The Dirt Stops Here

Ever since we had children, a functional mudroom has been a must in our home because:

  • it is the first place we search for our shoes or anything else we need to leave our home;
  • it also provides storage for those seasonal outdoor items like boots, gloves, sunglasses and hats so that they don’t take up room in our closets; and 
  • it helps me keep my sanity.

When it came to designing this house, we all put on our thinking caps of how to create a great space that would work for all of us.   With a family of four adults, there are a lot of opinions and requirements but thankfully for the most part we were all on the same page.  

We designed it, my husband built it and I can say after 5 years of living with it it is functioning extremely well.  It is also holding up very well even though we live in an area with mud in the spring, sand and grit in the summer and snow in the winter.  Our cubbies look like brand new thanks to high-quality paint. The hooks have been the perfect size to hold every size of jacket and the sturdy baskets provided ample space for all the small items.

After 13 home designs, I have my list of mudroom must-haves.  Come along while I share all my tips and also share how we built our cubbies.  

Before we go on to that, let me describe the basics of a mudroom for those who are new to this concept.

What is a mudroom?

A mudroom is a room, entrance area or basically a designated space where members of the family who live in the home take off and store their outdoor clothing, shoes, sunglasses, gloves, hats, pet accessories such as leashes and harnesses, and possibly sporting or walking gear.  It is a “drop zone” for items you will not need once you are inside the house and therefore keeps them from being left in various spots in the rest of the home.

What should be in a mudroom?

A functional space should be outfitted with proper storage to hold things like jackets, shoes, gloves, hats, sunglasses, etc.  Each family member should have their own section so that their items can be kept separate from other members.  This keeps things from becoming lost.  Items that will make organization easier are:

  • strong wall hooks to hang coats, hats, backpacks, school bags, and purses;
  • shoe racks or baskets for shoe storage;
  • a drying mat for wet shoes, muddy boots and other sports equipment;
  • storage baskets for smaller items like hats, keys, etc.;
  • ​open shelves for basket storage;
  • a small cabinet for car and house keys;
  • a basket for dirty clothes to go in;
  • built-in bench or free-standing bench to make taking off and putting on shoes, easier;
  • a full-length mirror to make sure you are looking just right before heading out the door.
Metal key cabinet
Interior of key cabinet

Where should a mudroom be located in your home?

The best spot for a mudroom is adjacent to whichever door your family members usually enter through.  Hopefully, your home has a front door for guests and a back door for family members so that you are not cluttering up the main entrance.

Another consideration would be placing it near the laundry room so that soiled items could be placed immediately in the laundry room rather than taken up to a room and then brought down again.

What are some important factors when it comes to designing a mudroom?

​If you are in the process of building a home, I would suggest having an entrance for family members to a dedicated space that functions as the mudroom because it is such an important space. The ultimate design feature would be having an entire room where you can close the door off to the rest of the house. Why? Because this area can become messy so a door to keep it private is nice.

It is very important to consider your family’s lifestyle and the needs of your family for storage in this area. Are there sports enthusiasts who would benefit from extra storage for bike or walking gear? Do you have a pet that needs some storage also? What is your climate like? Do you need storage for bulky winter items?

What materials should be used in a mudroom?

​Durable flooring is a must because mud, water, snow, and sand will all be carried in on the shoes.  Tile or natural stone are the best choices for flooring.  Wall-to-wall carpet would be an absolute no.  Hardwood or laminate flooring is also not ideal due to moisture issues and the potential for scratches.  We have hardwood flooring with a commercial clear coat and it has been fine.  We also have a thick absorbant carpet right at the door so that moisture does not penetrate through to the hardwood so that helps with protection.

​A non-slip, washable doormat or rug for this high-traffic area is also a necessity.

​Adequate lighting that brightens the entire room is necessary to be able to see what you are doing.  This is not the spot for dim lighting.

Built-in cabinetry is wonderful and if you have a lot of space so that things can be stored, closed storage, such as cabinets with doors on them is wonderful.  It is also important that the cabinets are made of durable materials and high-quality paint or stain along with a clear coat for easy clean up. The cabinetry should also blend in to your home’s overall design aesthetic.

