Laura Rennie

E-design // Melissa G.’s mud room

DecoratingLaura RennieComment

Melissa and her husband are caring for three children under the age of four, and they were desperate for better functionality in the mud room. While Melissa wanted practical storage solutions more than anything, she still wanted the space to look nice. She used the word reflective when describing how she wanted the room to feel. I know I feel anything but reflective when I’m doing laundry or struggling to take off winter boots! I was excited to help Melissa find ways to make her space pretty AND practical. (Also, Melissa was my first paying client, which made this job extra exciting and a fantastic learning experience.)

If you’re unfamiliar with the term e-design, here’s how it usually works: the client describes how he/she wants the room to feel and function, and the designer/decorator creates a mood board and provides resource information. (I also provide elevation plans so clients can see exactly where I suggest they place items on the wall.) It’s up to the client to purchase the items and put the room together. 

Melissa admitted from the beginning that her current season of life (again, three under four!) makes finishing projects difficult, and life did get in the way a bit when it came to finishing up the mud room. Regardless, I am so impressed with the hard work she put into this space, and I’m happy to report she and her family are loving it! 

Click through the slideshow to see how the room looked before:

Melissa’s family uses the exterior door as their main entrance/exit. A pocket door leads into the dining room. The tiny hidden door tucked into the corner was designed for firewood. Her son uses it as his secret passageway into the living room. So fun, right?

Melissa asked for: new paint, a clock, curtains for the exterior door, a shelf above the W/D for decorative items, hooks for coats and backpacks, shoe storage, a bench for putting on shoes, a table for Melissa’s purse and diaper bag, something to hide the exposed chimney pipe (above the dryer), a towel bar or hook for over the sink and scripture art to provide encouragement and attitude adjustment. (I love that!) And that trash can stuffed between the sink and washer had to go! 

I organized this project by first listing out Melissa’s needs and the dimensions of the space, and then researching items online to see how they would fit into the room and if they would work with her budget. (Melissa had a budget of $700, including childcare.) I put a handful of the items together on a mood board to show my initial vision for the space and used graph paper to sketch out elevation plans showing where everything would go. The sketches show a few things that are not on the mood board.


Melissa had already picked out a gorgeous Greek key fabric for a DIY clothing rack project she was working on. I used the fabric as a starting point and suggested she paint the walls “greige,” the cabinets white and the pocket door a deep teal. I liked the idea of displaying family photos around the top corner of the interior door and suggested stenciling “hi” on a neutral indoor/outdoor rug to add a touch of humor to the room.

Click through to view my sketches (try to overlook the not-to-scale sink... haha!):

Melissa preferred the idea of painting three of the walls a mint green or aqua color. I’m not bold with color in my own home, so it was a bit thrilling for me to have a client who wanted to really go for it! We landed on “Spring Frost” by Behr. The mint walls and white cabinets and trim make the room look like a completely different space!

What a transformation! 

Melissa chose to use a table she already owned for her diaper bag. She found a shoe bench at a thrift store, and she built the shoe rack, clothing rack and shelf over the W/D herself! I suggested she stain all of the wood pieces except for the shoe bench, which I thought would like nice painted white. Melissa’s choosing to keep the items as-is for now. (If I had painted all those cabinets and walls and built pieces by hand, I imagine I’d want to take a break, too!)

I knew Melissa would love the tiered rolling rack I found for her to put in the awkward empty space between her appliances! It fits perfectly, and she’s reported that it’s given her a ton of extra storage. 

I figured making a little fabric cover would be a quick and simple way to hide the chimney. Melissa texted me pictures of various fabrics while she was out shopping and I love the one we landed on!

In case you’re wondering, the art print on the wall says “See not the mess, but the evidence of this beautiful, blessed life.” How perfect is that for a mud room?! My friend Mary is the talented artist behind that piece. Melissa also asked Mary to create a custom print for the shelf above the W/D.

Melissa sweetly sent me multiple notes throughout the e-design process to thank me for my help and to applaud my ideas and vision. 

"We haven't made this much conceptual or physical progress in two years! Your eyes, energy and questions got me thinking in ways I never had. Your ideas encouraged me to look for other solutions, and the products you chose made me look around and say "hey, I bet this thing could work for that!" (which is something you couldn't have known without digging through the stuff we have here). My mom saw the mud room for the first time today. She was shocked! She said it was so cheerful, yet peaceful and open and bright and still so very "us" with all the spots for things. It is my favorite room in the house right now. Thank you so much for being exactly what we needed to fix that space."

Those kind words were music to my ears! 

The total cost of the mud room (including babysitting costs and all DIY materials) was $675. I’m happy to provide source information if you have any questions!