A mudroom gets made over

Don't have a front hall closet? Turn your mudroom into a place for that pile of shoes by the door.

Story highlights

  • If you lack a downstairs closet space, make the most out of your mudroom
  • Organize the clutter with specific storage containers
  • Find a home for each pair of shoes so they don't scuff up the walls
Beth Ann Kempf's 200-year-old house has no downstairs closets, so her entry hall has to work overtime. Piles of coats and boots dominated, making it a struggle to get out the door. Real Simple reclaimed the spot to improve the family's overall exit strategy. Here's how.
Meet the Kempfs (and Their Mess)
The Space
The pass-through zone in the New Woodstock, New York, farmhouse was once a laundry room; it was turned into a side entryway about five years ago.
The Parents
Beth Ann is a first-grade teacher. Like most moms, she has made myriad attempts to bring order to her home's busiest area: "I would say, 'These five cubbies are yours -- this bin is his.' But I never got around to labeling anything, so nothing stuck." Andy, an engineer, says of the sneakers, boots, and cleats, "They were everywhere."
The Kids
Katie, 16; David, 14; and Janie, 12, play an array of sports -- and drop their balls, bats, and rackets the minute they step inside the house. Skiing is big for all three kids; in the winter, ski gear ends up piled in the mudroom, when it would be much more at home in the garage.
Found in (and Removed From) the Mudroom
- 1 kite handle (no kite)
- 1 wall-mounted quilt hanger
- 1 bottle of detangling dog shampoo (for a long-since-passed pooch)
- 3 loose bicycle parts (pedal, chain, seat connector)
- 1 bar of mechanic's soap
- 4 dried-up stain sticks
- 1 pair of snowboarding boots (no Kempf has snowboarded in three years)
- 9 empty bottles of all-purpose cleaner
- 1 ski jacket and 1 pair of snow pants that don't fit anyone in the family ("I have absolutely no idea whom they belong to," says Beth Ann)
Before: Good Intentions Gone Awry
A shoe cubby was the right approach in theory, but this unit didn't hold enough, so shoes migrated to the floor. Closed-door cabinets were loaded with cleaning products that should have been in the basement. Random baskets popped up and got filled instantly. The family's hats, scarves, and gloves lived in solid gray bins, so it was impossible to locate anything. As a result, accessories were forgotten about and hands went cold.
After: Cabinets Shed Their Bulky Doors, Cubbies Grow to Meet the Job
Roomy Storage That Fills the Space and Allows for Expansion
Door-free cabinets provide ideal nooks for bulky ski boots and opaque bins, which hide and unite by category awkwardly shaped contents, like off-season flip-flops, sunscreen, and bug spray. Open shelves can be an invitation for messy stashing; fabric bins that fit snugly (grab the handles to take them down) are more deliberate and discourage dumping. Wide wooden cubbies address a range of challenges. Each person has a labeled chrome bin for rolled-up ski pants (which eat up space when not properly contained), plus assigned locations for hats, gloves, and balls. Pale gray paint on the walls serves as a calm backdrop to this hectic zone.
To buy: Cubeicals fabric drawers in yellow, $7.50 each, closetmaid.com. Fir-wood storage cubbies (two shown), $160 each, plowandhearth.com. Chrome baskets, from $9 each, stacksandstacks.com. Wall paint: Barren Plain 2111-60, from $34 a gallon, benjaminmoore.com.
Before: Pedestrian Mayhem
Since there was no plan for what belonged where, footwear resulted in clutter, scuffed-up walls, and occasionally loss of mates. (Beth Ann had been looking for a match to a Teva for about a year.) Everyone's shoes were mixed together, so the morning rush -- and the hunt for footwear -- were extra insane.
After: Scattered Shoes Get a Smart Filing System
Permanent Residence for Every Pair
In Beth Ann's perfect world, the kids would take their shoes from the entry to their bedrooms each evening. In reality, sneakers and cleats live by the door; easy-access cabinets with drop-down doors house and hide them. Each family member has a cabinet, which keeps the peace. "No one crosses over into another's shoe territory," says Beth Ann. Steel cabinets can be wiped down with all-purpose cleaner. And at six inches deep when closed, they allow pathways to stay clear.
To buy: Three-drawer shoe cabinets, $119 each, containerstore.com.
Every Inch of Wall Space Is Put to Work
Creative Use of Hooks
Bright racks (impossible to miss) remind the kids to put away gear rather than toss or lean it. Tiny items that tend to get lost -- earbuds, goggles -- hang on low hooks. Underneath, wet boots have a place to dry, away from cleaner shoes. Solid shelves prevent drips below.
To buy: Wauli coatracks, $75 each, etsy.com/shop/pmcustom. Ekby Mossby stainless-steel shelves, from $20 each, ikea.com for stores.
Customizing for Height and Aesthetics
The main coatrack hangs about 12 inches below the seven-foot ceiling so that jackets clear the tops of cabinets. Relegating off-season outerwear to the attic and storing fleeces in the bedrooms creates breathing room for day-to-day jackets. Everyone in the family can easily reach the rack -- except Janie, the youngest, who has a pair of low hooks at her level. "I love having my own spot away from everyone else's," says Janie. "Otherwise I'd have to jump to get my coat." The step stool stays off the floor and comes in handy for putting on boots. A piece of art, inspired by the stool's speckled palette, adds polish and brings personality to this all-business area.
To buy: Flip 8 hook in white, $50, umbra.com. Dandelions Unite!, by Sarah Faulkner, $380, sarahfaulkner.com for info. Wauli hooks, $15 each, etsy.com/shop/pmcustom.