children who need access to low cabinets and hooks? Do you need to store sports equipment? Do you have a shoe collection that requires a wall of cubbies? Do you have pets? “Sometimes people want an area that the dog can sleep in,” Churchill said.
Thinking about how you can realistically use storage space before making changes can help avoid disappointment later.
Start with the floor
When renovating or replacing the floor in an entrance area, choose a durable material that will age gracefully.
Ms. Stoffer is interested in porcelain tiles because they are impermeable to the elements. “And now porcelain can look like almost anything,” she said, including wood and natural stone.
She particularly likes porcelain tiles with graphic patterns similar to those on encaustic cement tiles. “I would never recommend cement tiles in a mud room,” she said because they tend to show wear and tear. And few people can tell the difference.
Ms. Richardson prefers natural stone, but chooses hard-wearing types such as granite, slate, and some marble. “A sanded finish as opposed to a polished finish makes it less slippery,” she said, not showing scratches as easily.
Hendricks Churchill also used brick, a tough material that improves in appearance with age. Whichever material you choose, Mr. Churchill recommended adding radiant heating to the floor with an electric heating mat. “Radiant heat melts snow and ice and dries out any water,” he said.
Add a mat or rug (or both)
Mats and carpets are not only inviting, they also contain dirt, snow and water. And two are sometimes better than one.
Apr. 2, 2021, 9:45 am ET
Birgitte Pearce, an interior designer in Montclair, New Jersey, sometimes uses a two-carpet setup to scrub the soles of shoes and boots when people come home.
First, she installs a mat or rug in an abrasive material right next to the door. “We suggest either Chilewich mats, which are very rough in texture and can hold a lot of material, or Waterhog mats from LL Bean,” she said. Or when renovating a home, she leaves a recessed area in a tile floor for a coconut mat so that it is level with the tile.
If there is enough space, Ms. Pearce installs a larger rug made from a hard-wearing but slightly less useful material like cowhide or sisal that adds a decorative touch while also collecting more dirt.
Another option for a rug is an indoor-outdoor mock-up from a company like Dash & Albert, said Lauren Nelson, an interior designer at Decorist in San Anselmo, California.
Wool rugs are also good for entrances. “We make carpets that are all made of wool, just darker colors and lots of patterns because they really hide a lot of dirt,” said Ms. Nelson. “They can be vacuumed and cleaned and they feel cozy.”
Fix the walls
With bags, packages, umbrellas, dog leashes, and hockey sticks, the walls in an entrance hall can quickly go from pristine to worn out and dented. Wall covering can help.
Hendricks Churchill often installs vertical V-groove, beaded, or ship siding on mudroom walls because the wood is more worn out than painted drywall. “Even if you paint the siding, it’s easier to repaint every few years than mending and repairing damaged sheetrock,” said Heide Hendricks, partner with the company.
Jenny Wolf, an interior designer based in New York, recommends choosing a color with a bit of sheen, with or without a trim, to improve durability and make cleaning easier. “Be sure to use eggshell paint,” she said instead of a matte finish because you won’t damage it with light scrubbing.
Use the wall area
“Use your vertical space as much as possible,” advised Ms. Richardson.
Think about where to install shelves for baskets and hats – up to the ceiling. “And: hook, hook, hook,” she said. “Add as many hooks as you can at different heights so that everyone can reach them. No matter how many hooks you have, each one is used. “
Adding hooks to wood paneling is relatively easy, but adding hooks to drywall is more difficult as screws tend to pull out. To work around this problem, Hendricks Churchill sometimes creates custom mortise and tenon rails by attaching a horizontal plate to wall studs and then screwing hooks into the plate.
An alternative to hooks is a coat tree that can be placed in a corner. Instead of using separate hooks and shelves, Ms. Wolf sometimes uses a large wall unit that combines the two. Some units also contain a mirror that combines three functions in one piece.
Mix open and closed storage
Hooks and coat trees are great for seasonal outerwear, but probably not for everything you need for storage. To contain out of season gear and reduce visual clutter, it’s important to have at least one closed storage.
In entrances with no or only a small closet, many designers build custom-made closets with large doors to hide coats and small cubes for shoes and baskets with gloves. If you’re not ready for a major renovation, freestanding furniture can work almost as well.
“An antique cabinet can do the same thing and even look a little more interesting,” said Ms. Pearce. “You can upgrade the interior at any time, with a few shelves or by adding an extra rod.”
Consoles and sideboards with doors and drawers can also hide shoes and smaller accessories.
Adding multiple baskets to your entryway will keep things better organized. Baskets can be sized to fit into special cubes, stored in a closet or under a console, or simply left off a wall or corner.
One organizational strategy is to dedicate individual baskets to specific types of items: one for hats, one for gloves, and one for pet accessories. Another option is to assign baskets.
“Every member of our family has a basket that is labeled,” said Ms. Richardson. “There’s a label with the person’s initials so my kids don’t have to wonder where their things are.”
In her home, Ms. Pearce uses an Ikea rolling supply trolley that she keeps in a closet. “Everyone has their own level of this car” for winter accessories, she said. “So everyone is organized.”
Wet shoes and boots are more annoying. Sock puddles if left on the floor, but it can be difficult to find boot shells that aren’t a thorn in your side. Hendricks Churchill’s solution: copper boot shells purchased in custom sizes from Etsy.
The copper is shiny when it’s new, “but it turns into a beautiful patina quickly over time,” said Ms. Hendricks. “The more muddy boots you put on, the nicer the finish will be.”
Finally, imagine an umbrella stand to keep drained umbrellas from leaking across the floor. Ms. Pearce uses a tall ceramic pot in her home and usually looks for vintage stands for customers.
“It’s not just functional,” she said. “It’s one of the first things people see when they walk into your house. So it should reflect the rest of your home.”
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