A Mudroom Gets Made Over
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 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.
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.”
Katie, 16 (far left); 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
After: Cabinets Shed Their Bulky Doors, Cubbies Grow to Meet the Job
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
After: Scattered Shoes Get a Smart Filing System
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
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.
Customizing for Height and Aesthetics
To buy: Flip 8 hook in white, $50, umbra.com. Dandelions Unite!, by Sarah Faulkner, $380, sarahfaulkner.com for info. Wauli hooks, $20 each, etsy.com/shop/pmcustom.