Designing a Functional Front Hall Designing a Functional Front Hall

Q: Now that we're deep into winter, the pile of boots, scarves, hats and mittens is threatening to take over the front hall. What kind of options do I have so that I can keep this mess down to a manageable pile while still keeping my home's entry way looking warm and welcoming?

A: This is the perennial curse visited upon everyone who lives in a climate with winter as a main feature. Just when you've figured out how to store the summer sports equipment, the North wind begins to blow, school starts, and before you know it, you're drowning in outerwear - without even leaving the house.

But it's not a problem limited to those with bad weather. The front hall tends to collect all the "stuff" - pocketbooks, keys, packages, and mail being the main offenders.

It's very important to try to keep the front hall as tidy as you can. This is the entry point to your home, and when you come in - or when a visitor does - you want to engender a feeling of calm, not a feeling of frenetic juggling of clutter. And yet, the front hall is often the hardest place to keep tidy.

The coat rack, old-fashioned as it is, will certainly help, especially with those family members who seem to think that opening the front hall closet, putting the coat on the hanger, and closing the door again is just too strenuous. Often these suspects will simply drop the coat on whatever is most handy: a bench, a chair, or the family St. Bernard.

A coat rack may not cure them of this, but it will encourage even the most recalcitrant (dare I say laziest?) household member to actually hang his coat up instead of throwing it on the floor.

Of course, the drawback to this is that then you have to look at the coat rack, which, as winter goes on, will look increasingly bedraggled. But it's a start.

But then, what about all those boots, galoshes, hats, mittens, and other items that can't be hung up?

We recently saw an innovative solution: a grain bin turned to a new use.

In this case, the old wooden grain bin is turned so that the lid opens from the top. Inside, there are five separate compartments. In this family of three, each person gets a compartment for boots, and then there are two more communal compartments for everything else.

And the grain bin has another function as well. Take your boots out, shut the lid, turn around, and you have a seat from which you can struggle with your laces. If a grain bin doesn't match your home's decor, don't worry. You can find benches, seats, and other furniture in a variety of styles specifically made for front hall or mud room storage.

No matter what style your front hall is in, try to keep furnishings simple. That doesn't mean you can't have a fabulous Murano glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling, or a great little painting next to the door.

If you can have another piece of furniture in the hall - a dresser, a table with drawers, or a small desk - all the better. On this piece, keep a basket or a small bowl to hold keys, sunglasses, and spare change. A basket for mail is also a good idea.

Whatever you do, remember the "containment principal": when in doubt, corral and contain the clutter, and soon the whole house, starting with the entryway, will soon be looking neat and tidy.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design.

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