Make room for mudrooms
The Four Seasons – no, not the luxury hotel chain – the actual seasons that are responsible for supplying the dust, dirt, snow, salt, leaves, grass clippings constantly deposited inside your front entry are a year-round issue. The sandals, shoes, boots, coats, toques, mitts, scarves, ball caps and knapsacks that we drag inside (and out) join in too, making it next to impossible to have a presentable and formal entry in any home – unless you have a mudroom, of course.
Lack of space, surplus of footwear
The reality is that many urban homes have tiny main entrances. As such, finding a creative and attractive way to store outerwear becomes challenging. Even if you have the room to tuck away all the outdoor paraphernalia, the floors quickly become an extension of the exterior – and not in the good way – like when architects reference the free flow between the main floor family room and the pool terrace off the bi-folding Nana-wall in Arizona. This is just messy, and when guests come to your door, it is best if they are not greeted with footwear strewn about and forced to step into slush or mud in their socked feet as they enter.
Carve out some unconventional space
The solution is to add to, or creatively remodel, your space to allow for an alternate entrance. With space at a premium in urban house settings, the footprint of homes needs to maximize the lot areas and if they don’t already do so, pushing outward off the side of the existing dwelling is the first natural choice. Second to that, is to push off the back of the home, allowing pedestrians to avoid the front door entirely and access the home from either the side or the back. If neither option is available, a front-facing expansion can occasionally allow for a de-formalization of the main entry and create an expanded combination vestibule/mudroom at the front of the home. Let’s face it, if we get a chance to install some more storage elements, it will instantly make the space feel more clean and organized, reducing clutter and mess. If none of those options are viable, we take a look at a quick floor level shift. Given the main floor in the majority of homes are a couple of feet above established grade (a function of pushing footings at least four feet below grade to avoid the heaving effects of winter frost), a side door at, or close to grade will provide for a short run down to the basement level where one can install a mudroom, leaving only a few stairs to keep clean and removing the mess entirely from the main floor.
We have developed many different configurations for these rooms and the total space allocations and quality of the finishes are dependent on how many people reside in the home, how many visitors (extended family and close friends) come over on a regular basis, if there is a home-based business on the property, whether the home is a single family dwelling or if there is a secondary suite within the same building, and what the budget provisions are for the undertaking. Closets, millwork, benches, flooring type and natural light are all key considerations in the design.
Creative space alternatives
No matter what your existing home and lot may offer, if you are struggling with the mayhem at the front entry, some careful planning and design can go a long way to retain the sanity of all residents and guests visiting your home. It just takes a little creativity, time and initiative. Don’t get bogged down by the conventional labels for spaces. Define how to best allocate the areas of a home for the needs of everyone who lives there. Let’s mudroom together! For your really good friends, invest in one of those kitschy mats that suggest “Back door (or side door) guests are best.” Trust me, you (and they), will be glad you did!
Thinking of a mudroom in your new addition, renovation or custom home project? As always, I recommend you start your search at RenoMark.ca to find a professional design-builder to help undertake the full project from initial plan, through design, approvals and final construction.
Brendan Charters is a Founding Partner at Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments Inc., the GTA’s only four-time winner of the Renovator of the Year award.