Modern Mudroom Updates for Mid-Century Homes

19 min read Most mid century homes lack a modern mudroom…or any practical dedicated entry/exit space designed to catch those things that belong to the outside edge of your life.
Fortunately, solving this problem doesn’t have to be that complicated!

Turn a boring closet into a mini modern mudroom

Is your mid century home missing a modern mudroom … or any practical dedicated entry/exit space designed to catch those things that belong to the outside edge of your life?

If you are wishing for a little more storage at your doors … you’re not alone!

The typical mid century ranch house in the Midwest and the typical Eichler-style semi-custom home in the west are similar in that you come and to through the front door … right into the living area.

There is typically no more storage than a coat closet; a little two foot wide swing door framed closet that has a hanging rack and a single shelf.

Where did those original mid century moderns keep their outside things?

It’s one of life’s little mysteries. To be honest, we do just have a lot more stuff these days. But this isn’t the time to get into how we have so many things and what to do with them.

We just need to address where we put them when we come in the house. This is a challenge we tackle in nearly every mid century master plan here at Mid Mod Midwest.

And solving this problem doesn’t have to be that complicated!

The building blocks of a modern mudroom

Remember, a mudroom space doesn’t have to look like its name! It doesn’t have to be a separate room!

Sketch in yellow with black line work of the basic elements of a modern mudroom: Somewhere to sit down which could be a small bench or enough area for the whole family to sit down and pull on shoes at the same time, 

Somewhere to hang up jackets, tote bags and other grab-and-go items 

Somewhere to close away outdoor detritus and go-to items.

All you really need is:

  • Somewhere to sit down which could be a small bench or enough area for the whole family to sit down and pull on shoes at the same time, 
  • Somewhere to hang up jackets, tote bags and other grab-and-go items 
  • Somewhere to close away outdoor detritus and go-to items. 

That is, by the way, a replicate of one. The more people you have entering, leaving your house, the more people that live in your household. The more places you need to set things, hang things and sit down.

Where to find modern mudroom space

This can all be tucked against a wall next to your entry door.

It could be more dramatic, with built in storage and a wall or divider to block off the space. Or, in a pinch this could even happen in a nicely finished wall of the garage.

From there you can develop as much … or as little, as you have space and energy. This is a good time to review the three levels of home improvement you might want to tackle

Bonus post: Find the Remodeling level that works for you

Take it small: A Level one Mudroom

A level one update to improve your entry experience is easy.

It might be a choosing a wall shelf, hanging a mirror, setting in a bench so you have a place to sit down, hang something and a place to glance at your face as you enter or leave your house.

  • Update a modern mudroom with some simple furniture
  • switch out closets for built ins in a mid-century mudroom update
  • replace closets with builtins that store and provide seating in a modern mudroom update

But if you want to level up to a to a slightly more involved approach would end up trying to convert maybe your semi useless closet into a mini mudroom.

Level up with built-ins: a Level Two Mudroom

If you DO have a front hall closet, I highly encourage you to think about pirating that space. Closets are not the best use of that space by your door. So, use that square footage for a built in or even furniture nook.

Depending on the way your family enter and leave your home, it might be worth borrowing from your living space. Make a distinction between the door sitting room area and then divide off a little by the door to be a mini mudroom.

You won’t regret having a way to keep all those outside things, outside!

Change your space: A level three modern mudroom

If you’re planning a whole house remodel with new built ins or wood features in multiple rooms, start with the entry.

This can be the first opportunity to glimpse at wood details that can be applied throughout the house. 

Stay consistent and match the cabinetry here to the cabinetry in the kitchen – use the same supplier or choose the same wood grain, stain, or paint colors for each space.

Connect to the outside spaces!

How your entry space connects with the outside has the power to transform the feeling in the space.  Without expanding the house’s footprint, you have the potential to make your home feel larger by better connecting it with the deck or yard beyond. 

Consider bringing the windows / sliding doors all the way up to the ceiling line – this will magnify the flow to an outside space!

Continue a bold material or color on any walls that extend on both sides of the entry door!

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • A little history of entering and leaving houses.
  • Why mid century houses often leave a lot to be desired in terms of storage at entries.
  • How to create a functional entry at any remodeling level and budget. 

