a peek inside the fishbowl

20 Feb, 2013

Fishbowl Reno post #54: The Mudroom is finished! Well, almost.

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Home/reno

revised-groundfloorI’m slowly coming to the end of what has officially become The Longest Series Ever here on the Fishbowl.The remaining posts will be a summary of each room. Each post will contain as much information as I can possibly share. If I have regrets I will mention them, as well as things that make me particularly happy. I hope someone out there can learn from our mistakes and that I can make someone’s home renovation a little easier. If you have questions, ask! I can even snap an additional photo if you need a closer peek at something.

The previous post in this series was about Sarah’s bedroom, which features The Uber Closet and a cute cubby hole. This instalment is about the mudroom. If you’d like a closer look at the area I’m talking about, click to enlarge the floor plan. It’s not exact but it will give you the general idea of the space I am talking about. OK. The. Mudroom. This was a biggie for us. It was essentially the reason we renovated. The old house had us all piling in the front door. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you saw my video walkthrough you’d have a better understanding of how cramped it was, especially in the winter. (You can watch it here. Start at the 45 second mark to see the front entrance.) It was a big headache, but typical for this age of home. Four people plus one dog. Plus snowy boots. And a wet carpet. And no real place to hang/store/dry our outer wear. It was always mess and it drove us crazy. I hated the fact that it was the first thing we saw when we walked in the house. Mark hated wet socks from stepping in melting puddles on the carpet. Take it from me, there was a LOT of hate concentrated in one tiny area. Here’s where I have to backtrack for a sec and vent a bit about a pet peeve of mine regarding highly stylized mudrooms you see in home decor magazines… like this one:

Source: sadieanddasie.wordpress.com via Danielle on Pinterest

I wonder how many people live in this house, because if there’s more than one person living here it can’t possibly work. Newsflash! YOUR MUDROOM WILL NEVER LOOK LIKE THIS, especially if you are a family of four. Most families have a lot of stuff that goes through this area and also needs to be stored here. Think about it: you got yer coats, hats, mitts, boots, shoes (indoor, outdoor, dress shoes), purses, backpacks, gym bags, sporting equipment, etc exhausting etc. And what happens during the shoulder seasons? Spring in Ottawa can be hot and sunny (add flip flops and sun hats to the list above), wet and rainy (add rain coats and rain boots to the list above), or downright cold. There were times when we’ve had winter AND summer gear in one small closet. And it was always overflowing. So it’s easy to understand why there was no way I was going to get sucked in by a designer vision of what this room was supposed to be. Our mudroom needed to be the hardest working room in the house. In my view it required a few important things.

  • a place to hide all of our gear. ALL OF IT. I didn’t want to see shoes/bookbags/helmets/etc. EVER AGAIN.
  • a floor that was easy to keep clean, not just by me but by anyone!
  • a two piece bathroom with a sink big enough to wash the dog. (Which I first wrote about here.)

Ok. On to the photos!  I am really trying to keep it real and show how we really live. So this is pretty much what our home looks like. (Please note, you can click to enlarge each photo.) Here’s the side entrance, which we now use instead of the front door. It’s actually the exact same style and colour as our new front door. It’s metal, black on one side, white on the inside. I wanted a door with a small window at the top to let in a little bit of daylight yet didn’t want one that’s too big for privacy and security reasons. If I stand on my tiptoes I might see the top of the head of the person standing outside.

Side door

Here’s the view as soon as you step inside. (We are dog sitting by the way. That’s Coco!) On your left is a giant closet. On the right is a small hallway. The family room is straight ahead, but more on that later.

