Keep your entryway organized, with these tips from a NYC design expert
Neat vs. clean—they both win!
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In my house, our front hallway looks like a tornado has passed through it—daily. Despite my attempts at organization with a shoe bucket and a coat tree, boots and soccer cleats pile up and obstruct the front door, and jackets and scarves get looped over the stairway posts. It gets much worse when the weather is rainy, snowy, or muddy.
If you’re like me, it’s time to figure out an organization system that works with the layout of your entryway and your lifestyle. A dedicated mudroom can handle cabinets, cubbies, hooks, and even a bench where you can sit to take off your shoes. But many homes just don’t have space for one—mine included.
We spoke with interior designer Kathleen Walsh, founder of New York City-based design firm Kathleen Walsh Interiors for her expert advice on how to wrangle entryway madness.
Take stock of your stuff
Our biggest question is how to weigh cleanliness with tidiness. In other words, is it an option to streamline an entryway keeping the area as neat as possible while still encouraging family members and guests to remove shoes and coats, and store bags, so as to not track dirt and germs through the rest of the home?
Walsh says, “A home’s entryway sets the tone for the rest of the house and how a family starts and ends their day. In order to create a functional space, you must prioritize organization. If an entrance does not greet you with control and organization, it becomes a bother.”
Walsh first recommends taking stock of what you want to keep in your entryway: coats, gloves, bags, shoes, mail, keys and accessories, sports equipment, pet gear, and kid stuff.
Once you know what kind of stuff you need to organize, go through your actual stuff and make a donation pile. “I’ll bet you could get rid of about 25% of your coats, shoes, accessories, and more,” Walsh says. “Try it! It’s way easier to tackle the idea of organizing an entryway when there is less stuff to manage.”
Consider how you want to organize
It’s essential to consider how you want to store your stuff. Do you want jackets and scarves hanging on wall hooks more casually, or would you prefer to have them tucked away in a closed cabinet or closet? Walsh encourages being honest with yourself because your answer will decide how your entryway will actually look. And you’ll have to live with it.
Depending on the size of your primary entryway, you may have the space to reserve an area for guests’ coats, boots, and umbrellas that’s separate from the family’s.
Walsh says, “I’ve found this question often delights homeowners and, if you can afford the space, is an overlooked luxury.”
Don’t let a small space get you down
City dwellers with smaller homes, apartments, and condos don’t often have a lot of extra space to play with. In New York City, Walsh should know.
For any one of her clients, Walsh tells them that ultimately there are six items needed in any entry: a table-height surface or a small entryway table, a place to sit, a mirror, a table lamp or sconces, a piece of art, and an umbrella holder.
“If you are able to incorporate these,” she says, “you’re set.”
Walsh recommends getting creative with your storage options.
If you already have or plan to install a closet, make sure it is at least a full 24 inches wide, which is necessary to prevent the door from popping open. “In terms of height,” says Walsh, “I love tall doors and recommend you go as high as you can—96 inches is ideal.”
Install some drawers within the closet if you can, for holding smaller items like gloves, scarves, and hats. Walsh advises using clear, acrylic storage drawers so you don’t have to open each one every time or remember what’s where.
“Don’t forget the back of the door,” Walsh emphasizes. “Shoe storage, small umbrellas, bags, dog leashes, and some sports equipment, like sticks, hang well. But, I do not recommend hanging backpacks there as they’re too heavy and will almost always prop the door open.”
When it comes to selecting furniture for a small entryway, you’ve got to be smart and choosy. “Be deliberate in the piece you choose to ensure it works hard for you,” she recommends. “Look for something that has plenty of drawers, and if budget allows, go custom.”
Bonus tips for a larger space
If your home has a more expansive entryway, or even, a dedicated mudroom, consider implementing a few of these tricks.
Name tags or labels to identify dedicated personal space can be crucial for families with lots of members, especially younger children who are just learning responsibility and how to organize. Walsh says that cubbies, lockers, and peg walls all work well.
Shoes can be a nasty, dirty, just plain gross, problem, so leave them at the door. But in doing so, you need to account for build up, since people tend to wear more than one pair of shoes—sometimes daily.
“Plan for more than you think you need,” advises Walsh. “If you are using cubbies, ensure you have varying heights to accommodate for everything from sneakers to boots. If you are using a shelf, consider allocating an empty one for future purchases.”
Don’t forget the finishing touches
“Just because it’s the entryway doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have character!” Walsh says. “A distinct paint color, wallpaper pattern, or architectural finish sets a tone and a barrier, and creates a beautiful impression.”
Entryway lighting, too, is frequently overlooked, but it is important when using a small space. Walsh advises having ample light both above the door and at the ceiling of the interior towards the front. When you’re leaving the house or welcoming guests in, you need to be able to see.
Walsh is a huge fan of stylish baskets because they’re great for holding accessories you don’t need every day. If you have the option and the budget to build custom, Walsh suggests finding the basket style and size you love first, and then designing cabinetry around it.
Lastly, Walsh recommends welcoming guests with fresh flowers as they come in the door. “Buy a vase that is sized appropriately and add fresh flowers when you can,” she says. “You can also buy a silk arrangement or a sculptural object when a fresh bouquet is not in use.”
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