Open shelving is good too and sometimes more practical.  Big jackets or boots can prop open the doors on closed storage and just be annoying.

​If neither of those are available at least a well-organized closet would be the next option.

​Lastly, a coat rack with a bench with baskets underneath for shoe storage would also assist with keeping outdoor items organized and stored away.

Our temporary mudroom

Building a home takes time. Not everything gets done at once. For us the completion of items depends on the time of year and what is most pressing.

We take care of indoor projects during the winter and outdoor projects from spring to fall.

Our mudroom clearly was not attractive but it worked. Each family member had 2 coat hooks and a small section of bench for our other belongings.

It is conveniently located at our back door and right next to the laundry room.

Plain mudroom with lots of jackets and shoes
Plain mudroom with lots of jackets and shoes

A french door and upper windows let in natural light but in the winter it was a bit of a darker space. A must for me when finally getting around to this project was a bright, welcoming color. I wanted something that immediately lifted my spirits when I walked in the back door. We picked a bright a cheery greeny blue which you will see in the after photos at the end of this post.

Lesson #1 – Stay away from all white cubbies. In our other homes I had always opted for white, but I quickly learned that white showed up every spec of dirt and wear and tear. So I wasn’t going to do white again. Plus it is fun to try something new and the color we chose has made the whole family happy.

Mudroom cleared out

Once we cleared out all of our belongings, we measured the space and basically divided it into four equal compartments.

Lesson #2 – Unless you have a large space, do not put up divider walls between each cubby. I knew from previous mudroom designs that those divider walls, even thin ones, took up valuable space and made it uncomfortable to sit at. We also opted for no cabinet doors because we found our large jackets just kept the doors propped open and that drove me nuts.

Mudroom design plan drawing

The only actual divider walls are in the upper shelving area and below the seat to keep everyone’s shoes in their own area.

Lesson #3 – Do not put a white base where the shoes go. In our previous mudroom, our built in cubbies had a small cubby (like a box) below the seat that had a white base. I am sure you can guess but it looked terrible all the time.

For this new design of cubbies, we designed the hardwood flooring to be the base. It was grey and would hide any dirt. It is also super easy to clean. In the winter we bring in plastic trays for our wet boots and shoes to go on to catch any moisture.


We used:

  • MDF for the construction of the cubbies
  • primed pine half jam trim for all the trim
  • wood adhesive
  • nails and screws.
Sheet of MDF

Step 1 – Determining board lengths

Plan for rips of mdf for mudroom seating

Take your design and break it down into long rectangles and determine those widths and lengths for each section of wood.

Cubbies design plan

For our design starting at the top and working down, we had one piece of trim attached to the top of the upper cubbie board which looks like crown molding, but it is a modern version.

Horizontal pieces:

Next, we for the roof of the upper cubbies storage area is a top board running horizontally across the top of the cubbies that is 106.75 inches long and 12″ deep.

There is a second board which is the exact same size as the “roof” and it forms the base of the upper cubbies storage area.

The hook board is 8″ wide and 106.75″ long.

There is a strip at the back of the seat that is 3.5″ wide and 106.75 inches long which I have labeled “Lower seat back board”.

The seat is made up of two pieces that are 20″ wide and 106.75 inches long with spacers and a front trim.

Vertical pieces:

The vertical pieces starting at the top are 5 pieces that are 12″ x 12″ that divide the upper cubbies.

Running from under the upper cubbies to the seat are two side pieces that are 12″ x 53″.

There are 5 pieces that are 16″ x 19″ that go under the seat and divide up the shoe storage areas.

Step 2: Lengthening the boards

MDF is 8 feet long (96″) so we had to join together wood to make it span the length of our room which was 106.75″.

We used a biscuit jointer to connect the two pieces of wood together. Space out four center lines equally spaced across the board – place marks on both boards in the same spot so that they match up. The biscuit jointer has a center mark, so line that center mark up with your pencil marks and push the biscuit jointer into the MDF to remove a half oval slot for the biscuit to be inserted. We used #20 biscuits. Do this to all eight slots (4 on each board).

