Choose Durable Mudroom Materials

Pick paint and design components that stand up to dirt, grime and outside elements.
Mud room of the HGTV Dream Home 2012 located in Midway, Utah


Photo courtesy of Rimrock Construction

Photo by: Eric Perry

Eric Perry

Photo courtesy of Rimrock Construction
By: Julie Cole Miller

Designing a mudroom that is organized, attractive and durable requires a realistic assessment of your needs, habits and maintenance expectations. Before gathering the first basket, hook or bench, come up with a plan that is made to withstand the wear and tear specific to your home. "Everyone has their own needs," says interior designer Molly Quinn. "One family may have hockey equipment, another may have dogs, another may want to set aside some room for gardening equipment."

In other words, regardless of the space you're working with, consider who will be using it and how it can best serve everyone. Someone who plans to store sports gear in their mudroom will have different durability needs than someone who just needs a place to hang a duffel bag or park a pair of boots.

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Balance Durability With Decor

It's important to have a place for everything and have everything in its place, as the saying goes. "You don't want to have to clean around the same bunch of items over and over again," says designer Eric Schnell of Alan Mascord Design Associates Inc. "That being said, space for displaying decorative items is also important. What gets displayed adds color, texture and interest."

Plan to display decorative items at eye level and out of the way to maximize their impact while minimizing clutter chaos. The more streamlined the space is, the quicker and easier it is to get in and out of it without a lot of fuss, and it goes a long way toward keeping cleanups to a minimum.

A lot of items in mudrooms are far from decorative and get shuffled about. As far as what to show and what to stow, assess your own habits. "Open shelving works better for those who ultimately won't go to the trouble to open a cabinet door," says professional organizer Ruthann Betz-Essinger, "whereas for someone who likes everything neat and tidy, the doors provide a satisfying sense of order."

Materials Made to Last

Think about the location of your mudroom, the aesthetic you're aiming for, and how dirty you realistically think things could get. For a mudroom off a garage, steel locker units or inexpensive shelving with welded steel frames and a black, textured finish might fit the bill. For a more polished mudroom that's off the main living space, shelving or cabinetry that goes with the rest of the house is probably more appropriate.

If you’re going to the trouble of installing cabinetry, make sure the investment is made to last. "You want something that's going to be very easy to wipe down," says Ginny Snook Scott of California Closets. "We like laminated materials because they're easy to work with. If you put a wet umbrella on it, it's not going to hurt the finish."

Choose storage and mudroom materials that are going to be satisfying over the long haul and durable for daily use. "True locker units, made of steel, hold up wonderfully, but unless the room has an industrial vibe, I prefer the warmth of painted units," says interior designer Traci Zeller.

For mudrooms with a more eclectic vibe, a priceless antique is rarely a good idea. But if you want to give a new lease on life to a vintage bamboo stand or a quirky chest of drawers that promises to rise to the occasion, by all means, go for it. Just be realistic.


Look for paint that can withstand an occasional cleaning and hide imperfections. Photo courtesy of Plain and Fancy Cabinetry

Photo by: Scot Gordon

Scot Gordon

Look for paint that can withstand an occasional cleaning and hide imperfections. Photo courtesy of Plain and Fancy Cabinetry

Paint Options and Finishes

Make sure you choose paint colors and finishes that can stand up to the inevitable wear and tear. Though we may fantasize about a pristine white space where everything is neat and tidy, we know that a pair of muddy boots or a wet dog will come through eventually. Unless you want to drive yourself nuts with all the cleaning, polishing and touching up that comes with a high-maintenance space, make a few concessions beforehand to save your sanity and your budget.

Zeller says that while she loves the look of steel lockers, she prefers the warmth of painted wood. Her advice is to choose a distressed finish and then a little extra distressing won't bother you so much.

If you expect your walls will take a bit of a beating, choose durable wall materials and look for a paint finish that can withstand an occasional cleaning and hide imperfections. Semigloss finishes can be easy to wipe down, but their reflectivity causes them to magnify subtle nicks and bumps, whereas satin, eggshell and flat finishes can camouflage them to varying degrees. "Beadboard or other types of wainscoting can protect walls from bumps and scrapes," Zeller says. "But otherwise I just use flat paint and plan to touch up the walls every so often."

Practicality doesn't have to keep you from achieving the style you're going for. You can still use whites and creams and the clean look of neutrals — just in the appropriate locations. "For lockers and cabinetry, a painted finish in a darker neutral works great because it hides dirt well," says Quinn. "A white painted finish is probably not ideal, but a lot of people desire the clean look, so I recommend reserving the light color for the upper cabinets or shelves and keeping the base cabinets or bench in a darker paint or stain."

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