View from just inside the door

Storage space has always been a big issue for us, and here was our opportunity to create MEGA STORAGE. In my view, the solution was a giant PAX unit from Ikea, and that’s what’s on the left as soon as you walk in. We had our architect include a special nook for it so it looks built in. It’s raised by about six inches because that’s where the exterior wall used to be. We chose a unit with sliding doors (they take up much less space) and a dark glass front. The dark glass wasn’t planned. I had wanted sliding mirrors but Ikea wasn’t selling those at the time. We went with these doors because we thought it looked cool and as an added bonus, they were on sale. I think the dark glass is a bit more sophisticated and I like that there’s just enough reflection to throw more light in the area. We can see ourselves in it fairly well too, although the view isn’t as clear as a mirror, as you can see:

PAX. It's ginormous.

It’s BIG. Here’s one side, with the door open:

PAX: view of one side Those baskets slide out. The other half has more coats and four levels of shoe shelves. Our configuration fits a lot of shoes, but I actually keep all of my dress shoes in my bedroom closet. When the architect first designed this room for us he planned for additional closets on the right and left of the short hall that leads to the bathroom. I felt this space could be used differently so we scrapped the extra closets (even though it sounds counter-intuitive) and replaced them with hooks and a place to sit. So this is what the space looks like when you take a step inside and turn to your right: Looking to the right.

Here’s a slightly different view. As you can see, small coat hooks are affixed to the white wood panelling. They are deliberately small. The intention is that these are only for school backpacks and the like, not for a pile of coats. If the coat is wet, it hangs on a hook. If it’s dry, it goes in the closet. My kids are still learning the finer points of this plan. ;) I really like the vintage trunk. Those are, er, empty wine bottles on the left and a pile of messy grocery bags on the right. The trunk holds our ice skates and some winter gear. It’s covered with a piece of dark purple faux-fur I had lying around, and a couple of pillows.

This is the opposite side:

The right side of the little hall

It’s kind of a mess right now. I’m still looking for furniture to fill this space. Ideally I’d like a long sleek console table that has a couple of drawers for keys and sunglasses, and I’d like it open below so we can have a place for boots to dry in the winter. I’m on the lookout for a boot tray that can hold more than three pairs of boots. This is also where I dump my purse everyday. That cute stool is from a store called Wicker Emporium. They have a lot of great furniture there. The shiny metal bucket is my idea of an umbrella stand. It’s from Canadian Tire. Moving onward another step or two is the bathroom.

You open the door, and this is what you see:

A couple more steps in...

This is the other side. It’s a dual-flush Toto toilet that was bought at Astro on sale. We had issues with one of the two toilets we purchased from there, and with Astro. Nothing big, just annoying. You can email me if you want more info about it. We still need to hang something on that wall. I think a vintage poster would look pretty cool. Or maybe a photo wall of some kind. Not sure yet. The toilet side

The mirror over the sink goes from wall to wall, and extends almost up to the ceiling. I’m quite happy with the sink:

The sink side

It’s a white cast-iron kitchen sink by Kohler. The model is called Cape Dory and was ordered from Preston Hardware – sight unseen – so it was a bit of a leap. It’s huge, and I love it. No regrets here. It was bought mostly for Piper (see?) but we use it all the time in place of our laundry sink. It is like MILDLY like washing your hands in a trough or a grade school sink, but it saves us many trips upstairs to the tub (with Piper in tow) or a trip downstairs to the laundry sink in the basement. We have used this sink to fill buckets, rinse dirty boots, wash large and awkward items (backpacks, recycling/garbage bins, stew pots), and it’s been fantastic. Despite the fact that I did a lot of handwringing over that decision (is it crazy? too big?) and many people looked at me like I had two heads, I’m glad I stuck to my guns on this one.

The faucet is the pull-out spray kind and it is great for paw rinsing and cleaning the corners of the sink. The cabinet is custom, and was designed and built by the same guy who did our kitchen (BCR Woodworking). The colour is exactly the same as the cabinetry in the kitchen. We opted for marble tiles instead of a traditional counter. They are from Lowe’s, and I chose them because they have a streak of copper running though them, just like the floor tiles.

