Given the volatile weather this spring, we all need to be prepared for all conditions, all of the time. Boots, umbrellas, coats and hats pile up the minute you and your family bound through the door, so if you don’t already have a mudroom, it’s time you did. A mudroom brings order to chaos, and creating one — even in a tight space — is possible with a few smart purchases and some organizing know-how.
The location of your mudroom will dictate how it is outfitted and furnished. If you usually enter your house through the front door, that’s where you’ll put the mudroom — but it will also be the first space that visitors see, so you don’t want it to look like a boot bomb went off. In other words, it needs to function like a mudroom but not look like one. If you tend to enter your house through a back door, then you can take a more utilitarian approach. Either way, follow as many of these suggestions as you can.
Lay a foundation. An all-weather rug protects your floor at the same time that it stands up to dirt and stains. Most such rugs are made from polypropylene, so they can be scrubbed and bleached. For entryways, consider using one of the many striped models from Dash & Albert ; the friendly stripes visually draw you into the house. If necessary, use double-sided carpet tape to keep the rug from curling at the sides and becoming a hazard.
Invest in the building blocks. Buy a storage piece, such as a console fitted with several baskets, so that you have a place to stash gloves, hats and scarves. If you have room, provide a bench or chair where you can sit to remove boots and shoes. For a more informal look, consider locker-style units or modular pieces such as those from Pottery Barn or Ballard Designs.
Add grace notes. A mirror hung above the console will make a small entry appear bigger and provides a place to check your appearance as you enter or leave your house. Place a lamp on the console so you don’t always have to rely on the overhead light — not only does a table lamp cast a more flattering glow, but it’s also a nice light to leave on so that family members don’t have to return to a dark house. Add a tray on top of the console just big enough to hold a day’s worth of mail and your keys. (That way you can always find them.)
Put your coat closet to work. Often, a front-hall closet becomes the dumping ground for sports equipment, backpacks, dog leashes, wrapping paper, flashlights, toys — all the miscellaneous stuff of life. Start by weeding though what you need and don’t need. Move anything that is taking up a lot of room (golf clubs, we’re looking at you) to the garage or basement. Assess what you have left and group like items together. Hang a clear plastic shoe bag on the inside of your door. In each pocket, you can store and easily see items such as tennis balls, flashlights, dog leashes, sunglasses, sunscreen, mailing tape, twine, umbrellas — anything you might find yourself needing in a hurry as you run out the door. If you have room, hang a canvas sweater bag from your closet rod. Kids can use its individual cubbies to store whatever they might need for school the next day, and you can use them for outerwear accessories. Keep seasonal items or anything that you don’t need frequently in labeled boxes on your closet’s top shelf.
Don’t have a coat closet? Buy a standing coat rack or install wall hooks. In both cases, you will have a place to hang coats as well as totes filled with pet paraphernalia, sporting equipment and other things you take outside.
Separate your shoes. Have a large woven basket, closet shoe rack or boot trays (I like the rubber-lined zinc ones from Crate & Barrel ) on the floor for everyday shoes. That means the messy rain boots, gym shoes, cleats, flip-flops and snow boots that bring dirt, sand and water into your house. They’re distinct from dress shoes, which can be kept in your clothing closet.
Stand for something. Finally, invest in an umbrella stand. Not only does it add a drop spot for wet gear and sporting goods, but it also lets you add a bit of whimsy to your mudroom. From sleek and modern vessels to chinoiserie painted porcelain, there is a stand for every style.
Mayhew, a “Today” show style expert and former magazine editor, is the author of “Flip! for Decorating.”