Listen Now On  Apple | Google |  Spotify | Stitcher

Resources for bringing a Modern Mudroom to your Mid-Century Home

And you can always…

Read the Full Episode Transcript


You know how I love your mid century house, but one thing it might lack is a modern mudroom, or any practical dedicated entry space meant to help catch those things that belong to the outside edge of your life and keep them in one spot. If this sounds like your home, you’re not alone. Helping our one to one design clients to solve this challenge is part of nearly every mid century master plan we do at mid mod Midwest. And solving this doesn’t have to be that complicated. So today, let’s talk about what your entry areas need and how to make that happen for your home.


Hey there. Welcome back to Mid Mod Remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes. Helping you match a mid century home to your modern life. I’m your host Della Hansmann, architect and mid century ranch enthusiast. You’re listening to season 11 episode nine. So I’m starting to field a lot of calls and get DMS about spring cleaning and spring home improvement projects. Have you got these in your mind? We may still have snow on the ground in Wisconsin, but the days are getting warmer and I’m getting excited to tackle a few fun projects about my house.


Another thing I’m looking forward to is the midcentury exterior update clinic that is coming March 18. This is going to be a place where we talk about what you can do to update your home, I’ll have everyone that comes to it walk away with a checklist of easy to slightly more involved Front of House sprucing up projects to tackle right away. What will work to make a mid century era house feel more mid mod jaunty in almost any circumstance with variations.


But we’ll also talk about the why. Because the outside of your house is just the outside of your house. Making changes there is satisfying, whether you’re bringing it into alignment. Finally, with what’s going on inside you’ve already done or what’s going on outside is just step one to making the inside your own. It all works together. Or it should. 


That’s why in preparation for that workshop, this week, we’re going to get a jump on the exterior improvements by talking about what’s going on inside your doors. Find show notes with a link to the clinic signup (go sign up), sketches of interior updates Mid Mod Midwest has done for past clients and a transcript of the episode on my website at midmod-midwest.com/1109.


Okay, here’s what’s on the agenda for today. First, a little history of entering and leaving houses, which leads to why mid century houses often leave a lot to be desired in terms of storage at our entries, and what you can do about it. So before we get into how to fix it, can I ramble out here for a moment, we’ll get into the advice afterwards, I promise. The process of entering and leaving our homes shifted a lot during the mid century ere. We’ve actually been in transition, somewhat, since then. The idea of a formal entry parlor was going away at the start of the mid century period, but it hadn’t been replaced by a different system.


Houseproud homeowners of the past would have made a clear distinction between a guest entry, and one used by anyone helping out with domestic labor a service door, they wouldn’t have called that service door a modern mudroom, but it might have worked that way. Family members would have used one door or the other depending on why they were coming or going. That formal versus practical entry distinction was clear, even in modest houses before the mid century era. The relics that are clear even in our mid century homes.


In my 1952 Ranch, for example, there’s a front door facing the street with a little stoop, not much of one and a side door off the kitchen that originally faced the side yard but later was connected by a breezeway to a garage. Both of my doors had doorbells, that meant someone who didn’t belong to the household might be expected to come to either spot depending on their business. Now, this idea of the modern mudroom or lack thereof worked universally in the 1930s era. And before and I was really familiar with this in the Chicago era bungalow, which is a housing type I worked with a lot in my years right before coming back to Madison, Chicago, where I used to live and love and work is an alley town.


That means they have a system of secondary access ways behind every major road and every minor residential block is divided down the middle by an alley, which is a pro in terms of car, or a con depending on your perspective. In the modern day. This means that trash pickup happens behind houses which changes the whole urban fabric of the city, and the way that single family homes and apartments were built and used. The main result today is that you don’t see a lot of garage doors in Chicago because parking happens on the street in front of buildings and personal parking happens at the garage behind trash pickup happens behind the buildings which you don’t have a lot of trash bags and rats don’t hang on the sidewalks in Chicago, which makes it a better city than New York, bite me.


But back in the day, it made a totally clear distinction between the main entrance of the house and the service entrance. Chicago is also a town with a very strict residential Safety Code dating back to the Great Chicago Fire. And at that time, it was made a rock solid law that every residential unit needed to have two door egress points. So a house obviously had a front door street door and a back alley door but even an apartment building would have a front door opening onto a central interior stairwell that each unit would have a back door that opened on to a sky open stairwell which would lead back to an alley. It’s great for light and ventilation as well as for fire safety, and it was very fun and functional.


