In their role as gateways to a home, mudrooms and entryways are transitional spaces. While entryways define virtually any door that leads into a house, including the main front entrance, side door, and back door, mudrooms are typically located only at side and back doors, and most are reserved for the comings and goings of family members.
Mudrooms serve as spaces where the home’s residents can shrug off their backpacks and remove their messy footwear before entering other parts of the home, and depending on individual house design, they may also function as catchalls for hats, coats, pet leashes, and sports equipment.
Main entryways, on the other hand, may open into fancy foyers or directly into living rooms, but a little organization and attention to detail will improve the functionality of both.
Key Elements of Efficient Mudrooms and Entryways
Needs vary from household to household, and an efficient mudroom in a home with young children will look very different from an entryway in an empty nester’s home. Both, however, will benefit from some common features that will reduce clutter and simplify coming home or leaving.
Seating: One of the most important components of an efficient entryway is the ability to sit down while putting on or taking off footwear. Only young children find mirth in balancing one foot while tugging off their boots. For everyone else, a bench or a well-placed chair will be appreciated and will help keep family members from traipsing through the house and tracking in dirt and mud.
Adequate storage: In a narrow entryway, a nearby entry closet usually serves as the spot to hang up coats and stash away boots, but a standard entry closet rarely offers enough space to store all the coats, hats, and boots of a large family, so there’s a tendency for entry rugs to quickly become cluttered with dropped jackets, hats, and homework books. For active families, mudrooms have a distinct advantage over traditional entryways, because they often feature multiple built-in coat and shoe cubicles, wall hooks (positioned both high and low for families with small children), and shelving to hold hats, gloves, and items such as sports equipment.
A place for incidentals: Anything that is regularly carried in or out of the house will benefit from a designated spot in an entryway or mudroom, such as a place to deposit the mail, store keys, or keep a flashlight handy for late evening dog walks. In an entryway where space is at a premium, keys can be kept in a bowl on a narrow entry table or hung on key hooks inside the door of the entry closet, and mail can be tossed in an attractive basket. The aim is to provide a designated spot for these items so you can avoid situations like hunting for lost keys when you’re rushing out the door.
Sink and Laundry: While this obviously isn’t an option for smaller entryways—and it wouldn’t be a consideration near a home’s main entrance—for homes with mudrooms, it makes good sense to incorporate a sink and laundry center when possible. Locating a washer and dryer in (or directly off) the mudroom eliminates the need to haul wet socks and gym clothes to another area of the house. A powder room located directly off a mudroom is another popular idea, because it allows people to wash their hands before entering the rest of the house.
Designing a Mudroom or Entryway
Images of attractive mudrooms and entryways can be found online and in home improvement magazines, and it’s only natural to spot one you love and want to copy, but in order for your project to be a success, it has to suit your family’s specific needs. No matter what type of space you have to work with, spending some time in the design and planning phase is a good idea.
A functional focus: Will every family member need their own space for hanging coats and hats and for stashing their shoes, and do you want to add storage for sports and hobby equipment? If the mudroom will accommodate small children or mobility-restricted family members, you may want to incorporate low-height access to storage compartments or an ADA-compliant doorway (wider than a standard doorway). By figuring out the functional details first, you can design a space that will suit your specific needs.
Start at floor level. No place in your home will get as much foot traffic as a mudroom or entryway, so the flooring you choose should be able to stand up to abuse. This is not the place for fancy rugs or hardwood flooring, both of which can be damaged by water and salt from snow-packed boots. Instead, opt for solid flooring, such as ceramic tile, luxury vinyl, or even stone if you prefer their appearance and your budget allows. (Note: porcelain tiles are extremely durable and easy to maintain, and many styles look remarkably like natural stone.) To keep the floor from feeling too hard or cold, add an indoor/outdoor rug that can be shaken outdoors or sprayed with a hose to remove dirt and caked-on mud.
