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4 Tips for Creating a 'Mud Room' in Your Apartment Before Winter Hits

By Amy Zimmer | November 3, 2015 7:41pm | Updated on September 21, 2016 10:45am
 This 4-bedroom duplex at 161 W. 75th St., a pre-war building on the Upper West Side converted a maid's room into a mud room.
This 4-bedroom duplex at 161 W. 75th St., a pre-war building on the Upper West Side converted a maid's room into a mud room.
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MANHATTAN — Architect Marc Spector has several clients on the Upper West and East sides who are buying rights from their co-op boards or condo associations to use part of their building's corridor space — at the end of hallways where it won't create egress issues — to build "upscale vestibules."

They want well-appointed dumping grounds for their coats, shoes, bags and other stuff, and are building mud rooms with finishes — in terms of lighting, flooring and cabinetry — that are on the same level and just a pricey as a "beautiful den," Spector said.

"They're not just storage rooms," he said. "They've become more elaborate."

Mud rooms are all the rage in the luxury market right now as more families are embracing a clutter-free ethos, real estate experts say. But even space-starved New Yorkers on a budget can find ways to contain create mud room-like spaces that contain the flotsam they shed when entering their apartments, professional organizers say.

“It’s kind of a piece of suburbia in the city, and it goes with the increase of people with families deciding to stay on in the city [and] saying how do we contain the clutter,” said Corcoran broker Ileana Lopez-Balboa.

A recent client — a family of skiers — bought a $13.7 million townhouse under construction at the high-end 150 Charles St. where they are now adding a mud room, she said. The owners of a four-bedroom duplex she sold in a pre-war building on West 75th Street for $6 million converted a maid’s room into a mud room, which they used to hold the equipment of their two hockey-playing sons.

Leah Fisch, a professional organizer and founder of Joumor, a company that aims to help reduce physical and emotional clutter, works with many high-net worth New York City clients who still struggle with keeping things organized in mud rooms even post-renovation.

“It’s not a matter of money and space,” she said. “Whether they have 10,000 square feet or 400 square feet, they say, ‘I don’t have the space.’”

Fisch has a set of guiding principles about organization including one she calls “gravity.” What that means, she said, is “if you don’t have a shelf or hook, it will end up on the floor.”

Here are some tips from the pros:

1. Create a “drop zone.”

Instead of changing the habit of flinging stuff off when you come home, create a space to contain these things and prevent them from spreading into other rooms.

Professional organizer Maeve Richmond, of Maeve’s Method, which teaches home organization through coaching, advocates for a “drop zone,” preferably near the front door, whether it’s at a table, a chair, a strong shelf, a hook or a piece of furniture.

“What it is matters less than where you place it, and if it’s large enough to hold all the things you need to put down,” Richmond wrote in a blog post about drop zones. “When you enter your home give yourself permission to dump whatever you want in your drop zone.”

To figure out what sort of drop zone makes sense, Richmond advises you to observe what you do when you come home: What do you carry and what spreads to other parts of the home?

2. Get cubbies.

For families, Richmond suggests a drop zone that includes a cubby space near your entrance, similar to those you might see at school.

"Teach your children that the drop zone is the place where they can store anything they bring into the house, or need to take back out for play or for school," she said. "A drop zone will help to curb that chaotic time when you are getting your kids out of the home and will prevent things from being dropped into the middle of the floor when they return home."

 Maeve Richmond, of Maeve's Method, created this
Maeve Richmond, of Maeve's Method, created this "drop zone" in her apartment to contain stuff like bags and gloves.
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Maeve's Method

Having cubbies is especially helpful for kids, she said, because "it helps your child realize that home life matches school life, and vice versa."

Fisch also stressed that storage needs to be accessible to all members of the household, from kids on up, since if you can’t reach it, stuff will pile up elsewhere.

She urges clients to think about stuff and space in terms of “prime real estate,” making sure the things you use frequently are most accessible.

3. Get hooks, mail caddies, places for baskets, benches, etc.

Clutter Cowgirl's Jeni Aron is a big fan of hooks for your most-used coats, hats and bags.

“You can use the entire length of your hallway by using a variety of single hooks and combined hooks,” she said. (Some of her favorites are here, here and here.)

“Don't forget to use the back of your front door,” she added (suggesting these outdoor hooks that hold up to five pounds).

A bookcase (like this) with baskets of different sizes can help with hats, gloves, bags and other things. A wardrobe (like this) can help if you have no hallway closet or even a garment rack (like this) “if you like an industrial look.”

Aron likes to place mail caddies for mail, keys, magazines for “convenient eye level storage” (some suggestions are here, here and here) and benches are good for tucking away shoes with a basket for scarves plus a seat that can double as an extra surface.

Wall mounted shoe cabinets, like this one, are also helpful, if you have the space, she added.

If you have a closet, you might want to opt for a shoe caddy inside, but it should be mounted directly to the door and not over the door, she advised.

Using vertical space can be helpful for things that you don’t need easy access to. Aron suggested taking advantage of ceiling height for extra storage by lofting the space above your doorway for shoes and other things, like this architect did here.

4. Catch debris, dirt and salt right at the door.

Mud rooms are the first line of defense against tracking inside the dirt and pollutants, like rock salt to melt snow.  So even if you can’t squeeze in a shoe caddy on the wall or behind a closet or under a bench, it helps to at least put down something on the floor to create a boundary from the outside world, pros said.

“A boot tray is great to have to protect the floor,” said professional organizer Ann Sullivan.

Tracking in salt, for instance, can strip coating off wood floors and damage carpets.

 This Upper East Side “classic 7” 3-bedroom at 30 E. 65th St., listed for $4.395 million, has a custom-designed mudroom in the entryway on the other side of this kitchen, which is in the foreground.
This Upper East Side “classic 7” 3-bedroom at 30 E. 65th St., listed for $4.395 million, has a custom-designed mudroom in the entryway on the other side of this kitchen, which is in the foreground.
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