- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2011

The term “mudroom” often conjures up an image of a filthy floor strewn with debris, soggy sneakers and sports equipment caked with dirt.

Today’s mudroom, designed to be a family-friendly entrance to a home, is a far cry from the dark and dirty rooms of the past. Interior designers have discovered that the mudroom can be the best-organized room in the house - and pretty, too.

Whether you are in the market for a home with a mudroom or are interested in remodeling your home to accommodate this trend, interior designers have a plethora of ideas to use this space to add efficiency to your family’s life.

Without a mudroom in a home, the foyer often becomes the de facto place where the children dump their backpacks, the parents park their briefcases and everyone kicks off their shoes until the space becomes a tangle of leather and canvas.

“Remodeling to enhance or add a mudroom has become a huge trend because families like to keep their main entrance looking great,” said Colleen Shaut, a designer with Case Design/Remodeling Inc. in Bethesda.

“Families with kids are the ones who are most interested in creating an organized mudroom,” she said. “The space becomes a catchall for everything and keeps dirt and clutter out of the rest of the house. But before you decide this is the place to dump everything, you need to make sure you have a place for everything.”

Many homebuilders include a mudroom, often identified as a “family foyer,” in their new-home designs. Holly Polgreen, president and co-founder of Carlyn & Co. Interior Design in Great Falls, said her company often designs mudrooms for model homes.

“They are far more common than they used to be and can range in size from a small space next to the garage to a real room,” Ms. Polgreen said. “You can furnish the space simply by buying a bench and hanging shelves or using baskets, or you can completely customize the space with built-ins that fit your family’s needs. If you can get your kids to come into the mudroom from the garage and have space for their sports equipment and backpacks, the clutter stops right there.”

Jim Rill, principal of Rill Architects in Bethesda, said when he designs an addition that includes a mudroom, the customization is often so specific that they provide the exact number of hooks for sets of keys and the right number of outlets for charging cellphones.

“When we consult with homeowners and determine how much space they have and the budget, we can incorporate things like a calendar area for keeping schedules, a small desk with a space for the mail and a laptop, and electrical outlets for charging cell phones and iPads,” Mr. Rill said.

Ms. Polgreen said building in shelves or drawers with electrical outlets at the back and space for items that need to be charged along with wallets and keys can create an organized household.

“You can close the drawer and everything is hidden, and then everyone knows where to find their phones and keys when it is time to leave again,” Ms. Polgreen said. “Even if you don’t have a lot of room or a separate mudroom, you can create a similar system on the inside of a pantry cabinet or the back of closet doors.”

Ms. Shaut used under-the-stairs space for organization in one home.

“We installed lockers for each child in the family and an extra seasonal storage closet for things like winter coats and extra blankets,” Ms. Shaut said. “Most people want either a locker or a cubby for each child, plus a bench with storage bins underneath or a tip-up seat adds space and a convenient place to sit down to remove shoes and boots. It’s good to have both open shelving and closed storage if you have the space.”

Ms. Shaut said linking the mudroom to the laundry room can be particularly helpful for families who can toss dirty sports clothes directly into the machine.

In one home, Mr. Rill designed a mudroom/laundry room with spaces for baskets for clean laundry so that each family member could take their laundry upstairs themselves.

“I’ve designed additions for a lot of families who do equestrian activities, so they sometimes want a sink or a drain in the floor to wash off muddy boots,” Mr. Rill said. “Sometimes people want a sink, too, to use for gardening or crafts.”

One more use for the mudroom for some families is for “Costco storage,” a pantry area where bulk items can be kept.

“In one mudroom recently we built a pantry with counter space hidden behind pocket doors, almost like a minikitchen for storing bulk items and things like a food processor,” Mr. Rill said. “This keeps the kitchen more efficient and fancier, which people like when they use the kitchen for entertaining.”

All three designers recommend choosing materials for the mudroom that are durable and easy to clean yet attractive, such as stone or ceramic tile flooring or composite or laminate hardwood flooring.

“Painted wood walls work best because they are easier to clean than drywall,” Ms. Shaut said. “A lot of people also like the look of wainscoting, which is also easy to clean and resistant to dirt.”

Ms. Polgreen said color palettes in the mudroom usually are an extension of nearby rooms, but some homeowners choose to make this their room for playing with color.

“You can add an accent wall in a bright color or allow the kids to decorate their lockers themselves,” Ms. Polgreen said. “Another good option is chalkboard paint, so family members can write notes to each other, or even a stick-on chalkboard or white board that you can find at a craft store. Corkboard works well, too, if you want a place to pin up artwork and schedules.”

Ms. Shaut said a lot of families like to keep their mudroom white so it looks bright and clean, and then have the children personalize their cubbies or lockers with stickers and paint.

“You want a lot of light in the space, especially if the room doesn’t have a window for natural light, but you also need to be careful of hanging lighting because of the possibility of breakage from sports equipment,” Ms. Shaut said. “Recessed lighting or track lighting can work as long as the fixtures are not too big and the ceiling is high enough.”

Mr. Rill recommends using task lighting in several areas in the mudroom such as under cabinets and above the desk.

“Whatever you do, the mudroom is one place in the home where every inch should be designed for the maximum storage space,” Mr. Rill said.

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