No mud in these mudrooms – just some sweet, organized spaces

Cubbies at the Cavalcade
At the 2014 Cavalcade of Homes, all of the home featured lockers or cubbies in the mud room.

When your name is mud, there is nowhere to go but up.

Maybe that’s why the lowly mudroom, the forgotten stepchild of home design, has started getting some attention from architects and home designers.

In fact, at a recent Chicago area home show preview, the mudrooms of the glamorous homes were getting their own kind of attention as visitors sneaked past the fabulous kitchens to admire the back entrances. It’s not that the guests didn’t like the kitchens, the stellar foyers, or the master baths, but it was the cubbies that promised (to the women, mostly) a life free of mayhem, where everything has its place and was placed there by a well mannered child or spouse, a life in which no soccer shoes ever go missing and every jacket has a working zipper.

Each high-priced mudroom had cubbies – with boot storage, shelves and hooks for backpacks and jackets for each person in the household.

Most of the mudrooms were adjacent to laundry areas, but the two functions were always separated. That’s a good development. I’m no fan of laundry areas smack in the middle of mud rooms, where wayward pillowcases are likely to land on a dirty floor

In other high end homes, I have also seen mud/laundry rooms with waist-level doggie bathtubs, replete with dog steps to get Sasha into the suds. How nice that architects are thinking about how we live in our homes day to day!

It’s a good thing to keep in mind when looking at homes for sale – how does this entrance work? Will it collect shoes and umbrellas and grocery bags? Does it have storage space and maybe a countertop for the phone charger and all the inevitable stuff that walks in the door with you?

The front entrance should be a space you can keep clean, but the back entrance needs to at least have a chance at organization. If you just have one entrance, it must do double duty as the entrance for guests and for the things you carry in and out. Even if we don’t call it this, a mudroom is actually a walk-through closet. If there is no organized storage, things are strewn and lost.

If you’re just thinking of how to re-do an existing space, check online or at home stores for ideas. Storage accessories are available from lots of places, including Ikea, the Pottery Barn, and every price point in between. Some solutions offer benches with baskets or storage space underneath, others are simple wall shelves with coat hooks. If you’re handy, you can you also craft your own cubbies to fit your space.

At the very least, you need a basket or a hook for keys. Do you really want to hear someone hollering, “I can’t find my keys!” at regular intervals, even if that person is you? You should have at least one coat hook for every person who lives there, and something – a rack or a basket – for shoes and boots. The entry floor needs a mat, probably more than one in the winter.

If you do have room for an actual mudroom, I love the idea of painting one wall with blackboard paint – a great way to leave messages (“Gracie, remember your permission slip.” Or : “Your keys are in the basket, darling!”)

But beyond that, whether you go all out and hire a decorator and an architect, or just grab something at Target, the space should welcome you home. It should feel organized and calm. Piles of dirty laundry, baskets of keys to unknown doors, randomly placed unrecycled recyclables, all create an unwelcoming chaos that greets you at the door. You may not even see it anymore, but your subconscious thinks – here are 14 things I am supposed to do and I just want dinner.

You can find some terrific images of calm, organized entry spaces where little robot children always hang up their coats at houzz.com. The one problem with all the wonderful mudroom photos is that the spaces are often painted white and there is not a spot of mud to be found.

In the real world, the boot storage areas would be lined with dusty mats or old towels, the cubbies would be fluttering with dozens of important messages – all on separate sheets of paper – from the third grade teacher, and there would be an overflowing basket for orphaned gloves, whose partners may one day return home. And it would be beautiful.