Place ample glue in all slots and along the front edge of the board. Insert biscuits.

Lengthening boards
Holes for pegs

Glue other side of board and press into the biscuits.

Gluing pegs
Joining boards

Once all glued, remove excess glue. Then clamp to boards and let dry.

Securing joints

Step 3: Making the seat

This is pretty complicated to explain in words but if you take a look down to the three smaller photos that are side by side, it will make sense. Basically out of wood we are going to create the seat and it will consist of the large bottom portion of the seat, a front small piece and the top portion of the seat and they will fold over on each other to create a sideways U shape.

First, make a 45 degree cut along the front of the seat boards that we just joined together (the pieces that are 106.75″ long by 20″ deep).

Cut a 2″ wide piece that is 106.75″ long. This will form the bull nose of the seat.

Cutting 45 on seat

Lay the bottom portion of the seat down on your work bench with the 45 degree angle facing to the left. Then run a long piece of tape long the edge of the board that has a 45 on it leaving half of the tape exposed and facing up.

Placing tape of fold of seat

Place the small (2″) piece of wood on the remaining half of the tape. Make sure it is pressed down well.

Placing tape to hold pieces of seat
Creating the seat

Run a long piece of tape along the other side of the small piece of wood leaving half of the width of the tape exposed. Lay the other side of the seat with the 45 degree angle facing right to the small piece of wood on the tape. Make sure it is adhered well. This is like making the spine for a cover of a book.

Next place spacer boards that are one inch thick along the bottom port of the seat. Place them every foot or so.

Run glue along the two folds of the 45 degree wood pieces as show below. Both sides of the small piece of wood should have ample glue.

Place glue along the spacer boards as well.

Fold the board over on top of the board below.

Creating the seat
Creating the seat
Creating the seat

Step 4: Making the supports for the seat

Using the 16″ x 19″ pieces of wood, first take the two outer pieces and glue thin strips of wood as spacers to go between the wall and the wood. This will create a wider side frame when trimming out the cubbies.

This photo below is taken looking down on the end piece of wood. Place glue along the bottom of the piece of the wood that will stick to the floor and along the back edge that will be stick to the back wall. Put into place and then finish with a screw between the wood and the wall.

Spacers on side pieces of cubbies

For the three inner divider pieces, place glue along the edge that will rest on the floor and the edge that will be against the back wall. Finish with a screw between the wood and the wall.

Screwing in base support for cubbies

This is how it should look when all shoe divider pieces are in place.

Upright dividers in place for base of cubbies

Step 5: The seat

Once the seat that you made in Step 3 has thoroughly dried, remove the tape. Place glue along the top of the divider boards and then place the seat on top of them.

Place the board that is 3.5″ wide along the back of the seat. Adhere with glue and then nail.

Mudroom seat

Step 6: Framing out the coat hanging portion

Take the side pieces that are 12″ wide and 53″ long and glue small four strips of wood evenly spaced from top to bottom. Place the wood with the strips on it next to the wall and glue and nail.

Spacers on sides of cubby
Attaching sides

Glue and nail the hook board to the wall.

Placing pieces of cubby

Step 7 – Optional – Adding more detail

We wanted more detail and interest, so we added trim boards evenly spaced along the back of the cubby. This is not required but it does make it more interesting.

Attaching trim to back wall of mudroom

These boards are 3″ wide. We started with one in the middle, then placed half of one of the trim boards along the side wall. Then evenly space three boards in between the side wall and the middle board.

Assembling mudroom seating and cubbies

Step 8: Installing the upper cubbies

The upper cubbies are made by placing two boards that will span the entire cubby space – these two boards are glued together.

Constructing the upper cubbies

Then the five upright boards are glued and nailed into place. They should match the spacing of the shoe storage below.

Upper cubby construction

Then a top board is glued and screwed on.

Next lift into place.

Bringing in upper cubbies

Screw to wall.

