Saturday, June 26, 2010

Don't Break Up Over the Mud Room

We are back at the Hornby Island home building project today having moved from the perfect kitchen to the Mud Room. I understand that Mud Rooms have become quite fashionable around the country, even in environments that don’t have a MUD SEASON. In Alaska the Mud Season is often referred to as break-up season. (And I am not talking about breaking up with your loved one, I am talking about when the thaw comes and the frozen landscape turns to 12 inches of MUD). I bought my first pair of break-up boots in 1983, just plain black…this is not about fashion; it is about survival. Buying your first pair of break-up boots is a rite of passage. (This photo is of my oldest son and his little friends at the Alaska Zoo, Anchorage, AK-Circa 1983-Break-Up Boots galore.)

My friends, John and Darren, are contemplating the design and what to include in the MUD Room. You really need to read their post and all of the comments they have received, because it seems a good MUD room is worth its weight in keeping your homestead running smoothly. By the way, one friend cautioned them so: "Most important, home design and agreement is one of the most trying occupations for relationships. This is the real testing ground!"

Here's to The Break-Up Room (AKA: The Chesterfield Room)

Here is my OP-ED...
June 24, 2010

Ok, let’s see. I think before I can really weigh in on this, you need to let us know a bit more about your lifestyle and Hornby Island weather.

1. Are there any small children in the family…the reason I ask this, is that sometimes you need to design with different heights in mind. How high to place a hook, how low to set a bench, etc. If small children will only occasionally visit, then it matters not: except for resale.

2. Do you have cats? Some people hide the litter box in the mud-room.

3. Does it snow on Hornby Island? Enough that you might enjoy alpine or Nordic skiing? Ski racks, ski boot placement.

4. Do you intend to have a garden? Do you have deer, moose, rabbits, etc on Hornby Island?

I think the operative word here is ROOM. For two reasons, you want it to be a room-not just a space or section and you want it to be roomy. I think it should have a door that separates it from the perfect kitchen. Here are my thoughts:

• I had forgotten all about life in the North Country. You see, when you live in most of California and Arizona you don’t think about cellars or basements. I have lived with many basements and for the most part found them to be a waste of space, filled with clutter, usually musty, constantly being pumped to remove groundwater or worse. In one home the laundry was in the basement! Oh, my god. It was a granite basement which allowed critters to creep in. My husband adopted a cat to be a mouser, but one day I went down the stairs and there sat the cat staring at the mouse, like Tom and Jerry. You need to face two facts: you are not getting any younger and just because the clothes will magically arrive in the basement via a chute this doesn't mean that you or your guests will not face mobility issues down the road. You don’t want to argue about who is going to go "down cellar" (as they say in New Hampshire). Put the laundry appliances in this ROOM; make sure you have a pull-down ironing board. Remember, if the laundry appliances are in the ROOM, then when you come in from outside soaking wet, you can put the wet clothes in the dryer or the dirty clothes in the washer.

• Let's talk about colorful vegetables – I stopped being enchanted with the idea of gardens when I lived in Anchorage and the moose would graze through the neighbor's gardens. But let's assume you will have a garden. If you plan the ROOM with plumbing, (think laundry) have a potting sink. A restaurant-style pot washer might also be installed to handle large pots and buckets.

• The solution to the dog or your muddy boots is a hose-down area. A ground-floor basin with a drain and a wall-mounted handspray easily accommodate dirty boots, feet, and paws.

• Now about the Freezer. When we moved to Anchorage from southern California, my mother thought we should buy a freezer. Her reasoning was this: "what if you get snowed in and need to survive for days on end". (This from a woman that was born and raised in Butte, MT and had never owned a freezer.) But my husband thought it was a good idea, so we bought a really large chest freezer. It was delivered and moved into our heated garage (you know the one with a drain). For three years the only thing that was ever placed in that freezer was some salmon, that I did not enjoy cleaning. Truth is we never ate the salmon! When we moved to New Hampshire, the first home we lived in had a poured basement (rebuilt farmhouse). The freezer was moved into the basement through the bulkhead door and sat empty for a year. When we bought our Country Inn, the freezer was moved to the country inn kitchen. FINALLY, a legitimate use. But then again we slept 120 guests. A freezer is up to you…but remember if you fill it, be sure to have a generator for power failures, as you can lose a lot of inventory.

Finally, here are some links to sites that offer pretty good information about MUD/UTILITY/PANTRY ROOMS.
This Old House Episode 1 | This Old House Episode 2 | How to Plan a Mud Room
P.S. It seems you have a lot helpers on this. Vestibule is a nice word and for some reason I like Chesterfield Room. (For no reason, I just like the ring of it.)
Here is John's reply:

June 24, 2010
Judy, we can’t believe all your great questions and advice. What a help this is being between you and Susan Davis and the others.

