Functioning without (much of a) front entranceway

karinlFebruary 28, 2011

Hello all,

I live in the strangest house. OK, it's not the strangest, as I know since I've been going to open houses in case we decide to move rather than continue to try to function here. But strange. An old Victorian that looks cute, but is hard to live in.

You come into the front door to a narrow hallway - I mean narrow, 3.5 feet - and 11 feet long. Right inside the front door, doors go off the hallway to either side, these being two bedrooms. Those doorways prevent it from feeling like a tunnel, but yup, we sleep right at the front door!

My problem is this: what to do with front hall detritus? The hallway is simply too narrow to put much furniture along it. We do hang coats there - we built cubbies in between the studs so they wouldn't stick out as far. But there is a lot, what with everything from gloves and umbrellas to winter boots to sun hats to consider. And where do the briefcase and kids' backpacks live? Plus, since I like to spend the odd half hour here or there in the front garden, I keep some garden tools handy to the front door.

For several years I've used part of our bedroom for much of it, but this reduces the space I've got in the bedroom for, say, clothes. So I've now moved my shoes, for instance, which unfortunately is a sizable collection, into the room where the hallway ends. So that room, a dining/family space, is becoming our entranceway.

I realize no one can probably help me organize this odd space and my stuff, but I'm curious how other people handle the stuff that is used only occasionally but then needed quickly (first warm day and first cold day always catch me by surprise), seasonal stuff, special occasion stuff, shoe collection, etc. It can't just be me - I've seen many homes where the front door even opens directly into the living room, and that's got to be even harder to organize!


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Our current front door opens to a foyer than opens to the living room. It isn't a problem in that is the guest entrance. The mainly comes and goes through the garage into a mudroom. I'm not 100% happy with how I set up the mudroom, but it is better than what I've had at any other house.

Some houses are just easier for families than others. I would suggest trying to make a mud area at another room or entrance to the house and try to route the family through that door. That may not work for your house setup. Another solution might just be to keep the backpacks and coats in a single spot in the individual bedrooms so that they are handy for departing the house. Or you could make individual piles in front of the doors right before bedtime so it's ready to go in the morning.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 2:30PM
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Two ideas to consider: Move your entrance way OR change your habits.

If you have any kind of a back door, can you start to use that instead of the front door? My parents had a large Victorian with a large foyer with two coat closets. But all us kids had to walk down the side of the house to the kitchen door, and hang our school/everyday coats on hooks in the small mudroom there. Backpacks were kept on shelves in the mudroom, if they weren't in our rooms while we were doing homework.

Or you can try to change everyone's habit of dropping stuff right as they come in the front door. If you have space in the dining/family room for coats and shoes and bags, and if you can train the family to walk down the hall--11 feet isn't *that* far--before shedding everything, that might be a workable solution.

For the seasonal stuff, can you keep one jacket/coat for each person readily available, say in their bedroom closet, all year long? The rest can be packed away if you don't have room. I do this with regular clothes--I pack away the winter sweaters and stuff, but keep one turtleneck in my dresser for unexpected cold days, and in the winter, I keep a t-shirt or two available for those weird days in February when it gets almost warm.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 9:04AM
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and remember that not everything needs to be stored in the same place. They all get used for different things, actually, so they don't need to go in the same place.

For garden tools, can you create something outside to hold them? Even just a small wooden bench on the front porch, or beside it. It could even lock, if you needed it to.

Or you could put a photo on a frame over a medicine-cabinet-like storage, and hang the tools inside that.

I feel your pain. I want a mudroom so badly!

I created a shelving unit, w/ mudroom-like cubbies, and shoe shelves, to go beside the front door in the dining room. It worked pretty well, actually--I took it out bcs we were trying to sell our home and I felt it make the area look messy. It's coming back pretty soon, actually!

Backpacks can go by the homework area, instead of just inside the door. Or the "mail-handling, homework-signing, lunch-unpacking" area that you create elsewhere.

Shoes can go in bedrooms. Boots can go around the corner in the dining room.

You *could* build a cabinet or recessed shelving into the hallway wall (that juts into the room on the other side) for stashing some of those things. You'd want to figure out how to deal w/ it on the other side, etc., but you could conceivably make it a focal point on the other side, if you approached it with that in mind.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 11:11AM
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We have a similar space issue in our house... however, we keep only the essentials, like (1) jacket and (1) pair of shoes for each person. Seasonal items stay in the closet in bedrooms. Bookbags, purses, briefcases go with the person to their rooms. Isn't that what bedrooms are for? But those rules also extend to the rest of the house as well - kids keep their toys in their rooms. If they play with something in the family room - then they put it away back in their rooms when they are done. Trust me... change the habits and you will have a lot less to worry about - plus a clean entrance.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 6:28AM
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Thank you all for your thoughts. Sadly, we don't have an alternate entry way that would work! It's a narrow house on a narrow city lot, and all arrivals and departures are done through the front - going to the back door is not an option even if the back had more room for a mudroom, which it doesn't :-)

The bedrooms are so small that we don't even have room in them for all our clothes, so it's always a fight to push more stuff in there, but also, does anyone else have my "thing" about bringing dirty stuff from outside, especially shoes, into the bedrooms? Even the backpacks sit on school floors and what have you. Talk about sabotaging yourself, eh?

The one of each approach is definitely workable for us, and is something I just need to organize. "Just," she said confidently...!