So we may think of ourselves as the Door Dash era today where you can get anything delivered to your house. But that was also true before the mid century era in cities, people expected regular deliveries of milk, vegetables, meat, there might be a laundry service repair people would come all via the alley door, the service door, I’m not going to go too far down the rabbit hole on Chicago building consulting right now. If you’re curious about this, I can put some links into the show notes of blog posts I wrote for my previous firm moss design, about the Chicago housing types and the way they were dramatically affected by the fact that they had this front door access and this back alley access.


That backdoor access didn’t necessarily mean a modern mudroom, but it did make a clear distinction between what types of things were coming into a house and that they were coming in and leaving at the right spot. So laundry, vegetable deliveries, milk came right to the kitchen door right into the place where they were going to be used. You didn’t have to traipse through your entire unit with your groceries in hand, you could come right to the place where you’re going to drop them off and use them.


So back to our mid century ranch house and its lack of a modern mudroom. By the way, we still require two doors to every individual house building safety code requires a means of egress to means of egress for every main floor, and it just kind of makes sense to have a front door and a back door or a side door on every house. But what happens when you step inside those doors was really starting to shift during the mid century era. We lost the vestibule the parlor entry of a more formal era, and we lost some of the kitchen entry storage as well. This happened for a few reasons. And the first was cost and practicality.


The archetypical mid century house went through a bottleneck of design during the post war building boom. Those first modest cottages, the Levites style houses that were thrown up as quickly as possible. During the immediate post war crunch did not have room for frills like formal entries and vestibules. They did not have a hall with a bench and an umbrella stand and coat hooks. But then, as resources became slightly less limited and houses started to expand, they didn’t regrow their formal entries.

The typical mid century ranch house in the Midwest and the typical ice Eichler semi-custom are the same is that you entered through the front door which probably faces the street into a living room of the house, which may double as a dining room. And there is typically maybe a coat closet, a little two foot wide swing door framed closet that has a hanging rack and a single shelf.


This is not exactly a handy catch all for all the detritus of entering and leaving your house keys, phone chargers, gloves, backpack holders, hat stand, etc. But it’s what we’ve got to work with. Most of the advertising literature of that era still shows this incredibly heteronormative image of the wife waiting from the front door while her husband in shirtsleeves strides off down his front sidewalk with a briefcase in hand, where on the inside of the house was he keeping that briefcase? I guess set right beside the front door. The implication is that people still thought of their front doors as their primary means of entering and leaving the house. And they just didn’t carry a lot of things with them.


What was their alternative? The kitchen door, which again typically addressed straight into a cooking and possibly eating space without any recourse to a drop zone. As we follow mid century houses built a little further forward in history, they sometimes get a garage door entry with a laundry room, maybe combined with a mechanical room. But it’s not exactly the careful well thought out modern mudroom in which to transition from being outside of your home to being in.


Where did those original mid century moderns keep their outside things? It’s one of life’s little mysteries. And to be honest, we do just have a lot more stuff these days. This isn’t the time to get into how we have so many things and what to do with them. We just need to address where we put them when we come in the house. What it means for us is that we nearly always need to modify our mid century homes to add some gesture toward a modern mudroom.


And that’s exactly what mid Midwest finds herself doing for nearly every masterplan client. One of our most universal areas of the house that needs work is the entry or entries. Thinking about how we can add in a practical drop zone a modern mudroom might be minimalist, it might be just a few key size shelves, and a place where you can hang up a coat and a scarf. But this is actually this is the perfect moment to come back to the idea of levels of remodeling. I’m gonna be talking about this more over the next couple of weeks as we prepare to think about improvements for your front door.


But the simplest thing you can ever do in any part of your house to change it is a level one update. Now most people would not even think of this as remodeling. But I do. Longtime listeners to the podcast know that a level one update is something you can do with minimal tools and skills in a weekend. Or by hiring someone else to just do it for you. It’s often a product to purchase and attached to your house.

So for your front door on the outside a level one update might be: a coat of paint matching a new and cheerful mid mod mailbox new house numbers.


On the inside, a level one update to improve your entry experience is simple. It might be a to hang a wall shelf, hanging a mirror, setting in a bench so you have a place to sit down. Then hang something and a place to glance at your face as you enter or leave your house. That is, by the way, a replicate of one. The more people you have entering, leaving your house, the more people that live in your household. The more places you need to set things, hang things and sit down.