I’ll answer a few of your questions to begin with:
1. No small children unless they visit with someone else so we can probably not worry too much about that. Hooks and benches can probably be at adult height.
2. No cats and not likely to have. I’m allergic to them.
3. Snow. Hornby Island gets more snow than Vancouver which means it gets a few days per year. Nothing to speak of. Occasionally it can get a massive dump and have a few feet around but it usually only lasts for a week or two at the most because it usually warms up and rains. In other words, no winter sports. It’s a damp climate in the winter.
4. We do intend to have a garden and this is something that needs to be designed into the whole property from the beginning. There are a lot of deer on the island (they aren't very big) but they eat anything. All gardens on the island need to be fenced because of the deer. Making something attractive is needed so it doesn’t look like wire everywhere.
The other weird thing is possums. Some idiot brought them to the island to raise in the 80s and they got out and the rest is history. Though Simon, the lab up the road has killed a few in his day, they are around and probably eat garbage and other things. Yuk. There are no other beasts except for the odd bear that swims over once every ten years or, a few years ago a cougar. They end up getting shot and removed, eventually.

Regarding basements. We are not inclined to one unless it's where the water cistern goes or that sort of thing. I’m with you about basements. They collect junk. Ok, the chute idea is out, for sure. I kind of said it for fun, but obviously, it captured my imagination and that of others. It does have an "upstairs downstairs" ring to it though I don't believe we will be hiring maids and butlers.
If you see my mother's comment, she is a proponent of the pull-down ironing board. I like the idea too. I remember how sturdy hers was in our kitchen growing up.

Clearly, the ROOM is getting bigger. We now have washer and dryer, sinks for washing, tables for organizing, a bench, and ironing board, place for boots and jackets and, it could even act as a pantry of sorts with a door to the kitchen. It could also have the hot water tank and electrical panels.

Darren is the real gardener and will truly take a deep interest in this so having things set up well for it would be good.

I LOVE your story about the freezer. The honesty of it is great. It's so funny when you have things that get carted around through your life only for you to find out later that it’s been a waste of energy. It's very much like mental attitudes we carry around through life only to look back on and wonder why the heck we ever did!
We will have emergency backup for the house, but you have me wondering now whether an additional freezer really is worth it. They always seem to be a pit that stuff gets stuck in and never used. We may be better to get a really big fridge with a good sized freezer in it (we have started looking, but that’s another post).
We'll head off now to look at the sites you've recommended. (I have always loved watching This Old House on PBS)
Lastly, I'm intrigued by your Chesterfield Room comment. Very interesting. I thought "Chesterfield" was a Canadian thing only. We always call a sofa, a chesterfield. My mom still has the same chesterfield she got shortly after being married sixty years ago. It's been refinished a few times, but it's in great shape, it's heavy as a tank, and it was a great day-bed for sick kids to lie on.
I guess if we called it the Chesterfield Room, we'd have to add one to the room. Gee, the room keeps getting bigger. Maybe we should just make the whole house one room. Ha ha.
The comments, as I said above, continued. They are a must read.

Let me know what your experience is with MUD Rooms. Would love to hear from you.


Anonymous said...

I've got to say Judy, I never dreamt there would be so much to consider with a MUD room or whatever we wne up calling it. So much to ponder and so little mud.

Judy Helfand said...

Do you not have mud on Hornby Island? What about break-up boots? I remember we put a a metal grate in our porch floor, leading to the mud room, so you could scrape the mud off your shoes before you came into the house. This is a fun project.
I am glad you stopped by today.

Bill R said...

Our mud room in Illinois was a savior as it was the transition room between the house-kitchen and the pool garden area. We were stuck with a minimum of space so we kept the dog crates, dog food washer dryer and the bubbler (water dispenser for the non Midwesterner). We had a low bench for taking on and off the snow boots or skates when the pond was frozen. We also had a drawer for assorted gloves, often unmatched, a drawer for scarves and a third for stocking hats. Probably the best thing we had was the "big hooks' that Cathy got when she worked at Restoration Hardware. We had a row of 6 at 7 foot high and one at 3' 6 off the floor. we could house 30 or 40 kid coats there when it was hockey season and they could dump their socks and other hockey stuff right into the dryer. Alas the one drawback of our mud room was that it did not connect to our garage. In winter we would drive into the semi warm garage where the floor always had a level of salty water and road sand on it. We would have to track in that mess through the kitchen to the mud room. The design was really cute but as Meis van der Rohe said "form follows function" the designer of our house must not have had kids or dogs.

Judy Helfand said...

Hi Bill,
I am glad to hear how you handled your space. When you talk about the children and hockey I am reminded of when we owned the country inn and had a large pond that would freeze and we would groom. The kids would play hockey with the neighbors and guests, and I remember walking through the pile of hockey equipment in the mud room. Even today, though we have not lived in cold country for 13 years, I can still open dresser drawers and find mittens, scarfs, hats, gloves, and turtlenecks.
Good memories.
P.S. Big hooks are key and I hope you will visit again soon.

Anonymous said...

Judy, We do have some mud on Hornby Island, but not much though having a garden will generate some, I'm sure.

For us, it will more likely be sand from walking on the beach. Add sand from the beach, walk up the trail to the house on a wet day with a bit of "mud" and you have a need for a grate to "break up" the cement that the bottom of the shoes have become.

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