Placing upper cubbies

Step 9 – Trimming

Measure a top trim board that will span from one wall to the other wall along the top. Nail in place. Next add another piece of trim to the top by stepping it up one inch from the base of the previous piece of trim. Nail in place.

Applying trim to upper cubbie

Measure a trim board that will cover the wood at the base of the upper cubbies from one wall to the other. Nail in place.

Applying trim to upper cubbie

See below: For the side pieces measure the length from the bottom of the upper cubby to the seat. Cut both pieces and nail into place.

Trimming out cubbies in mudroom

See below: For the side pieces measure the length from the top of the upper cubby to the bottom of the upper cubby. Cut both pieces and nail into place.

Mudroom trimmed out

Step 10: Calking and filling

Calk with Dap all pieces of wood where they meet the wall.

Caulking trim

Fill all nail holes with wood filler. Let dry. Sand until smooth. Vacuum and wipe away all dust.

Filling nail holes

Step 11: Painting

This is the part of every project that I find the hardest: picking a paint color! One of the best things you can do to assist with picking a color is to find a pillow, piece of wallpaper, or art that you love and will use in this area and then choose a color from it.

As discussed previously, it was necessary to pick a cheery color for this area because it can be a bit dark especially in the winter. I wanted something that cheered us up as soon as we came home.

Stop by your favorite paint store and pick up a bunch of paint swatches, the bigger in size the better. Then come home and narrow it down to three or four. Then head back to the paint store and buy small tins of paint and color large paint samples.

Tape them up on the cubbies and inspect them several times a day to see how they look in varying brightness. Turn your lights on and off as well because that can make a large difference. You really want to pick something that looks great all the time.

We immediately passed on sample number 1 (furthest left) because it was too dark. Sample #2 was too light because when the sun was at it’s brightest the color almost faded to white. It was a tough choice between #3 and #4 but we went with #4 (Benjamin Moore CC-650 Grenadier Pond) and could not be happier.

Mudroom paint swatches

Next protect all areas that are not going to be painted by covering with paper and cardboard on the floor. It is also a good idea to create your own spray booth by draping poly over the tops of the cubbies and then out past the cubbies and down to the floor. Leave enough space for you to move around it.

Prepping for painting mudroom

We used a professional paint sprayer because we find it provides more coverage and a smoother finish. Let dry. Apply second coat. Let dry thoroughly

Painting mudroom cubbies

Step 12: Install hardware

For us because we did not have doors on the cubbies the only hardware we needed to install was the hooks. We installed 2 large hooks for each person and evenly spaced them.

Attaching hooks

Step 13: Decorative Elements

First, I picked up sturdy wire baskets with white cotten inserts for the upper cubbies. This provides nice storage for all the small items like gloves, sunglasses, etc. We put thick felt pads on the four corners of each of the wire baskets to keep them from scratching the paint.

Accessorize with plants and pillows. You could also invest in a cushion that runs along the full seat. We did not because I found that they got dirty quickly and it is easier to just wipe the wooden cubby. No one sits here for a long period of time so a soft cushion was not necessary.

A washable rug is also nice to finish off the area. We have a more durable rug right outside our door to get the most dirt off of shoes and also another durable rug just inside the door to catch any remaining dirt or moisture.

Functional mudroom styled with baskets, bags, shoes, clothes and pillows

Don’t forget to change things up with each season. Here I added twinkle lights, changed out the plant for trees, added some seasonal pillows and changed out the rug.

Also, we found the cutest hook to hang our dog Mia’s little jacket from. See lower left of the photo below.

Mudroom decked out with Christmas pillows, skates, snow boots, and a fuzzy jacket

A functional mudroom provides a place for family members to store their shoes, jackets, hats, keys and thus keep themselves organized.

Thank you

I hope you enjoyed this project and found it helpful in planning a functional mudroom for yourself and your family.

If you would like to learn about the rest of our home, just click this link for a full home tour.

Beach house exterior shows a shingle style hope with a covered deck, look out, and white trellises

We also experimented with a wall mural in our powder room and it turned out great. Click here to read about it.

Powder room makeover with a large garden wallpaper

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