Given the busy lifestyle of so many families today, the mudroom has rapidly become one of the most important rooms in any home. No matter the family size, children’s ages or one’s hobbies and interests, the mudroom is now a focal point for not only organization but also style and comfort.
The mudroom is the last room most families see when they leave the house in the morning and the first one they step into when they return home. Next to the kitchen, the mudroom is likely one of the most functional rooms in the house. The wonderful thing about them is that they can accommodate almost any need at any size. Mudrooms can be used for organization, storage and even pet supplies. When the coat closet is full or not convenient, they provide easy access to the appropriate weather gear and, given the size of the space, can offer a convenient workspace for gardeners and crafters.
When Jennifer and Michael Schulz built their home in Governor’s Grant in Lexington, she knew a mudroom would have to be part of the plan. Michael is a private banker with Wells Fargo, and while Jennifer’s main role is taking care of their three children, she is also a physical therapist assistant. With their children, Cameran, 10, Jackson, 7, and 1-year-old Hampton, they are a family that is always on the go.
“Between dance class, baseball, soccer and a baby starting preschool, we never seem to slow down,” Jennifer says. “We came upon this house after construction was already underway, but we were able to add features in the mudroom that we knew would help keep us more organized.”
Organization seems to be a key component in the design of most mudrooms. “It has made my life so much easier,” Jennifer notes, “especially having that organization right at the back door. It’s become so useful with the book bags, hats, sports equipment, pool bags, even the diaper bag for my youngest one.”
Jennifer chose Interior Designer Mandy Summers, owner of M. Gallery Interiors in downtown Lexington, to help with the design of her house. “I met Jennifer when she came into the store one day to ask about a donation for an auction for the Junior League,” says Mandy. “After looking around the shop, she asked if I would help with her home, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
Jennifer’s house follows a traditional style, and since the mudroom is not closed off from the main area with a door, Mandy recommended that she blend the design with the rest of the house. “We used a painted finish in white with raised panel doors and drawers with pulls so it would flow,” she says. “Jennifer’s style is polished with clean lines, and because you can see the mudroom from main area, we decided to use cabinet doors and drawers to keep things neat and tidy, tucked away. It really looks like a piece of furniture.”
Jennifer’s mudroom includes three large drawers as well as a bench with a row of hooks on the back and cabinetry above. A tall cabinet at the end provides additional storage space for things like baby shoes, diapers and swim towels. Everyone has a shoe bin, which Jennifer finds to be a tremendous time-saver. “The kids can put their shoes on when they’re going out the door and take them off when they come in, so we don’t waste time looking for lost shoes.”
Just because it’s a mudroom doesn’t mean it can’t look finished just as any other room in the house. Mandy explains that in the hallway leading to the mudroom, they created a bulletin board for the family with photos, tickets, schedules, upcoming events and other random items. Jennifer even made a board for the kids to show off their work, a “What I did today” board, which includes artwork, pictures, and even stars they’ve received for doing something well. And because everyone has lost their keys at some point, Jennifer used an aqua colored frame to add a splash of color on the wall with multiple hooks for keys. “Just like the shoes, now we always know where we can find our keys,” she laughs.
Anyone in business relies greatly on referrals from satisfied customers, so when Jennifer’s friend, Quin Johnson, asked for a recommendation for an interior designer for her new home, Jennifer suggested she talk with Mandy.
“Our daughters met at preschool after we moved here,” says Quin, “and Jennifer and I became friends. I had admired Jennifer’s house and her taste, so I’m glad I was able to work with Mandy on the interior design of our home.”
Quin’s family dynamic is very similar to Jennifer’s. Her husband, David, is a physician, she teaches fitness classes and they also have three children — Tyler, 12, Lindsay, 10, and 5-year-old Lucy. “My goal with the mudroom was to get rid of the clutter,” Quin says. “Our prior house didn’t have a mudroom, and it was a mess with all the stuff everywhere. I needed a place for the kids’ shoes, their backpacks, their stuff for after school activities — like bats, gloves, gymnastic clothes, water bottles — all the things that used to get dumped in the kitchen when you walked in the door.”
When Quin met with her architect, a mudroom was one of the things she stressed that the house had to have. She had it designed so that the mudroom is at the end of an L-shaped hallway and tucked away from the main part of the house. “I wanted it for practical purposes, for it to be a drop zone,” she says.
For Quin, functional means easy to get to. “In our family, more drawers means more clutter. I wanted everything to be open so we would have easier access to it. There are five of us and so there are five hooks and five shoe cubbies. Everyone has his or her own space,” she says.
In working to create the perfect space, Quin spent a good deal of time on the interior design website, Houzz. “I searched and searched for so many designs. As we were building, people would ask me if I had a profile. I could pull it up and easily share the photos of what I liked and what I didn’t. I originally thought I liked the idea of everyone having their own locker, but the more I looked, I realized that I wanted to keep it an open space,” she adds.
From a design aspect, Quin’s taste runs more to natural tones. “Because she wanted her house to be more inspired by nature, we chose bead board in red oak and walnut with natural stain,” says Mandy, “so it has a more rustic, casual feel to it. We used baskets to help organize the smaller items.”
For additional décor, Quin placed chalkboard nameplates above everyone’s hooks and whimsical brightly colored artwork on the walls. She also added a mirror for quick checks before heading out the door. “It’s really a one-stop room. Grab your stuff and out the door you go!” she says.
While their taste in design may be different, Jennifer and Quin both had the same goal in designing their mudrooms. “It’s amazing the amount of stress relief that having a room like this can bring,” says Quin. “We’re always on the go. I’m running the kids in three different directions, three times a day, and teaching classes. I don’t have to guess where things are.
Jennifer believes having a designated space for her kids’ things has even helped them become more organized in their daily life. “Knowing where their things are really seems to make them more independent and timely,” she notes. “It has given them a sense of responsibility. There is a place and a purpose for their things. I really don’t know what we would do without this, having multiple children,” she says with a laugh.
When it comes to deciding how to design a mudroom, Mandy notes that it’s not really any different than designing any other room in a house. “You have to think about your life and how you live it,” she says. “What do you do with this room and this space? How can we maximize the area so that it suits what you want it to do?”
The easiest way to determine that is to actually demonstrate it. “I’ll have someone walk in the door and go through what they do — where do you put your keys, where do you kick off your shoes,” she says. “How can you stay on top of the clutter and what is coming in and going out the door? When you don’t have a designated space, all that ‘stuff’ ends up in the garage, on the kitchen counter or in the corner of a room.”
More importantly, Mandy adds that it is possible to find a way to maximize the use of any entryway and make it aesthetically pleasing, no matter the size. “Whether you choose a designer, a space planner or are just browsing through photos, you can find ways to use the space efficiently,” she says. “Even using baskets, bins and hooks can help keep you organized on any budget. The most important questions to ask are: What is best for my lifestyle? And what can make living it easier?”