Keep seating in mind. This will generally depend on the number of family members who could be using the mudroom at the same time and how much overall room you have. In a spacious mudroom, small benches can be constructed beside each family member’s individual locker or closet, while a single bench positioned in a central location might be more suitable for a smaller mudroom—and leave more wall space available for storage. A small bench, chair, or even a footstool can provide seating in a compact entryway without taking up too much room. Benches with under-storage are especially welcome here because they offer both seating and storage.
Out of sight. Mudrooms should help you organize your home, not add to the clutter. While open cubbies are useful for stashing hats and mittens, if family members are not meticulous about putting away their outdoor wear, before long, over-stuffed cubbies with scarves dangling out will make the mudroom look messy and disorganized. The solution, especially in families with small children, is to add cabinet doors over the cubbies and lockers to keep their contents out of view.
Consider seasonal storage. As spring turns to summer, all those ski hats and down jackets are no longer needed in the mudroom. By adding storage shelves above the closets—if ceiling height permits—you can store seasonal outerwear until you need it once again. The best option is cabinets or closets with doors that conceal the stored items, but if you can only manage open shelving, you can still pack the seasonal items in attractive baskets or totes to keep the mudroom looking organized.
Assign areas. Keeping a mudroom tidy, rather than a chaotic mess, means planning ahead. This might include allocating an entire closet for the storage of a stroller, diaper bag, and baby travel needs, or assigning a single locker with a built-in bench and shoe cubby for the youngest member of the family. In a narrow entryway, you can still provide personal storage space by giving each family member their own wall hook or their own basket under a bench.
Keep color consistent. To keep the mudroom from seeming like a separate structure, paint and decorate it in a manner that matches the rest of your home. Clean lines and a monochromatic color scheme will help establish visual order. You’ll also want to make sure any paint you use in the mudroom will stand up to scrubbing—this usually means you’ll need to buy a paint that has a satin or semi-gloss sheen rather than flat paint.
Personalize the project. If space permits, add interest to a mudroom or entryway by creating a focal point that speaks to you as soon as you step inside the house. In a mudroom, this could be a piece of art or a bulletin board where you display your children’s most recent masterpieces. In a more formal entryway, you might hang an interesting mirror or favorite piece of artwork. Your mudroom or entry should make you smile, so don’t skip the fun details.
Remodeling to Add a Mudroom
If you’re thinking of remodeling to add a mudroom, you have four main options: 1) You can add an addition to your home to house a mudroom; 2) You can convert a covered porch into a mudroom; 3) You can create a mudroom by expanding into an adjacent room; and 4) You can repurpose space in an attached garage to serve as a mudroom. The existing layout of your home will ultimately be the most significant factor in your decision.
Building a mudroom addition offers the most flexibility
If you choose to have an addition added to your home, you have the option of choosing a floor plan that suits your needs—and the ability to incorporate the many mudroom options discussed above. Because additions require foundations, roofs, and new wiring, they are not a DIY project, and local building codes often require that they be constructed by licensed contractors.
Converting existing space to a mudroom might be more practical
Every home’s layout is different, but if your home has an enclosed, climate controlled porch, it can do double duty as a mudroom. Consider covering the siding with painted beadboard and then adding benches and built-in lockers and shelves. The best part about a mud-porch conversion is that it can be a DIY project for homeowners who have basic carpentry skills and own a few power tools, such as a circular saw and a nail gun.
Expanding an interior floor plan works well in large homes
Many older homes were built with large rambling floor plans, and if a pantry or a large laundry center is located just inside a back or side door, the space could be converted to a mudroom. This may also work if the door enters into a kitchen eating area, but the house also has a separate dining room where the family can eat instead. Two dining areas were common in older homes, but that extra space could become an efficient, well-used mudroom. When interior walls have to be removed to create a mudroom or new wiring or plumbing is necessary, it’s a job best left to the pros.
Converting space in an attached garage might be just the ticket
Oversized garages with empty space along the wall that connects the house and the garage are optimal spots to build mudrooms. These are often long narrow spaces that are well-suited to mudroom design. While this can be a DIY project for an enthusiastic homeowner who has knowledge of framing, keep in mind that you’ll need to install a new fire-rated wall between the garage and the mudroom (check with your local building authority), and an exterior door from the garage to the mudroom as well.