Room to Spare

It’s time to get down and dirty.

This is the sentiment shared by many high-end kitchen and bath designers interviewed by KBDN who have found a lucrative way to expand their businesses: mudrooms.

“Mudrooms can present a great opportunity for upselling,” says Rebecca Gullion Lindquist, CMKBD, president and co-owner of Duluth, MN-based Lindquist & Co. “But, it depends entirely on the design of the home and whether a mudroom exists or space for one presents itself in the design parameters of the project,” she states.

Indeed, many clients will specifically request a mudroom – as long as it is integrated as a key element of the project solution, she points out.

Because mudrooms are all about organization and storage, they are a natural fit for kitchen and bath designers, who are used to providing storage solutions for their clients. And because they are usually near or adjacent to the kitchen, these spaces often follow similar style trends, albeit with more of a focus on durability.

Ed Barron, kitchen designer for Burbank, CA-based California Kitchens, explains: “Since the mudroom is still part of the house, it will follow a similar motif, but should include easy-to-clean surfaces.”

The idea, designers agree, is to contain the clutter to one area, then provide the organizational tools to streamline daily functionality.

As Mary K. Lafevers, CMKBD for Inscape Design Studio in Americus, GA, says: “These areas need simple organization – remember to keep it simple. Things like baskets for shoes under the bench, hooks for coats and shelves for books and purses can make a big difference.”

She continues: “Ultimately, I try to help people get organized. Most homeowners are very busy; clutter and disorganization can zap the energy of an already tired individual. There are wonderful products available that help keep the house, garage, interiors of closets and cabinets organized.”

Lindquist adds: “It’s also very important to spend time with clients to learn their needs and to take inventory of what they want to store. I have designed storage for everything from dog kennels to downhill skis to recycling needs.”

Patricia Gaylor, noted green designer and principal at Little Falls, NJ-based Patricia Gaylor Interior Design, adds: “Not only does the addition of a mudroom enhance your design project and add to your bottom line, but remember to mention to your client that it also adds to their bottom line in terms of resale. It’s a ‘win-win’ for both of you.”

“Mudrooms provide a great opportunity to ‘upsell’ a renovation. It’s not only a complement to your kitchen design, but it’s an integral part of a good kitchen plan. After all, a good kitchen renovation is about organization,” Gaylor concludes.

All about Storage

The ideal role of the mudroom is to serve as a “catch all” of possessions for the client – and happily, it can also provide a “catch all” of profit to savvy kitchen designers.

But it all begins with storage.

“I like to think of the mudroom as an activity gear closet for the whole family,” says Lela Gibson, designer/sales for the Steamboat Springs, CO-based Thurston Kitchen & Bath. “The key to a successful mudroom is the ability to store and access gear easily, such as ski boots, helmets and dog leashes.”

The mudroom can also provide storage for hats, mittens and scarves – with storage designed in such a way that it allows these items to dry after activity in the snow, explains Lindquist.

Gaylor adds: “I like open niches or under-bench storage for boots, and niches above hooks to store hats, gloves, etc.”

“I’m a big believer in hooks,” she adds. “I’ve yet to see a child (or even some grown ups) take the time to get out a hanger and hang up their jacket. Having hooks available means there’s a pretty good chance that the jacket will get hung up!”

Likewise, she notes that a cabinet that will hold up to a lot of banging and scraping would be a good choice for this space.

Barron agrees: “A mudroom calls for rugged and easy-to-clean surfaces as well as good quality cabinetry that may be better equipped to take abuse.” He notes that drawers or box-type cabinets work well to keep mess to a minimum and create ample storage solutions.

“The most requested cabinetry for the mudroom is tall cabinet storage with adjustable shelves, along with a bench to allow people to sit while taking off footwear. When someone is on a tight budget, this is where I start,” says Gibson.

She also says that mudroom cabinetry can incorporate wood, glass or metal, depending on the client’s needs and design theme.

But in the end, it’s all about adding functional value to the home. As Gibson concludes: “The mudroom should never be forgotten – storage just makes lives easier, and that’s [a big part of] what you’re selling.”

Location, Location

A well-placed mudroom will not only save the client space, but will also help better organize daily functions. Likewise, a poorly placed mudroom can hinder functionality.

Lindquist notes: “One of my pet peeves is when this space is combined with the home’s laundry center. There’s logic in having laundry adjacent to a mudroom, however it’s often combined in the same space. Laundry is a space where one strives for cleanliness, and it seldom has anything to do with coat, boot, gear and pet storage. There’s a reason we call this a ‘mud’ room.”

Gibson adds that a hallway niche added by the entry door can be a good place for a mudroom, even if the home originally didn’t have a mudroom. “Just finding a way to make an entryway more functional can bring in additional sales,” she states.

Gaylor agrees that location is an important key to a mudroom project.

“Ultimately, it should minimize clutter and enhance the look of the entry area,” she says.

“A mudroom also needs to be large enough,” Lafevers adds. “It’s the entrance that is commonly used in the back or garage door, and if that area is only a hallway with doors on each end, it can become a major traffic jam.”