I hadn't thought of locking up the garden tools outside. But I may be able to rethink the amount of garden stuff I have there altogether. The garden stuff issue, now that I think about it, is one of responding as your life changes. We live across the street from an elementary school, and during the years the kids went there, I would often garden while waiting for them to come home when they were small, or while they were playing in the schoolyard as we've always treated that like an extension of our yard. Thus I couldn't go into the bowels of the house to get something I'd forgotten, so I kept a lot of garden stuff at the front door. Once the kids went to high school, and even got old enough to play unsupervised, that could have changed. Now that they are, um, both old enough to drive, that can be altered to just a trowel and some clippers.

Thanks for all this!


    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 11:56AM
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Agree with reviewing all habits and "stuff" currently in play so you can prioritize--what stuff, where, will add the most quality to your daily patterns vs. what patterns have realistic potential to change because that would add more quality, etc.

I think there are storage cubby/hook/shelf options for even a narrow hallway ( custom, of course, but even am seeing things in catalogs intended to be just slivers of storage), but only you would know whether encroaching on that space further would reduce quality, e.g. would having to roll sideways as you walk through the hall reduce your QOL, or add satisfaction as you picked things off the hooks/cubbies as you leave and place them back when you get home and recovered space in the bedroom.

Outside entry storage or arrangements are definitely something to think about, but depend on your architecture and topography at the entry way and tolerance for entropy at your public, street-side entry.

Still not clear on whether one of the front bedrooms is fair game for minimalist re-model as an expanded entry-- some way to steal a foot or 2??

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 10:30AM
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Or, are your walls deep enough that a medicine-cabinet-style solution would help with anything? Capitalize on the space between the studs?

Even if you recess an area only the 3" of the wall thickness, and hang hooks there, you might find it easier to store coats. They wouldn't stick out as far.

Not everyone's home has that sort of construction (mine doesn't!), but if it does, that's an idea.

Here is a link that might be useful: Like these shelves, but without shelves, and w/ hooks on the back wall instead

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 12:53PM
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It sounds like you have taken advantage of the space you have but could you add a shelf with a basket for small items up high? Or perhaps hooks with a bag on the back of the door? We've had to take use of the back of the door concept quite a bit. It's not the neatest, but items hanging hidden in a nice basket or magazine rack is nicer than laying on the floor or just seeing a dirty gardening tool.

Also, I have found that some stores, like Ballard Designs, sells pieces that are very shallow.. like 10 inches. We have one in our front hall.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 7:31PM
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Thank you for the continued input!

I have been using the bedrooms as entry-way extensions for many years, but they are small, 8 and a half by 11, and this question is prompted by me trying now to find an alternative, as I want to keep more clothes in the bedroom (instead of in the living or laundry rooms!!). I'm getting old and conventional...

We did put in recesses for the coats when we renovated before moving in, thank heavens. Going up is something we have done as well, and can, since we have 10-foot ceilings. Right now I have a high hatrack - but it's a point that that space might be used for something better. DS is wearing hats though, so it's needed for more than just my sun hats - which should also be thinned out sometime soon.

Which gets back to the question of having to keep paring down what we have, and moving some of what we keep to an alternate area.

Oh, and whether the hallway can be congested... I don't mind having to "roll sideways" :-), but the problem really arises when more than one person wants to be there at once - the whole family coming or going, seeing guests out, etc. It's like a traffic jam at times.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 12:27PM
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Can you add more recessed storage? I think it's a fantastic idea! Is the recessed storage you have covered in any way (hidden)? Can you do that? use sliding panneling or something to help it be integrated with the house? Add more, and perhaps up high, have a small step stool tucked in one of the cubbies to access the top part?).
We have a tiny house, and we enter right into the tiny front living room. When we moved in, there was a closet, however because our house has no central hall, it meant there was no access to the other side of the house (unless you walked all the way around the house). We needed a bigger living space, so we knocked out the closet. Guess what? That was the ONLY closet in the entire house! It was directly beside the fireplace (which currently does not work) and there was cubby space. It's a tall place, so inside the cubby I placed hanging shelves from the ceiling (because the walls are real plaster and unstable). I was able to put in a bottom shelf with legs to the floor to stableize it. I have a flat coat rack in there. I also store the vacuum.
We keep only one seasonal coat in there and at most one pair of shoes each, and our dry umbrellas. The computer bag can fit on the shelf. It's tiny (we are just two) but it does fit. The garden tools all must stay outside, we have no room inside for them. However you might be able to with that long, long hallway! Make use of it all you can with recessed storage! Get a bit done at a time if you have to, and it will look fantastic when you are done, especially if at least some of it can be hidden.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 11:58AM
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I think I have maxed out the recessed storage capacity of the hallway. Mind you, a sliding panel to hide it is not a bad idea - or maybe making it like a medicine cabinet behind the wall mirror... but really, as ours is barely 3" deep, it is less useful than the ideal for a front hallway.

One that has occurred to me this week is that the space is also somewhat dark due to a dark carpet on the floor, a dark door, and dark (stained) door mouldings - one of the places we have the mouldings up (Yay!) but it makes the space seem more claustrophobic and I think stuff is more likely to just get left/lost on the floor because it isn't so evident.

Also visually, the space is fragmented by having two short carpets rather than one long one. A bad case of using what you have instead of saying hmm, what do I need here?.

GGG, it sounds as if you are making the best of what you have - amazing how tricky that can be. We don't have any closets in the house either - that's obviously part of this problem!


    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 1:45PM
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I recently read and drooled over "Apartment Therapy's Big Book of Small, Cool Spaces" which had an entire section with lovely pictures of solutions for situations such as yours. You might see if it inspires any remedies for your entry.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 3:40PM
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