living & bedroom

The Magical Mudroom

foyer benchShoes scattered over the floor? Bags cluttering the entrance? Can't find your keys? What you need is a mudroom. It's one of the most important areas in the house and, and if well-organized, it will help your life run more smoothly. Despite its unlovely moniker, you don't have to forego taste in its furnishings. If your mudroom is not a separate room but a carved-out corner near your front entrance, choose styles and finishes to match the rest of your décor so the area blends with your home seamlessly. This transition room, a bridge linking the indoors and out, should boast the triumvirate of style, storage and durability. Here are highlights of what every great mudroom needs to be both fashionable and functional.

For moveable storage, bins, boxes and baskets in wicker, wood, plastic or metal are a must to hold easy-to-misplace items like hats, gloves and scarves. Smaller sports equipment items can be tucked away as well, ready to grab on the way out the door. Built-in drawers to shut away the mess; shelves and cubbies are an excellent investment. They provide handy space for briefcases, bags and the inevitable clutter of shoes and boots. If you have enough room, give everyone in the house their own. Consider an umbrella stand, too, not just for somewhere to house your rain-spattered brollys but to double as a place to hold baseball bats, hockey sticks, skis and poles - just make sure it's weighted down and tall enough not to tip. Everything from a sophisticated wrought iron affair to a tall ceramic pot or high metal bucket can do the trick.

rustic foyerHooks
Use your vertical space. Hooks offer quick-and-easy access to coats, sweaters and backpacks, as well as a place for wet items to dry. When selecting, make sure they are sturdy and can hold the weight of heavy winter outerwear, and space them well enough apart so that bulky items aren't crammed. If you have young kids, position a few to suit their height (about three to four feet up) so they can hang jackets themselves. Add a few smaller pegs near the door for keys and top them with a shelf for small items like cell phones and sunglasses. Although hooks are indispensable, they don't have to look utilitarian. Wooden pegs are classic and casual, while sculptural metal can look elegant. You can even repurpose pretty porcelain cabinetry knobs for an antique look.

It's essential. Add a banquette or bench: Not only does it function as a place to sit and pull on boots or tie shoes, many contain space beneath to stow footwear, or have a flip lid or drawers to stash other items out of sight. Supremely space-challenged? Check out an all-in-one high-backed bench: It's truly a portable mudroom, and often comes complete with hooks for coats, holes for umbrellas and storage in the seat.

contemporary foyerFlooring
As the main entry into the house, the mudroom gets serious wear and tear. Choose durable, easy-to-clean flooring, like slate, porcelain, ceramic or stone, which are strong yet look sophisticated. Invest in a mat or small rug to soak up wetness and to be the landing pad for mucky shoes: After all, you want that mud to stay in the mudroom and not have naming rights throughout the rest of your home.

So although born of function, your mudroom is so much more than a simple portal linking the indoors and the out. It sets the décor stage for the rest of the home. Give careful thought and attention to its design and it tells anyone who enters it that your life - and home - runs smoothly with style and efficiency both.