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April 2011

Mud Rooms & Halls

6th Apr, 2011 | Filed under Articles, Blog
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The concept of a "mud room" varies from one geographic location to another. Warmer, dryer climates will not require the same amenities as cooler, damper climates. Household needs not only vary from one to another, but as families transition through life stages. An empty nesters needs will be different from a household with teenagers which will be different than a family with younger children. That being said, the first step should be a review of the needs of the household as it relates to the locale.

After reviewing what is expected of the mud room, consider the amount of available space While every home, regardless of size, should accommodate the transition from outdoor to indoor the space needs to be kept in proportion with the overall size of the home. A small home may only have room for hooks and a shelf in the laundry area while an estate can feature the full function mud room. Or, if your remodeling, you need to consider the available space and cost vs. value.

The following is a question/answer segment for the Washington Examiner

Q. Can you "repurpose" a back hall or laundry? A. Chances are if you are looking at an existing home that the space you are considering is already a mud hall. In this case your first step would be the same as if you were designing a new home, determine what you expect from the space. Is it more storage? A place for the dog? Better separation from the primary living area? Or? Next consider the available space. Reconfiguring available cabinets and closets while updating floor, wall, and counter tops may satisfy the owners' needs. If more space is needed can walls be moved or volume added to the home? In some circumstances as little as 24" (the depth of a bench or countertop) addition can make the difference. An adjacent room may have the extra footage to sacrifice or infill under an existing eave outside the home may do the trick. When designing a new home this becomes a feature of the design process.

Q. Coolest and latest features? A. Simply considering that there is a need for the space is pretty cool. And priority should be given to satisfying the basic requirements including:

Storage, which can feature cubbies, bench, lockers, hooks, shelves, shoe racks, cabinets, closets, whatever fits the owners design sense and needs. Is the owner one who likes everything behind a door and hidden from view or open and accessible. Family of eight or empty nesters? Car keys, cell phones, brief cases or back packs and ipods.

Durability and ease of cleaning. Finish selections play the biggest part in satisfying this requirement. Hard surfaces such as tile are popular but laminates are making a comeback. Higher end laminates can offer comparable durability without grout lines to worry about. I'm also seeing more stained concrete floors and countertops. A cool feature if you’re in a very wet climate is to use a sloped floor to accommodate a floor drain. It's easy when using concrete floor finish. Creating a wainscot with the hard surface will protect the walls. With cabinet finishes, avoiding highly "polished" surfaces will help preserve the new look. Again, laminates seem to offer some good durability and ease of cleaning. Painting can be an option, but look for durability and ease of repair options. If you prefer natural woods you might consider more rustic finishes that will hide the scuffs and scrapes from daily use.

Access and natural light. Of coarse locating the mud hall so that it becomes the families most convenient access is important. The mud room will fail its most important task if the family crosses through the house to get to it. And personally I prefer that every room have a natural light source. This does not necessarily mean that it needs its own window. A re-lit, or indoor window, can allow an adjacent room to share its window.

Other considerations:

Families with pets often create a space for food and water bowls or litter boxes as well as storage for pet supplies. Pet washing stations are popular with pet owners who have larger homes. Sometimes something as simple as a wash tub with counter space is enough, but I have designed homes with "dog wash stations". These include a raised platform with shower drain and hand held shower nozzle with steps to help the dog up. That same project featured direct outdoor access to a covered kennel area. These folks really loved their dogs.

Big into sports? When designing mud rooms for high mountain homes we often will work in storage for winter wear and ski gear. Some families have aspiring football, hockey or soccer players. While the traditional locker may work for these needs, you should consider extra ventilation.

Cell phones and MP3 players, hand held video games, or other traveling electronics may need a place to land in the mud hall. If space allows consider a laptop docking station with small desk for collecting bills, catalogs and miscellaneous "junk drawer" items.

Other features which have been included in a mud room include potting bench, sewing table, crafting area, gift wrapping station or canning kitchen. As much as I believe in the "Not so big house" design approach, there comes a point when you ask one room to serve to many functions. Potting plants and sewing are probably not compatible?

In regards to creating personal space for each family member. First question, is it really necessary? And then, how many family members are we talking about and what are their individual needs. A three year olds needs will be different from a high school football player, which will be different from a working adult. Is this a family of three or thirteen? Beyond baskets, cubbies, and lockers…not much new in the world storage. But a well thought out wall of cabinets can provide storage for most family needs.

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