Everything you ever needed to know about boot rooms
- Credit: Archant
The Americans would call them mud rooms. The French would say vestibules and a submarine commander would probably prefer the term, airlock.
But here in the shires, we know them as boot rooms, a link – some would say valve, if we’re still doing wordplay – between outside and in.
Somewhere to shake off the parkas, remove the wellies and ready ourselves for stepping inside and not bringing the outside with us.
They may be halfway houses in one respect but more and more we’re seeing them as very much part of the modern home.
Increasingly, they tend to feature in property ads, particularly on those in the £1 million plus bracket but, interestingly, are rarely pictured. That’s probably because many are by their nature small and cluttered.
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There are many in the interiors world who are doing their best to change that, designing them from scratch and creating bespoke areas suited to a family’s lifestyle; whether it involves football boots, fishing tackle, wellies or loads of dogs.
The first thing to bear in mind, I’m told, is that it may well be the first and last room you enter, so it needs to be styled accordingly to make an impression.
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But be practical. It is, ideally, a small area with a floor where the mud won’t stick, a sink where you can clean the boots you’ve just taken off while perched on some solid seating and plenty of storage and hanging space to keep everything ordered and tidy.
I say floors, but Tim Moock, director of Felt, a company best known for importing rugs from Kyrgyzstan, says that, if you do cover them, choose “strong earthy colours” – which, of course, won’t show the dirt.
Andrew Petherick, director of west country boot room specialists Artichoke, warns against letting it become a “dumping ground” for anything you don’t have room for, while Notting Hill’s Charlotte Crosland suggests the devil is in the detail and recommends adding interesting fittings such as industrial-style wall lights, that make the space look purposeful and “not than just a place to hang coats”.
Mowlem & Co’s design director Jane Stewart recommends built-in bench seating, with space beneath that can be utilised for additional storage.
Country house expert Emma Sims Hilditch suggests maximising storage space even further by adding top cupboards above, especially in rooms with high ceilings, and combining open shelves for easy accessibility with smart wicker baskets for natural texture and interest.
But someone more locally who knows all about this is interior designer Sarah Maidment (https://sminteriors.co.uk/), who has seen a growing trend for boot rooms to be included in new builds and extensions or incorporated, if space is at a premium, from “a humble walk-in cupboard”.
The key, she tells me, is good planning, so she suggests before you do anything, you need to think about what you want from this room.
“Somewhere to put your boots doesn’t tell the whole story,” she says. “Wellies, riding waders, as well as trainers and other sporting footwear, can all be housed in this multi-purpose area. Coats and jackets can also be stored here, very handy after you’ve been caught in a downpour. Clothing for outdoor pursuits such as fishing, hiking, backpacks, is easily stowed away. Oh, and last but not least, it can also provide somewhere for your dog to sleep.”
Great storage design is “paramount to house all the clobber, be easily retrievable and to keep in order,” Sarah adds. Simple wall hooks at varying heights “allow for long raincoats and waterproof hats to hang and dry”, while lower hooks are for shorter jackets and for younger members of the family to reach.
Sarah also recommends the use of boot and shoe rack cubby holes with varying heights to allow for long boots, while other outdoor footwear can be placed below the wall hooks near the floor.
If space allows, a bench to sit on fitted over these racks to aid boot pulling is a great feature.
Sarah says: “To avoid a ‘bun fight’ for hooks and cubby holes, which ultimately results in a jumbly mix up of all the family’s belongings and wasted time searching for ‘lost’ items,
“I would allocate an area for each child, perhaps with their name on personalised hooks with their shoe rack directly below.
“A shelf running along the wall above the coat hooks where baskets storing woolly hats, gloves, and scarves utilises all available space.
“Collapsed buggies and backpacks can be hung from wall hooks, freeing up floor space to avoid any nasty accidents. If you prefer everything tucked tidily away out of sight then cupboards are an option, with their interiors designed to suit your storage needs.”
Sarah, who has built a sizeable portfolio throughout the St Albans area in recent years, also suggests going as far as installing an indoor dog shower, which can also be used for “sluicing off muddy boots” and, ideally, underfloor heating. But either way flooring – and walls – should be durable and easy to clean.
As she says, they’re becoming more notable on estate agent particulars these days. I’ve seen all sorts of late, from one comprising basic painted MDF cabinets over an aluminium dustbin and a free-standing wooden chair on a vinyl floor of a former utility room to a bespoke one with stunning floor-to-ceiling oak cabinets, a reclaimed Belfast sink and dark stone floor tiles worth thousands.
And while standing in a space like that makes you realise just what an asset it can be, you don’t have to spend a fortune if you’re fitting out a small space on a budget. Robert Dyas, for example, has a decent ready-assembled hall bench called Madera in grey for £159.99 and a matching wooden console table for a bit more at £199.99, both made to carry seagrass wicker baskets. And Habitat has a tarmac grey lacquered bench with shoe storage rails underneath for £80.
If you’re looking for a home with one ready to move into, there are plenty of examples locally: on the market at the moment are a Queen-Anne style Grade II listed country house on sale for £2.95m near Hitchin, a £1.65m six-bed house near Brookman’s Park and a £1.4 million new build in Wood End, Harpenden.
Sarah says: “However modest your boot room, it’s such a useful place to store and hide your plethora of ‘clobber’. It’s somewhere for muddy paws and boots to enter your home and keep it contained. They free up your entrance hall, so you have space to hang visitors’ coats, instead of slung over the banister or newel post.
“Plus, it keeps your entrance tidy and welcoming. A separate boot room keeps your utility room for its intended use - laundry.”