Make Room for Mud: The 12-Year Kitchen

Finished mud room
I’ve always pined for a mud room—they seem like such remarkably efficient spaces for collecting coats, boots, sneakers, backpacks… all the clutter that drives me nuts when I see it piled up inside the front door. Alas, even with our remodeling project, I didn’t see how we’d have space to build a whole room just for mud.

But thanks to great space planning by our architect, Norm Davis, we do have ourselves a “mud space” in our new kitchen. There’s not much more than a wall there—just a small area inside the new side door, which sits off to your right as you either pass it by to get into the dining room or turn left to enter the kitchen. But thanks to Norm and our contractor, Keith Mazzarello, that little stretch of wall is now a functional—and beautiful!—mud space.

The wall is exactly seven feet one inch long (that inch will matter later, you’ll see), and it’s not much more than a foot deep. But it turns out that’s enough for a beadboard wall with two rails for hooks (one each at adult and child height), with a narrow bench above four shoe cubbies. It’s lovely, it’s perfect, and it makes me happy just to look at it.

kitchen pantry

A peek back into our pantry in 1999 shows the painted countertop that became our mud room bench.

Best of all, it contains a little souvenir of our old kitchen—the counter in the old butler’s pantry was exactly seven feet long, and solid as a rock. We salvaged it and set it aside at the beginning of the project, and I sanded it smooth and stained and polyurethaned it in preparation for its new life as our mud bench. It shows its age, with some dings and dents in its surface, but we just might love that most of all. It’s so nice to have a piece of our old kitchen join us in the new one.

Keith worried about that inch, though—how was he going to fit a seven-foot length of bench into a wall that’s seven feet one inch without having to add clumsy shims or inserts to make up that shortage? It worked out so perfectly I couldn’t believe it—we had, in a completely separate design decision, chosen to wrap the beadboard wall around the bench, covering not just the back wall but the two sides as well. Granted, those sides are pretty shallow, but that little extra detail gives the whole thing a nice “nook” kind of feel. And what do you know? The MDF beadboard panels are exactly half an inch thick. One on each side brought the space in from 7’ 1” to exactly 7’. The old board fit into its new home like a glove.

Cleat supporting mud room bench

A cleat around three sides supports the back of the bench.

There’s a cleat screwed into the wall on all three sides to support the back of the bench, and three stiles support the front as well as form the cubbies.  Leaving stiles off the ends gave it a cleaner look—and also got us off the hook for having positioned an electrical outlet right where the left stile would have gone!

The MDF came pre-primed, which certainly made the painter (me) happy—the top coat gave it a lovely luster and a rich finish. We decided to spring for expensive Baldwin hooks in oil-rubbed bronze to match our new door hardware—large, graceful double hooks on the top rail for us, smaller versions on the bottom rail for the kids. Inexpensive stacking baskets (unstacked) from The Container Store helped make up for the cost of the hooks—six dollars apiece, and they just happen to be the exact size and height we needed.

Mud wall nears completion

Nearing completion, the mud wall waited a week for our special-order coat hooks to come in. That gave us time to reflect on what wall color we wanted!

The result is so beautiful and homey I can barely take my eyes off it. The real test will be whether we can get the kids to stow their gear in it!

Send us your photos? We are looking for “before and after” images of kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and garage makeovers for upcoming features. You can upload images on our Facebook wall. 

Next: Painting— The Gateway to DIY

For more kitchen remodeling ideas, consider the following Bob Vila articles and videos:

Kitchen Cabinet Options

Installing European-Style Kitchen Cabinets

Outdoor Kitchens: High Style and State-of-the-Art Features