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.

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.

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.

“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.


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