While the mudroom is fast becoming an essential addition to any 21st-Century home, you may want to leave your shoes at the door. Today's mudrooms have designer laundry rooms, granite bathrooms, imported flooring materials, upscale upholstery, docking stations for the adults, and elaborate storage areas for the kids. In fact, about the only thing you won't find in the mudroom is mud. And along with the rest of the home, the mudroom is getting "designed" by top local interior designers.
"I think the mudroom is becoming as important as the kitchen in terms of the function in families' lives," theorizes Inez Schapiro of Jenkins Baer Associates. "It has become a drop-off space for the kids and all their equipment and other stuff. They are no longer leaving it in the hall—it has become part of this new focus in homes on organization and preplanning."
"Mudrooms are extremely popular in new upscale homes," says Steve Melman, director of Economic Services at the National Association of Home Builders. "People want a more casual lifestyle, and that's a big part of it. They don't want to spend their time sorting out the coat closet—they want this room where they can push everything, and close the door. There is an incredible demand for storage space, but storage that people don't see when they are entertaining. What the pantry did for the kitchen, and garage shelving does for big items, mudrooms do for daily gear."
The muck stops here
Living on a farm can often be a constant battle to keep mud, muck, and, yes, manure outside. But for one Stevenson family, an elaborate mudroom designed by Inez Schapiro was the key to living comfortably in their sophisticated, refined farmhouse.
"Our mudroom is the linchpin in terms of making this a functional home," says the client, who has four children ranging in age from 8 to 16. "The whole goal of this mudroom was to be beautiful but functional because we live on a farm. My kids are out with four-wheelers, they're with the cows, and my husband is in an industrial business and comes in with muddy boots every day; so, first and foremost, we wanted a functional living space. You build a house like this, and you don't want it destroyed."
The spectacular space includes a full bathroom and laundry room, built-in armoires and shoe drawers, a docking station for cell phones and cameras, and a designated corkboard area for pinning up invitations and myriad art projects. The floor is a unique multicolored gray and brown Chinese slate that easily masks dirt, and a built-in bench positioned between the armoires is upholstered in a high-end, but washable, black and white Clarence House toile.
"Everything is so beautiful, but behind every drawer is an absolute mess," says the client with a laugh as she pulls open a drawer to reveal an assortment of boots and sneakers caked with mud. "I like everything tucked away. The kids can take their shoes off, they can put their bags down, and then it's their place."
Small Room, Giant Leap
"We didn't have mudrooms when I was growing up," reminisces a Brooklandville mother of three. "Our 'mudroom' was the basement. I was on the swim team, and I used to come home from practice and go down in the basement, hang up my wet suit, hang up my wet towel, and put my goggles away. Now, kids have too much stuff, and they dump it—that's why we have created mudrooms. Mudrooms are a product of their generation—how many winter coats did you have when you were growing up? I had one. My kids have five fleeces, a windbreaker, and a winter coat."
For this Brooklandville family, the addition of a small, but essential 6 foot 6 inch by 7 foot 9 inch mudroom adjacent to the kitchen transformed the way in which they live in their '60s four-bedroom Colonial home. "The kids used to come in the front and dump in the front hall," says the client. "And I told them, 'When we get the mudroom, don't worry, you can come in and dump stuff.' So now when they come in, they dump stuff, and I'm like, 'At least put your things on the hook.' And they just look at me and say, 'But, Mom, you promised us we could dump stuff!' So what can I say?"
In addition to numerous coat hooks, the space, designed by Ann Hagerty of Ann Hagerty Architect & Associates, also features roomy cubbies and scads of shelving for the assorted bric-a-brac and sporting equipment of family life, including sticks of various shapes and sizes (there are 14 lacrosse sticks alone in addition to an assortment of hockey sticks), water bottles, tennis racquets, helmets for biking and lacrosse, and countless pairs of cleats, boots, sneakers, and shoes.
"What amazes me is that this small bump-out has changed the way this house works," says the client. "It has changed the way we use the kitchen, and it has changed the way we enter the house. We always enter now through the mudroom. My husband said to me recently, 'I don't know if I even have the keys to the front door anymore.'"
A cubby, even for the dog
When Lisa and Neal Shapiro gutted the kitchen and dining room area in their Pikesville home, they also transformed their chaotic, cluttered mudroom into the very model of order and organization.
"In the old space, everything was in a heap," recalls Lisa Shapiro, mother of daughter, Emily, 10, and son Charlie, 8. "It was a mess."
"There was a coat tree falling over from the weight of the coats," chimes in designer Sue DiPietro of Jenkins Baer Associates, who reclaimed the space, "and there was a hanging cabinet filled with junk mail which is what you saw when you walked into the house. It was overcome with stuff."
Even after the extensive year-long renovation, Shapiro says the family still struggled to stay organized. "I said to my husband, Neal, 'We just spent all this money—the house should look better,'" says Shapiro. "I am not naturally organized, but I want to be." So Shapiro hired Rachel Shapiro (no relation), a Federal Hill-based organizer to come to the rescue. "We still had muck everywhere—things were thrown, and it wasn't what I was envisioning the mudroom to be. Nothing had a place, but now, thanks to Rachel, everything has a home."
For maximum order, there are a dozen cubbies with bright red bins with labels for the different members of the household including bins for "Charlie's Things," with his baseball mitt and library books, "Emily's Things," containing her lacrosse goggles, and a separate out-basket for charity items and hand-me-downs. Even the family dog, Lily, gets her own bin filled with leashes, collars, and treats. Rachel also came up with other clever storage solutions such as a hanging, sectioned shoe bag on the inside of the closet for gift cards, kids' trading cards, and sunglasses.
"Finally," says Shapiro, taking a deep breath, "everything has a place."
A Garage Transformed
For one Owings Mills family, the mudroom is a way station between their sprawling four-acre yard and the inside of their well-appointed '30s Colonial home. "My younger son has a propensity for bringing nature indoors, from tadpoles to rocks, old glass bottles, and frogs—anything he can find," says Kate Pisano with a laugh. "But thanks to the mudroom, it all stops at the laundry-room sink."
With a large coat closet for the adults and guests, separate closets for her two sons, a high-function laundry room and bathroom area, the mudroom is utilitarian but beautiful. Slate floors, bead board, and a stunning 13-drawer country-style chest lend the space a cottage feel and add to the architectural interest. One of Pisano's favorite features is the built-in corkboard on the front of each of the boy's coat closets, or "lockers," as she calls them. "It allows you to put up their artwork, rotate it through, and you never have to keep too much of it. As time goes on, you quietly take it down," she says smiling.
"Before we built this eight years ago, it was a garage with cement floors," recalls Pisano, who hired architect Peter Ratcliffe for the renovation of the mudroom as well as an extensive renovation of the family room. "The back door opened straight into the kitchen, and everything ended up on the kitchen floor, on the back of the tables, or over the seats—it was a total mess."
Now the mudroom area helps at least some members of the family stay organized.
"I have two boys who need some organizational help," says Pisano. "One of my boys is the absent-minded professor. And one of them is so organized, it's frightening—they call me to see his spotless locker at school, but at home, he refuses to do it. The lockers give me a place to put things, and then when everyone yells at me, 'Where's this? Where's that?' at least I know where I can find it."