A bit about the floor

We had originally wanted to go with something called Marmoleum, an eco-friendly linoleum, but it was out of our price range and we couldn’t find a pattern we liked. Then we started to shop around for vinyl (remember, we wanted a very hard working floor) but we hated pretty much everything out there. We ended up at Lowe’s and found dark porcelain tiles. They were very inexpensive. I like them because they’re a mottled range of dark colours: grey with a tiny bit of dark copper. (Here’s a photo that may show the colour a little better.) We opted for dark tiles because we were going for contrast in several different places and it seemed to make sense. Our kitchen, for example, is light creamy cabinetry and dark granite counters. We’ve been living here since the end of October and I’m pretty happy with the floor. It does show winter dirt, but I don’t really care. I had to let go of the messy floor thing, otherwise I’d drive myself crazy. So every couple days I vaccumm and mop. We extended the floor right into the bathroom, because, er, sometimes you need to go while you’re still wearing your boots, right? I bought a good mop called a Rubbermaid Reveal. The head has cleaning pads you can wash, and you use your own floor cleaner. It’s been super, and only mop-related regret is that we didn’t plan for its storage right into this room. It would have been handy to have at arm’s reach right when you need it. Oh well. I really need a new runner in the hallway leading into the bathroom because the old one is awfully worn out. (You can see that here.) The rug comes in handy because it absorbs the wet stuff and saves me from mopping so much. I toss it in the wash every once in awhile.

Here’s what the mudroom looks like, looking in from the family room. Note the sliding pocket door!

Pocket door

We haven’t had many occasions to use it, but it has come in handy a few times. I have closed it after giving Piper a bath while I ran upstairs to get a towel. It’s also been great when we were going in and out of the house with ski equipment and groceries and didn’t want the dog to get out (as well as heat!). But let’s face it, it’s mostly there in case company comes and the mudroom is a mess. Here’s the view from a few steps back. And another one from the kitchen area.

I just realized I’ve written a lot about the mudroom. Sigh. I’m sorry if this was a little much, but if you’re keen to see how it all went down you can read back to these posts: Reno post #007 – a small unveiling and several big thoughts Reno post #10 – mud room design Reno post #34 – more about the mudroom.

I hope this has been helpful for those of you who are planning your own renovation! For my next post I think I’m going to talk about the kitchen.

14 Responses to "Fishbowl Reno post #54: The Mudroom is finished! Well, almost."

1 | Tatiana

February 20th, 2013 at 2:06 pm


“Newsflash! YOUR MUDROOM WILL NEVER LOOK LIKE THIS” Love this quote, it’s so true :)

Your Mudroom looks great, Andrea! That sink is to die for & I’m just so jealous you can do your dog washing there.

Interesting to read about the dark tiles as we’re in the process of installing similar ones. So glad to hear they’re working out for you. I figure that we can live with a little winter dirt as well.

I was wondering about the grout colour? Medium grey. dark grey?


2 | binki

February 20th, 2013 at 2:12 pm


Soooo helpful. We are (today) putting the final touches on a back entrance. Lots of good info in here. Thank you.

Bring on the other rooms….quick! ;-)

3 | Judy

February 20th, 2013 at 2:36 pm


Looks great Andrea! Living in a 1960’s bungalow I am completely jealous of all the storage and places to put jackets :)

Send me an email if you want a pic of a console table we have in the store.

4 | Mimi

February 20th, 2013 at 3:11 pm


Hey Andrea – We’ve had three versions of a mud room (for six people). I’ve never been able to keep everything hidden, or off the floor (I just have that kind of family).

In my second-to-last and last design I used were cabinets from IKEA (the ones with the corrugated plastic in the doors). They were supposed to be used for books or some such, we only installed one shelf and then hooks to use them as lockers. They’re very pretty all lined up, and when the room is super tidy. Regrettably that lasts about 15 minutes, and usually in the summer months ;D

5 | andrea

February 20th, 2013 at 3:47 pm


Tatiana: we had a choice of brownish grey grout and varying shades of grey. Both would have worked fine, but we ended up with a medium/dark grey.

