The Mudroom - Welcome Home!

By+Jeffrey P. Helman, AIA

I admit, the mudroom may not be the most glamorous topic for an architect to discuss in Life + Spaces. But while this unsung hero of the home is often overlooked and undervalued, when well done and executed properly, the mudroom can add enormous value to your daily departure and arrival routine. 

Thus the humble mudroom is the subject for another one of my pet peeves for mandatory good of residential design: the standard home so often misses the mark.  Without further ado, here is my argument. 

Everyone knows that they must have a prominent and impressive main entry to their home to announce guest arrivals, but when is the last time that you, as the owner of your home, entered through the front door and stepped into that fancy foyer that represents the first impression for all to see and enjoy? I can say that I have only entered my home through the main foyer area a handful of times, maybe after getting dropped off by another couple who drove to dinner. But that’s about it. However, I may come and go several times a day through my beloved mudroom as do busy moms with children. 

Many standard house plans force the owner to arrive in a woefully dark, cramped, narrow and unorganized space, seemingly designed to simply thrust them into the kitchen. At this point homeowners finally can dump all the stuff that they’re carrying, from mail, to keys, to purses, to briefcases, coats, boots, shoes, cell phones, and the list goes on. To make matters worse, the laundry room often shares this space, forcing us to see the dirty laundry every time we come home. 

Therefore my argument is based on the premise that we, as owners, should have our very own thoughtfully-designed and pleasant space to arrive into and depart from on a daily basis. In fact, I think it should be every bit as important as the front foyer. Notice I used the word important; it most certainly will be entirely different, with an entirely specific set of design criteria, but it should be just as important and as highly designed. 

A great mudroom should welcome me, embrace me, and greet me with space and light. It should also be as supremely functional as a Swiss Army knife, with a place for all my daily tools and accouterments that I must remember to have on my person each and every day. It should be precisely organized to allow me to quickly eliminate clutter, with a place for everything and everything in its place. 

In your next new home or remodeling endeavor, think about incorporating several key features into your mudroom/garage entry that will make your arrivals and departures more pleasant:

It's a rear foyer

Back to my initial premise, this is YOUR entry every time you come home. Make it special in some small way and elevate your mindset to all that it can be. 

See the light

It’s no fun to step from the garage into a dark narrow cavern. Let the natural light in - even through a small window.  Your attitude will be transformed. 

Put Stuff Away

If God is in the details then the devil is in the clutter; of course, don’t get rid of your stuff, just make specific places for it.

Sit down and take off your shoes

Winter is a time when boots and shoes need to come off before proceeding into the home. Providing a bench along with specific shoe storage racks or cubbies is a big help in avoiding the big pile of shoes on the floor. 

Hang it up

From an ample coat closet to an array of wall hooks for quick trips in and out, providing various ways to hang up coats, scarves, purses and hats can eliminate  seeing these items pile up in the kitchen.

Charge it

We carry numerous electronics nowadays that all need to be charged. We also must not forget these gadgets when we depart each day. Provide a small area with ample outlets dedicated to charging the devices we so depend on (and frequently misplace). This avoids having them on the kitchen counter.

Make a note

A small desk area can be the ideal place to drop your laptop or iPad and sit down to make your lists or dash off an email. In fact, I am writing this at my small mudroom desk at this very moment. For good communication, a chalkboard, marker board or magnet board can be a great message center for families on the go. Simple, low tech, and doesn’t even need a charger!

Hide the laundry

Space permitting, the laundry should be obscured in some fashion, avoiding arrivals and departures that force you and me to realize we haven’t washed the dirty clothes. 

Feed the dog

Or the cat or the fish or the gerbil. Pet care is a part of many of our lives and if you provide a place in the mudroom for the food, water and go-outside-potty- door, it will make caring for your pet effortless. For those rambunctious puppies, think about being able to contain Rover in this space, also (We have a “half-door” so he doesn’t feel lonely).

Locker Room Strategy

Simple pantry cabinets make great lockers for kids backpacks and coats, with hooks and shelves inside, and doors to hide the clutter.

 

If it sounds like all these features take up a lot of space and require extra square footage in your already over-budget new home or remodel, it’s true; space is required. The reality is that I would rather reduce in other areas than give up the functionality of good mudroom space. It makes arrival and departures from home so much better and adds to the overall enjoyment of your home. Invest generously in the spaces that you must use daily, and don’t sacrifice functionality for grandeur in your less occupied spaces. Welcome home!

Photos by David Hubler