July 12, 2024


Swing Your Home

How to Design an Entry That Keeps Your Winter Mess at Bay

The entrance to your home — or your mudroom, if you’re lucky enough to have one — has a hard job.

It has to welcome you and your guests with an inviting appearance. It also has to withstand whatever weather you track in — and provide a place to stow the mounds of coats, boots, hats and umbrellas that come with you in the winter.

“Especially in climates with snow, it’s mandatory to have a transition spot between outside and inside,” said Jean Stoffer, an interior designer in Grand Rapids, Mich. But while functionality is paramount, she added, “it’s always possible to make it look good, too.”

Designing a space that won’t be overwhelmed by all that paraphernalia isn’t easy. But there are plenty of tricks that can help, even if you’re dealing with a tiny hallway leading into an apartment.

Especially in a small space, what’s required is “dedication to organization and storage solutions,” said Sarah Richardson, an interior designer and TV and YouTube personality, based in Toronto.

“I’m the sort of person who needs to have a place for everything, and for everything to find its place,” said Ms. Richardson, whose own mudroom contains a family’s worth of outerwear and accessories, from ski boots to flip flops. “There is just so much gear.”

Ms. Stoffer, Ms. Richardson and other designers offered advice on how to design an entryway that keeps the mess at bay.

“When we design a project, everyone’s pretty keen on talking about bedrooms and bathrooms, and open floor plan versus divided rooms, but they sometimes overlook the mudroom,” said Rafe Churchill, a partner at the architecture and design firm Hendricks Churchill, which has offices in New York and Sharon, Conn. “So that’s something we always bring to the discussion.”

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, he said. Do you have children who need access to low cabinets and hooks? Will you need to store sports equipment? Do you have a collection of footwear requiring a wall of cubbies? Do you have pets? “Sometimes, people want an area so the dog can sleep there,” Mr. Churchill said.

Thinking through how you will realistically use the space before you begin making changes will help avoid disappointment later.

If you’re renovating or planning to replace the flooring in an entryway, choose a durable material that will age gracefully.

Ms. Stoffer is partial to porcelain tile because it’s impervious to the elements. “And now porcelain can look like almost anything,” she said, including wood and natural stone.

She especially likes porcelain tile with graphic patterns that resemble those found on encaustic cement tile. “I would never recommend cement tile in a mudroom,” she said, because of its tendency to show wear. And few people can tell the difference.

Ms. Richardson favors natural stone, but chooses hardwearing varieties like granite, slate and some marble. “Going with a honed finish as opposed to polished will be less slippery,” she said, and won’t show scratches as easily.

Hendricks Churchill has also used brick, a tough material whose appearance improves with age. But whatever material you choose, Mr. Churchill recommended adding radiant heating under the floor with an electric heating mat. “Radiant heat melts the snow and ice, and dries up any water,” he said.

Mats and rugs aren’t just inviting — they also help contain dirt, snow and water. And two are sometimes better than one.

Birgitte Pearce, an interior designer in Montclair, N.J., sometimes uses a two-rug setup to scrub the soles of shoes and boots as people arrive home.

First, she installs a mat or rug in an abrasive material right next to the door. “We’ll suggest either Chilewich mats, which have a really rough texture and can grab a lot of stuff, or Waterhog mats from L.L. Bean,” she said. Or when she is renovating a home, she’ll leave a recessed area in a tiled floor for a coir mat, so it sits at the same level as the tile.

Then, if there is enough space, Ms. Pearce installs a larger rug made from a hardwearing but slightly less utilitarian material, like cowhide or sisal, providing a decorative accent while collecting more dirt.

Another option for a rug is an indoor-outdoor model from a company like Dash & Albert, said Lauren Nelson, an interior designer with Decorist, in San Anselmo, Calif.

Wool rugs also tend to do well in entryways. “We do rugs that are all wool, just in darker colors and with a lot of pattern, because they really hide a lot of dirt,” Ms. Nelson said. “They can be vacuumed and cleaned, and have a cozy feel.”

With bags, packages, umbrellas, dog leashes and hockey sticks, the walls in an entry hall can quickly go from pristine to scuffed and dented. Wall paneling can help.

Hendricks Churchill frequently installs vertical V-groove, beaded or shiplap paneling on mudroom walls because the wood stands up to wear and tear better than painted drywall. “Even if you paint the paneling, it’s easier to do a fresh coat of paint every so many years than having to patch and repair damaged Sheetrock,” said Heide Hendricks, a partner at the firm.

With or without paneling, Jenny Wolf, an interior designer in New York, recommends choosing paint with some sheen for durability and to make cleaning easier. “Definitely use eggshell paint,” she said, rather than a matte finish, because you won’t damage it with light scrubbing.

“Use your vertical space as much as you possibly can,” Ms. Richardson advised.

Consider where you can install shelves to hold baskets and hats — all the way up to the ceiling. “And: hooks, hooks, hooks,” she said. “Add as many hooks as possible, at a variety of heights, so that anyone and everyone can reach them. No matter how many hooks you have, every single one of them will get used.”

Adding hooks to wood paneling is relatively easy, but adding them to drywall is more challenging, because screws have a tendency to pull out. As a workaround, Hendricks Churchill sometimes creates custom peg rails by securing a horizontal board to wall studs and then screwing hooks into the board.

An alternative to hooks is a coat tree, which can be placed in a corner. Rather than using separate hooks and shelves, Ms. Wolf sometimes uses a large wall unit that combines the two. Some units also include a mirror, combining three functions into a single piece.

Hooks and coat trees are great for holding in-season outerwear, but they probably won’t hold everything you need to store. To contain off-season gear and cut down on visual clutter, having at least some closed storage is important.

In entryways without a closet, or with only a small one, many designers build custom cabinetry with big doors, to hide coats, and small cubbies for shoes and baskets of mitts. If you’re not ready for a full-blown renovation, free-standing furniture can work almost as well.

“An antique armoire can serve the same purpose and might even make it feel a little more interesting,” Ms. Pearce said. “You can always retrofit the inside, with some shelving or by adding an extra rod.”

Consoles and credenzas with doors and drawers can also hide shoes and smaller accessories.

Equipping your entryway with multiple baskets will help keep things organized. Baskets can be sized to fit in dedicated cubbies, stored in a closet or under a console, or simply left out along a wall or in a corner.

One organizing strategy is to dedicate individual baskets to specific types of items: one for hats, one for gloves, one for pet accessories. Another option is to assign baskets.

“Each member of our family has a basket that is labeled,” Ms. Richardson said. “There is a tag that has the person’s initials on it, so my kids don’t have to wonder where their stuff is.”

In her home, Ms. Pearce uses a rolling utility cart from Ikea, which she stores in a closet. “Everybody has their own level of that cart” for winter accessories, she said. “So everybody’s organized.”

Wet shoes and boots are more troublesome. Left on the floor, they create sock-soaking puddles, but it can be difficult to find boot trays that aren’t an eyesore. Hendricks Churchill’s solution: copper boot trays, bought in custom sizes on Etsy.

The copper is shiny when it’s new, “but it quickly mellows to a beautiful patina over time,” Ms. Hendricks said. “The more muddy boots you put on it, the more beautiful the finish becomes.”

Finally, consider an umbrella stand to prevent draining umbrellas from leaking across the floor. Ms. Pearce uses a tall ceramic crock in her home and usually looks for vintage stands for clients.

“It’s not just utilitarian,” she said. “It’s among the first things people see when they come in your house, so it should be reflective of the rest of your home.”

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.