Mimi – I hear ya. Keeping this area clear is a chore in itself. And I hate being a nag. The only thing we can do is give them the space to put things away, right?

6 | Ginger

February 20th, 2013 at 4:34 pm


I want a mudroom but they don’t seem to be standard issue here in Texas…in fact I had never heard of a mudroom until I started reading blogs years back.

But this post! I just emailed my husband and told him I have plans brewing for something makeshift in the garage and laundry room. I LOVE your mudroom and I am determined to have one in a future house….it might be one of those deal breaker kind of things…

7 | Javamom

February 20th, 2013 at 7:09 pm


I can only dream about functional mudrooms!

Your post is awesome. I felt like you were talking to me, sitting across from me with a cup of tea :)

There are so many things to consider when shopping for a new home or renovating an existing one, and this has been so helpful. I truly believe that it takes living in a semi-functional house without kids first to really and truly understand what one needs later, when the kids arrive, and, eventually, expand their, um, gear. How is it that kids come with so much stuff? Yet, as it is clear only to people with kids who live in a country of 4 seasons, gear and stuff, no matter how minimalistic you try to be, is simply a fact of life.

Enjoy your beautiful home. And that mudroom in your picture above? The one that is so….um, unrealistic? LOL. I dare that person to invite a family over for an hour during mud-season or winter season and see what happens to it! :)

8 | Mary @ Parenthood

February 20th, 2013 at 7:10 pm


The only boot tray I’ve ever seen that holds more than three pairs of boots is the two tier one from Lee Valley (http://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/page.aspx?p=62086&cat=2,51676)

We went through so many boot trays before discovering this one (At our house people tend to step on the sides and they break) – so far we’ve had two of them for over a year and we still love them.

9 | Holly Herick

February 20th, 2013 at 9:14 pm


So real. I loved it! My mud room is always a mess and I want my kids to use it properly, but at least I can close the door when I want. I am a lucky woman to have this dedicated space.

10 | andrea

February 21st, 2013 at 8:14 am


Thanks guys!

Ginger: as you can see, a mudroom is really just another way of getting into your house, mainly just for family use! Every house has an entrance, this is just one with piles of extra storage and a lesser requirement to keep it sparkling clean.

Mary: I saw that two level one! Practical, but it doesn’t fit the look I want for that room. :)

11 | andrea

February 21st, 2013 at 9:51 am


For the record, this was how it looked like when the kids came home from school yesterday:


Note: wet snowpants were hanging, as well as backpacks! White package on the trunk is a goody bag from the dentist…. and got put away eventually. :)

12 | Mary @ Parenthood

February 23rd, 2013 at 3:04 am


Hmm OK in strange coincidences I tripped over this http://www.gardeners.com/boot-tray-set/37-314,default,pd.html which is 46″ compared to standard of ~30″, and the longest I’ve seen – though it doesn’t hold as much as that 2 tier one… Don’t think they ship directly to Canada but I’m told you can ship to the US border if you don’t have friends in the States to act as your US shipping address (my brother & his wife frequently get stuff shipped to Ogdensberg, I believe)

13 | Fishbowl Reno post #55 - mostly about the kitchen >> a peek inside the fishbowl

April 18th, 2013 at 9:48 am


[…] the last reno post (which was about the mudroom) I decided to incorporate a short video walkthough this time. Please note that I don’t sound […]

14 | Javamom

February 4th, 2015 at 4:47 pm


Today I hunted for tile. I saw this post and the awesome photos. I too want the dark tile (off to Lowe’s I go again tomorrow) to meet my potential oak floor. And how you did it shows perfectly what I envision for two areas: my entrance which opens into open concept but has two closets and I want kids to stay on tile while undressing in winter, and the back hallway which leads to steps going down (question: do I tile the steps?) and to the bathroom, including INTO the bathroom.

You did such a nice job anecdoteing this. Maybe one day the girls will renovate and they can go through this whole series and learn from you! Awesome. :)

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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