Lindquist notes: “Locating the mudroom directly off the main entrance used by the family is imperative.”

This becomes even more critical if the home is located in an area where rain or snow are common.

Barron notes: “The demand for mudrooms is often very regional. People in colder climates are more likely to need them.”

Lindquist – whose firm is based in an area known for harsh winters and quick temperature changes – says that these spaces need to be large enough to accommodate all of the outer clothing, shoes, boots and gear that are part and parcel of living in cold climes.

“In Duluth, we never really put our winter gear into seasonal storage. Consequently, I think my clients own more jackets, shoes and sports gear than anyone!” she says.

Floors and More

With the mudroom catching so much dirt, reliable and durable flooring is critical.

“Mudrooms fare well with flooring that can be easily swept or wiped up,” says Gaylor.

She adds: “Since I’m a ‘green’ designer, I am partial to Marmoleum, which is a floor covering product that’s made from flax, linseed oil and jute. It’s great for high-traffic areas, and emits no harmful fumes, so it contributes to good indoor air quality.”

Gibson recommends slate as a durable flooring choice, as it is naturally abrasive – eliminating worries about slipping and falling – and it can be scrubbed with a hard bristle brush when it gets muddy, she points out.

“[We often go with] tile, with in-floor heating being a desirable feature as it helps dry wet boots and shoes,” Lindquist says.

“Tile is great, but it must also be non-slick,” says Lafevers. “If the situation doesn’t easily lend itself to changing the floor, a generous area rug can certainly fit the bill and add color and flair.”

She adds that the right flooring could even appeal to the animal-loving client, as the family dog loves a warm floor and will often find itself relegated to the mudroom area during get-togethers.

Gaylor states: “Ultimately, the key for any good mudroom is durability. Since it’s the first place you hit upon entering your home, it takes a lot of abuse from shoes, boots, backpacks, etc.”

Back to the Future

Perhaps the strongest selling point of mudrooms is that they provide benefits for family members of all ages. That means these spaces will continue to offer value for years after the project is done.

Lafevers notes: “The idea is to keep it flexible. Some day the children will grow up, so we suggest using the hooks or pegs on a board that can be moved up or down. I always use adjustable shelves in cupboards, because who knows what’s going in them after you, the designer, has left the project?” 

However, she warns: “Often children are using this area, so make the hooks an appropriate height, make storage easy to reach and keep it simple. I also advise clients not to leave their keys by the back door for security reasons.”
Barron also offers a child-friendly application: “Cubby holes with names are great,” he says.

Gaylor will even purchase canvas or decorative file boxes with labels and customize each box specifically for each child in the home so they can have their own private storage.

“It makes it easier for them to store and find their hats and gloves when they need them, and keeps these items organized when they’re out of season,” she says.

Lindquist adds: “Good storage for hats, mittens and scarves ranks high – ideally storage that allows these items to dry after activity in the snow. We will often address this by using ventilated storage baskets that are easily accessed by the kids.”

Gaylor offers: “Lockers are also good if there’s enough room for them. But remember: The mudroom is an area for convenience and accessibility, so there may be a shortage of large closet space to consider. Therefore, hooks, niches and bins are going to be more utilized in the mudroom.”

Lafevers adds. “These mudroom areas have really become quite fun for my firm to design, while also serving as an expression of my client’s personality.”

Muddy Waters

Much like kitchens and baths, mudrooms offer a palette for truly inspired designs.

“A unique application for a mudroom would be a shower or wet area with a hand shower. This is good for cleaning up the family dog after muddy walks,” says Gibson.

“I designed a mudroom with a foot bath,” says Lafevers. “The back door opened from the garage and there was a bench and shoe rack located at the end of the hall. The adjacent bathroom was equipped with a foot bath so people could wash their feet before coming into the rest of the house.”

Solutions like this can also address client concerns about hygiene. For instance, in this design, “Both of the clients were in [the] health care [field so] they didn’t want to spread the germs found on hospital floors into their home. Removing the outdoor shoes and using ‘indoor’ shoes helped to keep the unwanted dirt and debris out of the house,” she says.

“My most recent mudroom was a hallway big enough to add a small cabinet with a bench. I held the cabinet to the ceiling and allowed enough space below where people could sit without hitting their head. I added hooks on the wall for coats,” Gibson describes.

She continues: “Originally, I was supposed to design just the kitchen, but I noticed the hallway had one hook with multiple jackets hanging on it. So, I explained to the client that this could be an added part of the kitchen remodel with little additional expense. The hallway is now organized, so it doesn’t look like a dumping ground.”

Gaylor adds: “I once did a mudroom with an area that had a 36" countertop that was open underneath for recycling. Not only was it a good place to keep the recycling (near the garage), but it also provided a good place to stand and sort mail upon entering, which helped to keep paper and junk mail to a minimum. If there’s extra room, you can add a recycling ‘center’ and a place to sort mail, and even a bulletin board to post messages.”

Other mudroom additions could include a space for dog leashes, extra keys or a mirror for last-second primping, she concludes.