Between Erica Sciara, her husband and their two boys, the entryway to their Queen Anne home was always a mess. Indoor soccer shoes, outdoor soccer shoes, water shoes, sandals … shoes everywhere.

Entryway storage can be a challenge in Seattle’s older homes, which often open right into the living room or have only a small entry space. Even newer homes with dedicated mudrooms can feel overwhelmed by winter’s wet raincoats, muddy boots, heavy coats and ski gear.

“It’s the moment when you first cross the threshold,” says Keri Petersen, an interior designer and owner of KP Spaces in Seattle, of a home’s entryway. “It’s supposed to be an indication of what the rest of the house is like. You don’t want to invite people into your mess.”

Search for entryways or mudrooms on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll see beautifully staged, minimalist photos. In real life, however, the scene is often a disorganized pile of stuff. 

Petersen says that one way to calm the clutter and save your sanity is to invest in storage with doors you can close. “Something you can just shut [to hide] the mess away,” Petersen says. “Because you’ll always be fighting against it if you don’t.”

Laura Leist, a certified professional organizer and founder of Eliminate Chaos in Redmond, recommends installing hooks, which can be used for coats or keys or dog leashes. If you have young children, you can install a lower row of hooks for kids’ coats to maximize wall space. 

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She recommends 3M Command Hooks for hanging face masks because you can attach them to the back of a door and they won’t damage the paint when you remove them. If you don’t want hooks on the wall, look for a fun free-standing coat rack. 

Either way, there should be at least one hook per family member, and everyone should know which hook is theirs (labels are helpful). Teach everyone to use their hook. “That’s the rule: Come in and hang up the coats,” Leist says.

Seattleite Erica Sciara tamed her cluttered entryway (left) by adding shelving for shoes, two rows of coat hooks and closed storage (right). She planned and installed the project herself. (Photos courtesy of Erica Sciara)
Seattleite Erica Sciara tamed her cluttered entryway (left) by adding shelving for shoes, two rows of coat hooks and closed storage (right). She planned and installed the project herself. (Photos courtesy of Erica Sciara)

A DIY lifesaver 

Sciara used a combination of closed storage, shelves and hooks to tackle her entryway clutter, after spending months scouring the internet for ideas and ready-made pieces that would fit the awkward dimensions of her 1902 Craftsman. The entry is short and narrow, but benefits from high ceilings. 

“It took me a long time to plan it. I had to really, really think about it,” Sciara says. “I didn’t want to pay for custom cabinetry because that would be really expensive. I wanted it to be something I could do on my own.”

She started with a Billy bookcase from Ikea to corral the adult shoes, adding an extension unit on top to take advantage of her high ceilings. She lined the shelves with wipeable clear contact paper and left the back open to show off the room’s cheery green wall paint. 

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An overhead cabinet from Lowe’s, which cost less than $100, tucked in next to the bookcase perfectly. She bought two pieces of ipe, a dark hardwood, from Dunn Lumber and made two levels of coat racks. For a bit of fun, she stenciled animal rear ends onto the lower children’s board and added hooks that look like tails.

She scored a cabinet with small cubbyholes for $10 from Goodwill for her kids’ shoes.

Sciara wrapped up the entryway project four years ago. “It’s been great,” she says. “I’ll tell you, it definitely changed our quality of life.”

Redmond-based organizer and designer Laura Leist recommends having at least one hook per family member in the entryway, along with more hooks for small items like keys and dog leashes. (Courtesy of Laura Leist)
Redmond-based organizer and designer Laura Leist recommends having at least one hook per family member in the entryway, along with more hooks for small items like keys and dog leashes. (Courtesy of Laura Leist)

Tips and ideas

Whether you have a built-in mudroom or you’re making do with an entryway drop zone, there are a few key components that can improve its function.

No coat closet? Try an antique armoire, baskets for shoes, lockers or a bench with drawers to stow your gear. Install shelves for smaller items and, of course, hooks for coats and bags. The goal, Leist says, is to create a designated spot for each thing you need to get out the door. 

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With a larger investment, you can add specialty entryway pieces or custom cabinetry. Expect to spend in the $1,000–$2,000 range for a bench with some drawers or cubbies, along with a rail to hang things above. If you have enough depth in your entryway, you can install rods and shelving from The Container Store’s Elfa line, a slightly cheaper option that typically runs under $1,000.

A helpful addition this time of year is a rubber boot tray with a lip to keep mucky water off your floors. A boot stand is another option — you set tall boots on it upside-down, which helps them to hold their shape and dry out. A cute waste can is an option to hold wet umbrellas and adds a decorative element to the space.

If you have room, it’s handy to have a bench. Underneath the bench, bins can stow hats, mittens and scarves. Add labels with a bin clip. “I usually like to do one bin per family member so everyone has a designed spot,” Leist says. “The idea is to get the things into the receptacle and not on the floor.”

This functional space can also be fabulous. Because it’s a small area, and so prominent, it might be a place to splurge on extra decorative touches. Add shiplap to the walls for dimension, or wallpaper or a bold paint color. 

“You may not be able to afford the super fancy wallpaper for the dining room or the living room,” Petersen says. “But your entryway can be a jewel box. So go ahead and get that decadent light fixture, that tile, that wallpaper, because you just need a little bit of it.”

And don’t forget to purge often. You don’t want your entryway to become a drop zone for clutter. Another issue Petersen sees at her clients’ homes is that they don’t rotate the sports equipment seasonally. 

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“I’m seeing ski stuff in the middle of the summer. Guys, we need to move it out to the garage,” Petersen says. “You can’t expect your entryway to handle everything. Just keep it current.”

But remember, no matter what kind of setup you come up with, the solution will only work if you get your household on board.

“It’s really important that once everything’s in place, you show your family this is what we just spent time and money doing, this is the expectation,” Leist says. “No one’s a mind reader. And really just make it easy for them.”