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Renovation Solutions: Mudrooms are everyday storage solutions

Adding on a mudroom is a popular storage solution for homeowners looking to remodel.
Adding on a mudroom is a popular storage solution for homeowners looking to remodel.
Brent Murray

Every household has one thing in common: No matter its size or if it consists of one person or a family exploding at the seams, every household is full of stuff. Stuff seems to multiply mysteriously and continuously. Every family needs storage and a way to manage clutter — especially managing items that come in and out of the home every day.

Purposeful storage is one of the top priorities for many homeowners ready to remodel. One popular design solution solving some of the storage issue is the mudroom.

The demand for adding a mudroom is actually a fairly recent phenomenon. However, mudrooms do have a history. Mudrooms were common in farm and manor houses. Farm houses always had a back room or porch where farmers would deposit their soiled clothes and boots and wash up at a pump before entering the main house. This was a logical transition to keep the outside dirt from entering the home. Many older homes in our area still have the flimsy enclosed back porch from the 1920s or 30s. Remodeling projects often include tearing these off and replacing them with more permanent and useful structures.

In the 1970s, the mudroom transitioned into the mudroom/laundry room combination. It seemed like a natural choice when the laundry room was moved up from the basement at that time. However, this arrangement posed some conflicts between containing outside dirt and the need for cleanliness relative to the laundry tasks.

While there are still laundry room/mudroom combinations, today laundry rooms are more commonly separate from the mudroom and built closer to the bedrooms. A separate laundry room especially makes sense in two-story or split-level homes which may not even have bedrooms on the main level. The modern mudroom is still a place to kick off your boots, but it is more about storage and containing clutter than it is about cleaning up for dinner. It serves as a dumping ground for all the items coming in and out on a regular basis. The mudroom should be positioned immediately adjacent to the entry the family will use the most. If there is an attached garage, then this point occurs immediately upon entering the house itself. An exception to this may be when the garage is located on the lower level; in this case, the mudroom may be more serviceable on the main level, where it will be more easily accessible to the kitchen and yard. Making the mudroom accessible to your family will ensure it is used to its potential.

Well-designed mudrooms can accommodate everything from purses and coats to sports gear. You commonly see a modern mudroom equipped with hooks, hangers, storage cabinets, walk-in closets, locker-size cubbyholes, shoe racks, umbrella stands and/or built-in desks. This kind of accessible storage keeps clutter out of the kitchen and results in a better organized family. The mudroom is a great place to hang a bulletin board with the game schedules or a chalk board to write short reminders to other family members.

One client designed a mudroom equipped with a computer, mail organizer and countertop. After the remodel, the mudroom was actually her favorite room. She found herself spending a lot of time in the mudroom, paying bills, organizing the family schedule and crafting. The countertop space actually made the mudroom a perfect place for school projects.

When you are designing a mudroom, keep its namesake in mind. Dirt, and yes sometimes even mud, is inherent in a room so closely connected to the outside. Choose materials that are easy to clean and water-resistant. Tile is a good choice for the flooring because it is sturdy and easy to maintain. The cubbies and other storage areas should be weatherproof to aid in cleaning.

A good mudroom design takes advantage of all the space available. In addition to pegboards, wall-mounted hooks and cubbies, consider maximizing the wasted space above your hooks and below your cubbyholes. Try outfitting your mudroom with pull-out baskets, benches and shoe cabinets.

Lighting is another important aspect of a mudroom design. Special lighting can light up the dark and dirty corners of your mudroom. Good lighting will also ensure your family uses the room. If they can't see into their cubby, they won't be as inclined to use it.

A custom designed mudroom makes sense especially because every family is different and has different needs. Even though they all have the commonality of the need for storage and combating clutter, they all have different items to store and manage. Ultimately, a mudroom design should be individualized. If you are a skier, doesn't it make sense to have a locker in your mudroom tall enough to house your skis for the season? Who knows, you might need them easily accessible this year until the Fourth of July

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local design firm specializing in home remodels.