Now, if you have one of those classic mid century, enter right into living room setups, at least do this. Put down a floor mat, set in a few aesthetically pleasing items of storage furniture. This can make a huge difference to your daily experience of entering leaving the house.

But if you want to level up to a level to a slightly more involved approach, try this. Convert your closet into a mini mudroom.

Sometimes I feel like I’m waging a universal war on closets. I feel like they are places where our objects go to die. I would much rather see a niche with open shelving and some closed drawer storage, or better yet some well thought out built in storage with drawers and a subdivided interior space. But what we usually get in a mid century house is a lot of closets, a lot of small closets.


And the reason is, closets were easy and cheap to build, they just required a neat and tidy door framed with trim and shelf and hanging rod to finish them out. That work could be done by the same team of workmen who already were hired to do the basic finish work on the rest of the house to hang the bedroom doors and trim around them. It didn’t require any specialized craft or skill to make them.


But today, we can do better. If you don’t have a front hall closet, I highly encourage you to think about pirating that space for a much more well thought out built in or even furniture nook. If you enter primarily through your kitchen, this is where you might find it’s possible to take over some quantity of your kitchen built-ins existing or new for modern mudroom entry. And when we’re planning new buildings for a kitchen in our master plans, we always think about how to lay out a little space for entry things – shoe storage jacket hooks and a place to put your keys.


At this level, think about the prospect of enclosing some outdoor space as a transition for your home. Going from not having a covered porch to just having a roof over your entry area is life changing. But creating a little entry vestibule is also a great idea for anyone who lives in a climate zone with extremes of weather. Because you can create an airlock to enclose a porch or a breezeway. From my own home, I enclosed a breezeway . I divided it into both a combination of garage storage space and a modern mudroom laundry entry.


But this is starting to verge into a level three remodel. And while it’s quite often possible to fully improve your mid century home without adding anything to its footprint that is making it larger with a new foundation or new roof, you do sometimes want to consider these changes you might want to add on in order to create space for an entry area without taking away from your living area. You might also want to rearrange the spaces inside.


Depending on the way your family and the way you typically enter and leave your home. It might be worth it to take an overly large or overly elongated living space and make part of it an entry. It could also mean, if you’re going to be dramatically reconfiguring the space in your home for other purposes, flipping a kitchen from one part of the house to another for example. You absolutely want to take that opportunity to consider how to make the most out of your modern mudroom entry.


Let’s talk about some design cool Mid Century Modern mudroom ideas you can try out. First, consider building storage right along or against the wall next to your entry door. This might mean storage furniture, or more fitted built ins or a combination of both. Simply adding some objects hanging from or set in front of that wall. thickening the wall with 18 inches or two feet of a bench open and closed upper cabinets. Lower storage area to create your corral your shoes is a great start. This is the best idea for a limited space . It doesn’t eat in too much to the hypothetical living room that might be sharing space with your entry door.


If you have a little more room, you might want to cut off the entry area. Make a mini modern mudroom out of the front area. Do it by putting in a perpendicular wall that faces the door again with a bench, hooks and a little close storage. This might be what you need to prevent that awkward arrangement where solicitors or visitors to your front door have a direct view into your kitchen. Or your bedroom hallway at my home without the little cross point entry wall. Visitors would see my kitchen sink with possible dirty dishes in it. At my sister’s mid century home, the front door gives a view of the bathroom shower. This is not ideal.


So put in a cross perpendicular wall that both blocks view. And it creates a little storage opportunity might be a great idea. The third option is to put a low wall, often called a knee or a pony wall between the door and the rest of the space that it opens into. This might actually help you create an airlock. Or it might just create sort of a psychological airlock between the entry area and a cozy sit at home area.


Remember that your experience of entering the house starts before you close the door behind you. So what is the feeling of being on your front porch? Do consider if you can layer in some privacy as you approach the house. Ideally, it’s great to add lights and view through your entry area. Try having glazing in your front door, or maybe a big bright sidelight window behind it or beside it. So as you stand inside, you can look out you can see the weather. You might want to be able to glance and see if someone has actually gotten to your front porch. But that only works if you’ve created a private and personal front porch area.


