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Mudrooms protect inside from outside

| Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 9:04 p.m.
The mudroom inside the Longstaff residence Monday Oct. 22, 2012 in Sewickley. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A detail of the individual storage bins in the mudroom inside the Longstaff residence Monday Oct. 22, 2012 in Sewickley. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A detail of the bench in the mudroom inside the Longstaff residence Monday Oct. 22, 2012 in Sewickley. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A detail of the hooks and shelf in the mudroom inside the Longstaff residence Monday Oct. 22, 2012 in Sewickley. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The mudroom inside the Longstaff residence Monday Oct. 22, 2012 in Sewickley. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The mudroom inside the Longstaff residence Monday Oct. 22, 2012 in Sewickley. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Maureen Longstaff wanted a new kitchen for her Sewickley home but is not about to complain that she ended up with a mudroom, too.

“I love it,” she says about the room that is a buffer between the garage and the rest of the house. “I love having a room where the two boys can drop their stuff. And the stuff stays there.”

Mudrooms let homeowners dust off their sense of practicality, says Mt. Lebanon architect Kathleen Hrabovsky, who designed the Longstaff mudroom simply as a good way of using space that emerged when she put together the addition.

Mudrooms have become the subject of frequent architectural design. A report by the American Institute of Architects says 40 percent of professionals in a recent survey said they do mudrooms more often than the more dramatic media room.

Gary Fuller from the Home Depot store in Wilkins says the chain has a household organizing event every fall around back-to-school time and goods sold for mudroom-type use were hot this year.

“We couldn't believe the number of items we sold,” he says, talking about boot trays, benches and bins.

Hrabovsky sees the popularity, too.

“I think I do one just about with every project,” she says.

But they don't have to be connected to a room addition or renovation, says Edgewood interior designer Nancy Drew. They can be in the corner of a back entrance, or even a garage.

“It's all about finding a way to do something with things,” she says.

The practicality of a mudroom makes them show up in designs.

Hrabovsky says they are in demand because of the variety of functions they provide. A mudroom becomes a good place to drop off dirty clothes or shoes, protecting the rest of the house.

Because water lines are necessary to feed a sink, that proximity often leads to the addition of a laundry area, says architect Ken Moeslein, CEO of Legacy Remodeling in Dormont.

Moeslein says the installation of pipes can lead to a mudroom with a drain in the center and a ceramic tile floor, creating a room where dirt can be hosed away.

But that is an extreme, the designers admit.

Longstaff, for instance, stayed with the wooden floor that was part of that house before renovation and says she feels comfortable dealing with dirt that way.

Hrabovsky says blending several functions into mudroom design is a good idea. Concentrating too heavily on handling big-time dirt could define the space too greatly. At resale time, a potential buyer might think such a room is vastly overdone, she says, and stay away from the house.

Moeslein, who is adding a mudroom to a home under construction for him and his wife, says the addition of such features tend to be a big issue.

“Most times they turn into little additions to a house or a change with some room you don't use too often, like a little side porch,” he says.

While a mudroom can be the site of a utility sink, drain, perhaps even a laundry, they don't have to be.

Edgewood interior designer Drew says a mudroom basically is the home for seats, benches and drawers for storage, and hooks — plenty of hooks on which to hang hats, leashes, keys or clothes.

Drew says the mudroom can beckon back to an earlier day.

“It can be something like the old settee in the entrance hall,” she adds.

But that bulky piece of furniture with its high, hook-laden back, is not necessary. A room and great expense are not, either.

Home Depot's Fuller says there are many inexpensive ways to outfit part of a room to handle the mudroom chore. A collection of cubic-foot bins are stackable and colored, so they could indicate the one person's belongings or one type of item. A nine-bin stack sells for $49.98, he says. It could be the heart of a fairly inexpensive way of turning a corner of the basement into a mudroom.

It could be teamed with a $72.98, 21-inch-deep bench with storage below the seat, a $4.97 boot tray and a $21.27 floor mat, he says.

There are pricier items to do that job, too, such as a $239 locker that would be a little more defining piece of furniture.

The mudroom is about practicality, Drew says. It does not make a great deal of sense to outfit an area used to gather dirt with high-level furnishings. If you do, however, there might be rules to follow.

“If you are really dirty, you might have to take your boots off outside,” she says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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