The 6 basics you need to create a 'mud room' before El Niño hits

Forecast to be one of the strongest on record, the effects of this winter's El Niño on Southern California has locals stocking up on umbrellas, parkas and, for the more fashion-conscious, stylish rain gear (hello, waterproof motorcycle boots).

Now the dilemma is: Where to put everything when it's dripping with precipitation? While few Angelenos are fortunate enough to have a bona fide mudroom — they're more common in the Northeast and places where the weather isn't so perfect most of the time — carving one out of a pre-existing space is pretty easy.


"The best place is by whichever entry you use the most — the front, side or back," says Melissa Michaels, the decorating blogger behind and author of "The Inspired Room: Simple Ideas to Love the Home You Have."

"I think what's needed day-to-day is what I call a 'landing zone' — you know, you come in with your hands full of mail, a wet coat, muddy shoes, the kids have backpacks and sports gear, and then everything just gets dumped. You need a place to corral the chaos."

Start by clearing a few feet of empty wall space next to the most frequently used door. Bench and storage sets are readily available at the likes of Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware.

Or you can always DIY it.

Here are the six basics you'll need:

1. A pre-made mounted coat rack or a row of inexpensive hooks, available at hardware stores and retailers such as Target. "But attach the individual hooks to a piece of wood," Michaels advises. "If you put them directly into the wall, it can crumble and the hooks will fall out. You can use a weathered plank, an old door or even wainscoting — they'll all add texture and warmth."

2. A small bench or even a shower stool can be used as a place to sit while taking off wet shoes, and a boot tray can contain the puddles.

3. Storage space. That can range from the traditional — an old dresser with labels on the drawers for either family members or items — to something decidedly more creative. "I love using big baskets because not only are they functional, but they look so pretty," Michaels says. "I also use old crates, but one of my favorite things are big, colorful totes — not the ugly, plastic ones that you buy at, like, the dollar store, but the kind you get for women at Target. You can hang them from hooks, sit them on the floor and you can even transport them if you have, say, a stack of library books, items for work or sports equipment."

4. A place for umbrellas. Michaels suggests using a tall garden planter in lieu of a traditional umbrella stand ("It should have a saucer to collect the rainwater.")

5. An indoor-outdoor rug will add color, and "finish" the room.

6. Make sure there's some added lighting. "Most entry or hallways have a center light, but that may not be enough," she says. "A table lamp, even a battery-operated one if you don't have an outlet, or a wall sconce can throw out extra light and give the space some style."

Speaking of style, colorful blinds or painted shutters are a good way to add some if you're lucky enough to have a window in your nouveau mudroom. If not, consider striping the walls with two paint colors or adding some wallpaper — the kind that's self-adhesive and easily removable.

"You definitely want to incorporate your own style and personality to the space and make it look inviting," Michaels says, "but function over design is an important factor. Knowing what your family's organization needs are is key; you want everything to have its own space."