This article first appeared in the October edition of Valley Home Magazine:
Trekking inside the coziness of a warm home and shaking off the cold of a wet winter’s day is one of life’s simple pleasures. Cleaning up snow, dirt and mud tracked in from outside is not.
A mudroom serves as a crucial transition point for homeowners — it’s the perfect place to doff wet winter clothing, which helps keep the home clean, as well as to gear up before heading outside for snow play.
For many homeowners, the mudroom serves as the primary entry point into the home. While house guests typically funnel into the home through the front door and entry foyer, many homeowners routinely enter their residences through the garage and mudroom.
Most days, homeowners just breeze through the space as they come home from work or shopping. However, as summer winds down in Northern Nevada and the possibility of another epic winter looms, it’s important to make sure the mudroom is well suited to handle the snow, water, dirt and added traffic that comes with winter weather.
It’s not necessary to take out a second mortgage to turn an average mudroom into a highly functional space — ample storage, as well as a place to sit and take off or put on shoes or boots, are the primary considerations for a functional mudroom.
Interior designers in Reno and the Carson Valley share their insights into the best ways to upgrade the mudroom to make sure it’s ready for all the Sierra throws our way this winter.
In upscale homes, mudrooms have become one of the most functional spaces in the entire residence.
Krissie Thornhill, owner of Designing Images of Gardnerville, says some homeowners enter and exit their residences about 90 percent of the time through the mudroom. As such, the space has become a focal point for planning and design of interior furnishings.
“It’s second only to the kitchen and master bathroom,” Thornhill says. “When we are working on homes, it’s like the third priority, which is pretty high on the list.”
The first step in designing the perfect mudroom is to analyze the current space and take into account the layout of existing cabinetry and placement of the washer/dryer — that determines placement of the two most crucial items for any functional mudroom: a bench, and additional storage space for clothing and other easily scattered items.
“A bench is essential,” Thornhill says. “It’s where you sit and put on clothes, and if you have children, it’s where you’ll want to hang all their items.”
Designers agree that mudrooms should have a built-in bench with either cubbies underneath or a lift-up top for inside shoe and boot storage. Another key design element of the bench area is to install shelving above it with hooks for book bags and jackets. This area will accommodate most outwear for homeowners, as well as school backpacks for children.
Some homeowners also prefer a place for large baskets that function as catchalls for hats, gloves, scarves and the like, Thornhill adds. The accouterments in the mudroom really depend on the personality of the homeowner.
A sink with counter space is another key addition to a mudroom. It’s a great place to wash down dirty boots, or clean up after working outside or in the garage.
The main goal of the mudroom, says Pat Crawford, owner of Crawford Interior Design in South Reno, is to handle wet or dirty items that shouldn’t be brought into the main residence.
“It is a transition space so you are not dragging dirt and wet from outside into your home,” Crawford says. “You take off a jacket, dirty shoes or boots and leave them there. It’s also a great place to add storage to keep all those items organized.”
Mudrooms also are a great place to “gear up” before heading outside for snow play. That’s why a bench is a crucial element to any well-designed mudroom — and the cubby space underneath provides the perfect location for snow boots and rain shoes. Cubbies also keep walking spaces clear of trip hazards and clutter.
The mudroom is an ideal place to add functional storage to the home, Crawford adds. Additional cabinetry can hold all the household’s linen and cleaning tools and supplies. Extra storage towers also are ideal to stash mittens, scarves, hats and other winter gear that is easily misplaced.
“Make it an all-inclusive space to keep all those items organized and in one spot,” Crawford says.
Luxury Versus Necessity
Homeowners can opt for opulence, but you are better off putting your money into upgrades for the foyer and guest power room, Crawford says. Despite the heavy foot traffic, mudrooms are a secondary space. It’s important to make it look nice, but don’t go overboard.
Upgrades such a wainscoting or beadboard paneling add a beautiful custom look to any mudroom, and they also protect vulnerable sheetrock walls. However, custom carpentry can quickly escalate the cost of a mudroom makeover. Weigh your options and determine what’s necessary and what’s a luxury add-on.
The furnishings in the mudroom are going to take some abuse regardless of choice of materials — it’s a high-traffic area. Doreen Mack, owner of Lofty Expressions in Carson City, says slate makes an excellent flooring choice due to its durability and texture.
“Slate is a hard finish, and it wears well,” Mack says. “Also, it’s a rough finish, so you won’t slip and slide — you want something that has texture to the surface.”
If cost is a factor, Mack notes, vinyl flooring is much less expensive and also provides good durability and texture. More importantly, it’s impervious to water, and it’s a cinch to clean.
Tile flooring of course looks nicer than vinyl, but remember that grout lines are the first areas in a tile floor to show dirt. Opt for porcelain tile with a rectified edge — the grout lines are just 1/16th of an inch, so the tile forms a near-solid surface.
Homeowners with ceramic tile flooring already installed in their mudrooms should seal the grout lines to keep the floor looking newer. For remodel work, choose tiles that are 18x18 inches or even 24x24 inches to reduce grout lines.
The bench top could be solid wood, or it could be covered with a stain-resistant fabric such as Crypton. Another option is to add a detachable cushion with a cover that can be cleaned. For countertops, consider quartzite or pre-manufactured stone — both are easily cleaned and don’t absorb liquids.
Cabinetry can be made from MDF (medium-density fiberboard), or a nicer stain-grade wood such as alder or walnut. There’s a tremendous price difference between the two, however.
Two cool add-ons to consider are a large blackboard to write community messages to the family, and charging stations for cell phones. Lastly, if there are stairs in the mudroom, the empty space underneath them makes an ideal storage location.
“You can do some really neat cabinet space under (stairs) and put in shelves for kid’s shoes, gloves and hats with doors to cover it all — it makes a really clean space,” Mack says. “It is important to have space for all those thing, otherwise they end up all over house.”