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Interior design: Dirty secrets

Mudroom
In a mudroom designed by Kate Davidson of Kate + Co., practical elements are elevated by a premium marble sink surround and rich, mossy blue-green walls. Photo by Photo by Mike Chajecki

The mudroom is, by nature, a humble room. While other spaces that ease the transition between indoors and out have grander names — vestibule, antechamber, foyer — the mudroom is Cinderella, hardworking but often overlooked.

Most homes built after about 1970 have at least a small transitional space that separates the back door or garage from the kitchen or whichever room occupies the rear of the house. But urban houses of an earlier vintage rarely had room for a dedicated transitional space. At best, you might have a rear staircase or hallway to the outside, or perhaps a back porch or “summer kitchen.” Any of these spaces could be repurposed into a mudroom.
National Post

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Mudroom
“We added durable shiplap behind the bench so the wall isn’t damaged by backpacks, zippers and high traffic,” says designer Bren Petrunick. Photo by Photo by Mike Chajecki

When designing one, the material focus should be on durability, functionality and ease of cleaning, says Bren Petrunick, designer and founder of Simply White Interiors (SWI). “Consider using a higher-gloss paint on millwork, durable ceramic floor tiles and wear-resistant materials for walls, such as shiplap, beadboard or wallpaper.” It’s what she refers to as “really a hands-on place.”

Designer Jessica Cinnamon agrees, and chooses flooring that is for high-traffic use. “It should be non-slip and highly durable. And making sure that it’s easily washable to withstand seasonal climate challenges is a must.” Another important feature of these rooms is their usefulness as storage facilities, whether that means a line of hooks and cubbies for coats and footwear, or extensive closets and cupboards for all the trappings of daily life: out-of-season clothes, sports gear, garden tools and cleaning supplies. Kate Davidson of Kate + Co. recommends designating a cubby and/or hook for each member of the household to keep things organized. Another useful feature is a bench where you can sit to put on or take off boots. While a padded cushion makes for a softer landing, a durable bench surface like stone or quartz will stand up to years of dirt, wear and water.

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Mudroom
This mudroom designed for a larger home by Jessica Cinnamon has walnut lowers, a rolling ladder and custom-cut herringbone floor tiles. Photo by Photo by Stephanie Buchman

If you have the means, Davidson also recommends installing a sink in the mudroom, ideal for washing off boots or paws. Other smart add-ons: a landing spot for mail, keys or a security box that prevents thieves from remotely accessing your car’s key fob.

Mudrooms are tailor-made for pets, especially if you live in the country or near a large park or ravine. “As a pet owner, I think that when you can carve out space for furry friends in a mudroom it elevates the functionality another degree,” says Petrunick. “You can dedicate space for storing pet supplies, or carve out sleeping and eating stations. And if you have extra space, you can consider creating a pet spa, for convenient cleaning and grooming at home.” Even in a house without a proper mudroom, it might be possible to adapt a similar space to perform the same function. Davidson repurposed a back hallway leading to the garage by removing the closets that formerly lined the walls, replacing them with a mix of open and closed storage surrounding a bench. Baskets on the open shelves above the bench provide a dedicated place for the family’s two boys to stash hats and mittens.

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In another of Kate’s mudroom designs, a few luxurious touches have been added to the practical components, including a sink surround in premium marble slab (because it’s such a small amount, she says, the cost was quite feasible) and rich, mossy blue-green walls.

Mudroom
Kate Davidson repurposed a back hallway leading to the garage by replacing closets with a mix of open and closed storage. Baskets provide a spot for the family’s boys to stash hats and mittens. Photo by Photo by Stephanie Buchman

In a mudroom designed for a larger home by Jessica Cinnamon, the sense of warmth embodied by the rest of the house was carried into the mudroom. “We used walnut for the lower cabinets and Benjamin Moore’s Iron Mountain for the painted cabinets,” says Cinnamon. “The room has extremely tall ceilings, so we incorporated a ladder that can be rolled to reach the top (cupboards).” Custom-cut herringbone floor tiles complete the look.

One of Petrunick’s designs checks all the mudroom-essentials boxes, with open and closed storage, seating and hooks. “We added durable shiplap behind the bench so the wall isn’t damaged by backpacks, zippers and high traffic,” she points out. “We also incorporated a few custom toss cushions for added comfort and to soften a space that can otherwise lean heavy on the hard finishes.” Baskets and bags function as catch-all containers for odds and ends, while drawers in the bench seat offer another way to conceal clutter and designate personal storage for each member of the family.

“Adding charm and character to a very practical space makes it feel less like a work zone,” Petrunick notes, “and more like a thoughtful extension of the home.”

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