Modest Mudroom Makeover, or Not Letting the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good.
When I started this blog, I had intended to focus a significant percentage of my posts on my nerdy interest in design. Specifically, I had planned to document and discuss the slow process of decorating our own home, a process which brings me equal parts joy and anxiety. I am constantly driving Michael nuts, obsessing over minute details that regular people do not care about. I thought maybe I could use the blog as an outlet for all of my design fixations, freeing my loved ones from my endless yammering. I also wanted to create a record of our environment as it evolves over time, as our kids grow up and our day-to-day changes.
Immediately, though, I hit an snag. I have zero skills or knowledge when it comes to photographing interiors. As it turns out, it is really hard to do well. Duh. And I know the obvious answer is to commit myself to developing some basic skills, but, well, my follow-through has left something to be desired. Every month, I write “learn about photographing interiors” on the to-do list of my bullet journal. At the end of every month, I migrate that goal to the next month’s to-do list, along with all of the other shit I failed to get done that month, including updating said bullet journal.
So! I have a new plan, which is. . . to just jump in. I apologise in advance for the bad lighting and composition, I really do, but I have decided not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.* Thanks for your understanding :)
I thought I would start small, with the very modest mudroom makeover I recently completed.
When we were building our house, I think I was more excited by the prospect of the mudroom/laundry room/pantry space than by any other room in the house. My dream of having a walk in pantry would finally come true! I would no longer have to trek down to a decrepit basement laundry room with endless baskets of laundry! There would be a place for the thousands of rogue shoes and mittens, coats, snow pants, boots, backpacks, and tote bags! To top it all off, it was going to have a checker board floor!
But when the house was built and I actually starting using the space, I found that it was, well, a bit small. I feel ridiculous saying that, because we are so lucky and privileged to have a home at all, let alone one with a pantry/laundry/mudroom. But because the space also contains the door to the garage and a little wine fridge, both of which need clearance space to open, our options in terms of built in storage were limited. Also, there is the matter of the baskets and piles of laundry that are constantly taking up the whole space, and the endless mountain of junk we heap on top of the laundry room counter. It is, um, less than ideal.
I stewed about this problem for a year. I consider all sorts of custom built-ins and expensive furniture pieces, but every time I would chicken out at the last minute. Was this the best, most perfect solution for the space? Was it going to be worth the cost? Would it stick out into the room too far? While I am all for investing in quality pieces, especially if they are crafted by businesses or artisans you feel great about supporting, I decided that maybe this wasn’t the space to splurge on. What I needed was an approach that didn’t feel like such a commitment, so that I could relax and pull the trigger. I settled on some basic pieces from some big box stores to anchor the space, which I then personalised with a few simple DIYs.
I started at IKEA. At 35, I am mostly able to avoid the trap in which I enter an IKEA and buy everything in sight, only to discover it won’t even fit in our car. Mostly. But I do still love the big, blue, Swedish giant, and I believe that there are certain things they do really well. One of them is smart, affordable storage solutions. I knew that I wanted a bench with shoe storage underneath, so my jumping off point was a MACKAPAR storage unit ($89). I love that shoes are hidden away but easily accessible. The only criticism I have of it is that my husband’s shoes just barely fit inside. His feet are a a size 10, so it’s not as if he has exceptionally giant feet.
Above the bench, I hung a KUBBIS coat rack ($17), which is white-painted solid wood, with seven simple hooks. This gives grown-ups a place for coats and bags. On either side of the bench, there is a set of three SVARTJON double hooks ($4.99), hung at child-height.** Giving the girls somewhere functional to hang their coats and bags was really important to me. I wanted them to be able to access and tidy their stuff, in order to reinforce a sense of independence and responsibility for their stuff. So far, they mostly still dump their crap on the ground, but we are working on it.
Beneath each set hooks there is a basket for their hats, mitts, and scarves. It should be noted that this is the third set of baskets that I have bought for this space. The first set were too small. The second set were very deep and oddly shaped; they looked fun, but it was hard for the girls to actually reach all the way to the bottom to get their gear. These ones are perfect. They are from Indigo, and were a bit of a splurge ($59.50 each), but they are just the right shape and size for this space, and I love the interest that the handles and the sweater weave add. Plus, the caramel colour of the natural fibres really warms up all of the stark black and white elements.
Above each set of hooks and basket, we hung a large black and white print of one of the girls, clearly indicating that that is their special space for their personal stuff to live. I wanted to recreate a DIY project that I have always loved from the design blog Chris Loves Julia, where she creates engineering prints from a big box store as a way of getting large scale images of her children for a fraction of the usual cost. I used her technique for Mae’s last birthday, and it worked super well, but for this project I decided to spring for higher quality prints. We did our best to follow her advice about making sure that we added more negative space over Mae’s head than Zoe’s, in order to give a sense of the relative scale of the girls. Michael did some very basic editing of the images in Light Room, and we had them printed at Staples (20 x 24, $19.99 each). I framed them in simple black frames from Michaels ($60 ish each, but I got them on sale).*** I am pretty thrilled with the results; sometimes I just wander into the mudroom to stare at the beautiful faces of my girls.
On the other side of the door to the garage, I added the five hook version of the SVARTSJON hook, so that we would have a place to hang keys. Above that, I added a little leather pouch from CB2 ($24.97), because it was the perfect size for Michael to drop his wallet and work badge on his way into the house every night.
Finally, I wanted to add a little personality, colour ,and softness to the bench in the form of a sweet little bench cushion. Happily, the week I was finally ready to pull the trigger on this project, Forage, the new fabric line by Anna Graham, became available for order from Needlework in Hamilton. I couldn’t decide on just one fabric to use, so I made the cushion reversible, using Prairie in Indigo on one side and Crate in Indigo on the other. I had a local foam manufacturer custom cut me a piece of foam to go inside the cover I made. I went with a 3” depth, which I have to say is a little too high. If I was going to make it again, I would go with 2” instead. Other than that, I am super happy with it.
And that’s it. We have been using this set up for a couple of weeks, and so far I am really digging it. I have no idea if we will stick with it long term, but for right now, it is just right for our family.
*Do you know this quote? I wrote it on a piece of paper and taped it above my desk, but I think I may actually need to have it tattooed somewhere on my person.
**I LOVE these hooks! They are beautiful and sturdy and make me feel like I am at a cottage in the Swedish country side. Go buy them.
***Choosing and obtaining said frames took no fewer than five trips to Michaels. There was a lot of anxiety and a few tears. Learn from the wisdom of my experience!
Go with the black. It is classic, it looks great with the black and white images, and it comes in the largest variety of sizes. But also, if you instead choose white or grey or natural wood, that is fine. Pick one, and move on.
Consider your order of operations so that you do not end up ordering an expensive print in a size which turns out to be hard to frame, or vice versa. Go to the frame store with a list of all of the available print sizes offered by your printer of choice, buy your frames, then order your picture.
Before you leave the store, check to make sure the frames are not damaged!!
I love Michael’s for frames (and tons of other stuff), but never, ever buy anything there for full price! There is always a 40% (at least) off coupon available on line!