Lately I’ve become a connoisseur of mudrooms. I’ve been scanning the countryside for specimens of mudroom design, taking shots, and bringing them home to add to my mudroom bestiary, a collection of photographs I plan to consult as soon as I build a mudroom of my own. I say bestiary because the mudroom embodies a unique architectural species. Rarely will you find two alike. Some are plain homemade, some ornamental. Often they say something about the people behind the door.
At its simplest, the mudroom is an enclosed entry way, usually annexed, where you can stomp the dirt or snow off your boots, or remove them, and hang up a coat and hat, before entering.
More sophisticated mudrooms combine the advantages of the shakedown entry way with an airlock for conserving heat. Other facets of mudroom design can produce payoffs in refrigeration, storage space, shelter for critters, solar power, and so forth.
The mudroom appears to have humble farmhouse origins, coinciding with the elimination of earthen floors. In Japan, where it is customary to slip off your shoes before entering a dwelling, the mudroom is known as the genken; it’s been a cornerstone of Japanese architecture since the twelfth century. In Vermont, the mudroom has been a popular architectural tradition since the first settlers kicked off their boots. It has sheltered the thresholds of taverns, inns, schoolhouses, stores, farmhouses, and homes. The newest mudroom in my neighborhood is a portable entry to the general store. It’s a three-piece modular unit–roof, walls, door–that is assembled in November and taken away in May.
“It’s great,” the storekeeper told me. “Keeps out the snow and keeps in the heat. The girls at the cash register were freezing. They love it.”’
A Country Planet: Smart Ways to Rural Success and Survival by Tim Matson.
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