minor mudroom improvements

with the promise of fall hanging in the air — crunchy leaves, long jackets, adorable scarves — and the new ikea catalogue making its way to doorsteps everywhere, i got to thinking about our mudroom. again. yes, that little addition off the back of our kitchen that means we don’t have to go outside to go down to the basement and also gives us precious, extra square feet to store our outdoor stuff.

pierre and i have been operating under the assumption that when we dig out our basement (2015?) we’ll tear down this back addition and shovel the dirt right out the back door instead of out tiny windows like fools. as a bonus, we’ll build ourselves a whole new mudroom when we’re done, complete with proper insulation and a nicer walk-out to the backyard.

but, for the meantime, the somewhat haphazardly finished space bugs me. we spent a bit of time and $20 making it look presentable last february, putting up some shelves and hooks and slapping some leftover paint on the walls, and i’d promised myself that was all we would do — after all, there’s a pretty good chance we’re going to demo it kinda soon. but  thinking about scarves and simultaneously going through the “organizing” section in the ikea catalogue is a pretty deadly combination. all of a sudden i wanted to make just a few more tweaks to this space — but i swear, i swear, i won’t do anything more to it until after the basement is done!

first minor improvement: i used up the paint we’d saved for touch ups to touch the whole space up. a few months after i’d painted last winter, pierre saws-alled and removed some 1970s appliances from our basement, so you can imagine what the walls looked like. i also did a quick sand of the door that leads to the basement and repainted it, using up the last of our black satin paint in the process. i didn’t sand the door when i painted it the first time, so every time you bumped the door with a sharp object (say, a hunk of a steel dryer) the black paint would instantly flake off. now i’m totally out of paint for touch-ups for both walls and doors, but right now everything looks fresh and clean. (this is probably very weird, but i get a bit of satisfaction from finishing things to the point where you can dispose of their containers: pints of grape tomatoes, cans of paint, boxes of cereal. i don’t know, it’s weird.)

next, i addressed the coat storage at the top of the stairs. the hooks pierre hung along the back wall — a medley of flea market and salvage store buys — didn’t provide the look i was going for. all our jackets and tote bags piled in one corner looked a little junky, and i knew it would only get worse as the ski season approached. i left the larger brass hooks (removed from our foyer) on the side wall, but replaced all their silver screws with brass ones. not that anyone sees the screws once the hooks are in use…but that’s just the way i roll. i bought some smaller brass hooks from home depot for the back wall to create a more cohesive look, and i spread them out more than before. we have a few hooks for shorter jackets to the left of the window, and i also put one closer to the door to hold our barbeque utensils and outdoor keys. because we don’t have any room in our kitchen for oversized burger flippers, these are supposed to live in the cabinet underneath our grill. but after cooking outdoors we bring the utensils inside to wash them, and then they end up languishing on the kitchen floor by the door until the next time we use the bbq, never quite making it to their intended destination. now they’ll be a few feet closer to the back door after they’ve been cleaned, possibly upping the likelihood that someone will return them to the grill. or not, but at least they’re off the kitchen floor.

also, photographs and prints. doesn’t hanging something on a wall make any space seem slightly less neglected? with the outfitting-the-dorm-room craze that probably went down at ikea a few weeks ago, it was slim pickings on the frames, which is why i ended up with two red ones instead of all white, which is what i usually pick to try and neutralize a lot of the colours in the house.

besides a blanket that pierre brought home from peru in our living room, we don’t have any red in the main part of the house. i’m bombarded with the colour every day at work, and i generally prefer to surround myself with a more subdued palette of blues, whites, yellows, and grays. but we do have this exit light fixture (vent: we paid a lot of money for this and then i found an identical fixture six months later at vintage 1 on ossington for $25) in the mudroom.

despite my aversion to bold colours, i thought i’d add a little more red to the space — that it’d coordinate with the light fixture (and fire extinguisher?) and pop against the neutral walls. the same lack shelves that i primed and painted black satin (they were originally white and black-brown) also came in a high-gloss red, which was perfect. besides, i didn’t have any primer or black paint left and i felt like hanging something as-is for once. i checked inventory for the ikea in north york online and drove there to pick up the shelf, but when i arrived there were no high-gloss red shelves in the aisle. i had a small fit (in aisle 12) when an employee told me the store’s stock level was just one shelf, so it was likely that the missing shelf was either damaged or was on someone else’s cart. i really didn’t want to drive to etobicoke (where there were 16), so i was going to just go home and sulk when it occurred to me to check the as-is section for the shelf. i noticed it leaning against a wall right away — it’s pretty red — and it was marked down 50% because of a chip on the back left corner.

then: plants. we have a south-facing backyard so the mudroom gets a lot of light during the day and both window sills are pretty deep. the long, trail-y plant was donated by my mom and i think it’s adapting to its new environment quite well. the smaller succulent was a last-minute decision over a cactus. i pictured myself grabbing for our shed keys on that sill, perpetually five minutes late leaving for work each and every morning, and getting stuck by the cactus each and every morning. velvety succulent it was.

lastly, a new staircase, kind of. i pulled up the black grip-tread that covered each step and bought a 2 x 10 x 10 piece of lumber from home depot for $7.77 (my favourite number, so notable). they cut it into four pieces there for me and i used clamps and wood glue to give the steps a quick face lift. then, just to be sure, i counter-sunk four 4″ screws into each step and used a neutral wood filler to cover the holes. i took a sample piece of our hardwood floor to home depot and chose a $6 can of “ipswich pine” stain as the best match. i rubbed some stain (and pre-conditioner) into each step twice, touched up the original steps with some leftover white bathroom paint, and i think it looks a whole lot better for under $20.

with these latest improvements, i’m really loving the mudroom. there are still some things i wish were different: proper windows, ditch the concrete steps, and a nicer back door, but overall it’s feeling more like an extension of our main floor instead of a space that’s more allied with our basement. until now, the mudroom was definitely considered to be more on “team basement” (with its chipped concrete floor and wood paneling) than “team first floor.” i’m actually happy to leave our kitchen door ajar these days, so i can see into the mudroom and out to the backyard. where our shed is. which i have half painted and not blogged about. which i will finish painting and blog about soon.