So again, if you’re curious about detailing the areas happening outside the house, I’ll be getting into so much more detail. Look out for my upcoming episode on improving your front door. I think it’s scheduled for next week, and so much more in the weekend workshop coming up March 18. The mid century exteriors clinic will walk you through the easy ways you can take your front door and your whole home exterior from just okay to great.


But back to modern mudrooms. What if you don’t commonly enter and leave your house by the front door? Many people, myself included, typically use their kitchen side or back door as their day to day entry. If you’re coming in and out through the kitchen, again, you want to try to make space for those classic elements – shoe storage hooks hangers bench key and glove drop away from your eat in kitchen area. You don’t want to be coming in and dropping your outside things on the kitchen table or kitchen counters.


Whatever you can do to create a defined area that’s either more open depending on your tolerance for convenience, overseeing clutter or more closed if you want to put things away and keep them out of sight out of mind. You want to salvage a little bit of your kitchen storage space for that modern mudroom entry. If space is really tight on the kitchen side and you’re entering through a garage or even a semi protected three season outside space. You can create a functional filtration area for entering your home before you step in the door.

Put down an outdoor rug, a bench a sitting space and take off some of your outer layers outside the house. The garage or in a three season room or on a porch. for example. To keep more practical access to your to go items just outside the door.


And while we’re talking about modern mudrooms, don’t forget the exits into your own space. Doors to your backyard for example. Even if you aren’t leaving your property … You may want to add some outdoor gear improve the modern mudroom capability of your basement walkout door for example. For those of us with dogs, this can be a great place to keep bonus winter coat. And a waterproof layer sturdy mud boots or three. Plus all the equipment you need to clean off a dirty dog has been playing a little too hard in the yard before reintroducing them into your home.


I’ve been helping more and more homeowners install simple dog showers. The most basic is just a shower floor plan splash proof area and extendable shower head at ground level. They can become much more elaborate if you so desire. And every time I do I feel a little envious. Even though Roxy is generally a fastidious dog who tends to keep herself pretty much free. It’s just such a convenient thing to have this washdown zone right where the dirty dog enters the house.


So the point of that little digression, is that what you need for a modern mudroom for your home, what makes it practical entry, depends very much on who you are and how you live in your home. A child free couple with large dogs needs open space and a dog shower station. A family with a couple of sports playing teens needs copious equipment storage right by the door. If they don’t want to live a life adrift in sporting gear throughout the house, that is. If you are a gardener, a cook or a DIY enthusiast, you will also be bringing different things into your threshold on a regular basis. So plan your entry or your entries for yourself and your household.


It is a sad fact that mid century homes weren’t totally built to match our modern lives. So they need modern mudroom upgrades when we make other improvements. Start small right away. Figure out what you most often find dropped on the ground next to your door. Or conversely, what you don’t find as you leave the house? What do you have to go hunt up every time? Make a space for that thing right by your daily departure door. Do it this weekend. That might be mounting a small shelf, putting up a hook or putting in a piece of storage furniture. Then take a breath and pat yourself on the back. You’ve just improved your home. From there, I encourage you to apply a little masterplan thinking to the problem.


And if you’d like our help with that there are two ways you can work with Mid Mod Midwest. As a reminder, you do not need to be in the Midwest for us to help you. We can work with you one on one to plan your master plan to transform your home right now. Or to set up your five year vision so you can improve your house step by step.


Or you might want to join the Ready to Remodel program where I guide homeowners through the steps of the master plan process. Learn more about that or just get more in depth information on the master plan method. Check out my free masterclass: How to Plan a Mid Century Remodel to Fit Your Life (and budget).


And also right now, go sign up for our March mid century design clinic. We’re going to spend two hours on Saturday March 18 gaming out your spring project. Planning to really give the front of your home a facelift. And as I’ve just been pointing out, this is more than cosmetic. It’s the start of how you experience coming home every day. It matters. Sign up for the clinic at midmod-midwest.com/clinic. Early bird pricing ends March 10.


So if you’re listening to this podcast sign up right now. And if you’re listening to this podcast in the future, sign up anyway and watch it on your own time. We’ll be recording it. Grab the show notes for today. See fun sketches of mid century modern mudrooms we’ve designed in our archives. And in the transcript of this podcast at midmod-midwest.com/ 1109. That’s all for today. I hope I got you thinking about how you can improve your house entering and leaving experience right now.