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How to design a mudroom for even the smallest home

By MELISSA RAYWORTH
Oct. 22, 2016 at 11:38 p.m.

One portion of an open foyer can function as a mudroom with help from a cabinet, like the one shown here, that combines closed storage, hanging space, shelving and seating.

Mudrooms have been a staple of large houses, especially in climates with plenty of rain and snow. But increasingly, a mudroom has become a design essential even for apartment dwellers and those with small homes.

"Just like the kitchen has become so central to how everybody uses their home and lives their lives, a mudroom has become an expectation," said designer Vern Yip, an HGTV host and author of the new book "Vern Yip's Design Wise" (Running Press).

Interior designer Bennett Leifer agreed, and often helps clients in New York City apartments create a proper mudroom.

"People try and find space where they can do that, whether they have a large family or whether it's just for themselves," Leifer said.

Some tips for designing a functional, durable and even stylish mudroom, even in the smallest of homes:

Analyze how you really come and go

"Think about how your family uses the space," said Yip, and be honest about how much clutter you're likely to create. People often want to see themselves as neater than they are, which leads them to create a mudroom entrance that is soon chaotic.

Will everyone take their shoes off there each day, for instance, or only when they're wet or muddy?

"We run an Asian household," Yip said. "Take off your shoes when you come in the door."

So his mudroom includes ample shoe storage, plus a spot to sit while putting shoes on.

Lots of sports equipment means more large storage. And those who'll want to charge the whole family's digital devices for easy grabbing when everyone leaves the house in the morning should put in counter space or shelves with plenty of power strips or electrical outlets nearby.

In your design, Yip said, include about 10 percent to 15 percent more storage than you expect to need.

Your best drop zone

The mudroom is your daily "drop zone," said designer Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design for The Home Depot. So choose the mix of closed storage, hooks, shelves and countertops that serves your needs.

Custom, built-in storage is popular in mudrooms, but there also are many units available in a range of styles and prices.

Leifer said built-ins can work well in small or awkward spaces. He's seen Manhattan apartment dwellers build around a garbage chute or wall soffit in the service entrance to turn that space into a mudroom. Built-ins also offer stability: Unlike freestanding furniture, they can't be knocked over by kids rushing by with backpacks.

Open lockers and cubbies are popular, mimicking the style of an athletic locker room, but Yip reminds clients that closed storage and hooks tucked away behind doors will help keep your mudroom from looking cluttered.

However you design your storage, delineate one vertical space for each family member.

LightingMudrooms should be lit like kitchens, with plenty of overhead and task light, Fishburne said. This may be the first place a skinned knee gets attention, or the last place searched at night for a missing textbook.And because you might come home on dark fall and winter nights, the mudroom's a great place to put at least one light on a timer.Include lightbulbs such as LEDs that illuminate with no delay to create "a bright place to walk into that you feel safe," Fishburne said.Lighting also can beautify this otherwise very practical space: Yip points out that a ceiling fixture can be "really stylish, really delicate and really fragile," but remain protected from damage because it's hung out of reach.Infusing your styleOther items that can "visually soften the space" and express your style include artwork (safely framed) and window treatments that don't extend to the floor, Yip said.Leifer adds flooring to that list: Mudrooms need durable, water-friendly flooring, but are great places to try bold colors or favorite patterns. He suggests FLOR carpet squares, which come in a range of designs and are easily washable or replaceable, or woven vinyl floor covering from the Swedish company Bolon.And don't forget the ceiling: Consider dreamy cloud wallpaper or other whimsical styles, Leifer said, or go sophisticated with a high-end wall covering from Cole and Sons. The cost may be surprisingly reasonable if your mudroom isn't large.Other particularsWill this be a family communication center? If so, include cork boards or magnetic boards, and perhaps a countertop or small desk where you can fill out school forms.Pets? Many pet owners include a pet bed or dog crate in the mudroom, and a spot for hanging leashes.Yip suggested one more useful addition: a sink and vanity.One wall can be enoughIf you don't have a mudroom or foyer space, these ideas can be pared down into an area just a few feet wide along one wall.Start by delineating that section of wall visually with paint, wallpaper or tile. Or add board-and-batten paneling halfway up the wall, Fishburne said.Once the area is marked, assign a narrow space within it for each family member. Add hooks, and a bench with cubbies or baskets underneath.Above, add a shelving unit with additional cubbies. Then hang a rectangle of galvanized steel (make sure it's magnetized) for each person to tack up items, plus a bit of chalkboard or white-board paint around it for jotting down notes or appointments.

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