A mudroom isn’t just a buffer between dirty boots and the rest of your house. It’s your family’s launch pad into the world. All things important live in this space: purses with keys hidden inside them; backpacks delivering the evening’s homework assignments; sports equipment and other extracurricular necessities. An organized mudroom can also set you off on the right foot, determining how smoothly—or, on the flip side, chaotic—your day begins. 

Sturdy coatracks and labeled baskets are obvious ways to make a mudroom family-friendly, but have you ever considered built-in drawers that mask the sight and smell of soccer cleats? What about an upholstered window seat where you can tie little ones’ shoes without crouching? The hardworking mudroom ideas ahead offer so much more than merely a place to toss umbrellas. And with school officially back in full swing and cooler weather on the horizon, there’s no better time to revamp the transitional zone than right now. 

Perfect Your Proportions

When it came to her own family’s mudroom, Ridgewood, New Jersey–based designer Jennifer Acito focused on this arrangement of ultra-functional locker-style cubicles to store everything from shoes to coats and accessories. Want to make the look your own? Make sure the bench surface is at least 22 to 25 inches wide—anything smaller looks forced and isn’t practical for teens. Also, whip out your measuring tape, triple-check the height of your tallest boot, and let that determine where the seat hits the wall. That way, all kinds of footwear can be neatly tucked away. 

Make Room for Reading

Top an L-shaped bench with cloudlike cushions and suddenly your mudroom will serve triple duty as hidden shoe storage (the top lifts up) and a homework-slash-book nook. It’s also a handy spot to corral one kid while you’re getting the other one ready. Homey touches, like framed family photographs and heavy floral drapes, make the mudroom at Naomi Wilson’s England cottage all the more welcoming to her little ones, who, yes, can get up by themselves. “With the morning light, it’s such a lovely place to come and sit or make a phone call,” says Wilson. 

Carve Out a Drop-Off Zone 

No mudroom? No problem. When you’re tight on square footage, all you need is a corner (or even just a 2-foot-wide slice of wall) to catch important school-related stuff. In her playroom, Amanda Walker, the DIYer behind Dwell Aware, hung a coatrack at her children’s level so they can load and unload their backpacks on their own each morning and afternoon. A bright orange wall clock keeps everyone on schedule. 

Reimagine the Front-Hall Closet 

If your entry is your only pass-through space, you can honor function without sacrificing form—and vice versa. Renovate 108’s Jessica and Tyler Mares kept their “wow” foyer moment (picture statement marble floors and a chic console table), while also designating a place for their kids to drop their things. The trick? They removed the door from the hall closet, swathed the walls in black wood paneling and wallpaper, and filled the space with cubbies large and small to prevent last-minute search parties as they’re getting everyone out the door. There are even tiny triple utility hooks from Rejuvenation for hanging the couple’s car keys in plain sight, making running behind a thing of the past.