As winter slips into spring, I’m itching to put away the snow boots, toboggans and heavy coats in favor of sandals, sun hats and light jackets. For a seamless transition, I rely on our versatile back entry. We don’t have a true mudroom. Instead, I carved out a corner of the dining room/laundry nook to act as a mini mudroom of sorts. A row of hooks, a saddler bench and a catchall floor basket keep in-season outerwear in check and provide a place to put on and remove shoes. (We have a similar setup near the front door.)
If you have room for one, a hardworking bench can be a great addition to an entry. I have a few stipulations when it comes to entry benches…
*Backless, armless, narrow, straight-lined. For those of us who don’t have the luxury of a separate entry, it’s essential to choose a bench that hugs the wall and doesn’t interfere with traffic flow.
*Robust. I prefer a bench that is primarily constructed of wood, metal and/or leather. It needs to hold up to kids and all four seasons.
*Leggy. A bench that sits up off the floor is easier to clean around. In small spaces, it’s lighter on the eyes, too.
*Opportunity for storage. A bench that includes hidden storage, shelving or an open design (i.e., no cross bars under the seat to allow for clearance of baskets or shoes) is ideal. For benches that don’t boast built-in storage, a woven or felt floor basket is an easy fix.
*<$200. Sure, there are a slew of pricey entry benches out there that I have all the heart eyes for, but in reality, I can’t see spending more than $200 on a piece of furniture that is going to get beat up on a daily basis – especially when I know there are affordable alternatives that can do the job just as well. It can’t be too precious. I think I would cringe every time a kid threw a muddy shoe at a more expensive bench.
*No espresso! There are plenty of benches that meet all the criteria above but many of them are only available in an espresso finish. Don’t fall for it! It will immediately cheapen the look of an entry (or any space for that matter).
For fun, here are eight entry benches under $200…
For closed storage plus a cushion top, I like the Blu Dot twilight bench and Target’s midcentury modern bench. I would consider reupholstering the cushions with indoor-outdoor fabric, mudcloth, a kilim rug remnant or another vintage textile for a bespoke look.
For solid wood construction, I like the simple lines of the IKEA SKOGSTA bench and the Andover Mills thorndike bench. Keep the look natural with a wax topcoat, or use stain or paint for a custom look.
Leather + wood is one of my favorite combinations. This saddler bench sits at our back entry. It has held up wonderfully to years of use and abuse. The Andalucia bench in white is a larger, more modern option.
For added durability, try a bench that combines metal and wood. The Mudhut asmara bench is marketed as a dining bench, but I could see it working well in an entry that opens up into a long, narrow hallway. The universal expert shoe bench from West Elm offers a compact design along with shelving. Use it where space is limited.
What are your must-haves for a practical entry? Do you have a dedicated mudroom? If so, I’m envious.
P.S. – Our front entry’s exterior.
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking, sources linked within
This post has been a long time coming. Management at the warehouse changed hands last year. For the most part, it’s been a good thing. The new managers are making improvements, enforcing regulations, bringing in new and exciting tenants and generally cleaning up the property. One change they’ve made is requiring work orders for any improvements or maintenance concerns to be submitted through the main rental office. Management then passes along the work orders to maintenance and the task is added to a long to-do list and prioritized.
The new rule affected the installation of lighting in the space I occupy. I was in need of task lighting over a worktable. Steve and I had thought we could tackle the project ourselves by borrowing scaffolding from maintenance. (The ceilings are 18′ high.) But when the rule (which I realize was made to ensure the safety of tenants and address tasks efficiently) was made, a DIY installation was off the table. Since a leaky roof, a non-functioning bathroom, a needy boiler system and all the other issues that come with an old building take precedence over pretty lights, it was months before the lighting installation climbed to the top of the list. But they’re up! And they’re amazing!
They’re the Wesco vented deep bowl pendant lights from Barn Light Electric Co. I ordered the 20″ shades in textured black. Due to the 18′ ceiling height, I needed a custom cord length. Each light is made-to-order so I was able to specify a 15′ cord versus the standard 8′. The location of pre-existing light boxes dictated the placement of the pendants but, on the work order, I instructed maintenance to hang the lights 30″-36″ above the table. They look and work great! Before, there were two lonely lightbulbs on the ceiling above the table. They were so high and didn’t really do much to light the surface of the table.
Speaking of the table, it was a $250 eBay find. The seller was local so we were able to pick it up and avoid shipping costs. It’s a vintage Drexel (the same manufacturer as the dresser in the boys’ room) banquet table. It’s HUGE. With two leaves in place, it easily seats 10. Without the leaves, it seats six. It isn’t in perfect condition but it’s solid which makes it an ideal work surface. It can take abuse and I don’t worry about inevitable scratches, dings and paint splatters. I love the brass detailing on the corners. It reminds me of campaign furniture.
The bentwood chairs are knockoffs. I scored six of them at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore last summer for $12. Total. Yes, you’re doing the math right. THAT’S $2 PER CHAIR. And, yes, that price is so ridiculous that I almost feel guilty, but I can’t because I’m too busy jumping up and down with giddiness over the score of a lifetime. Sometimes I’m in the right place at the right time.
Two of the chairs had splintered / worn places on the seats from years of use. Steve filled them with wood putty. Later, I sanded the patched spots and brushed on two coats of glossy black paint. I used Glidden’s trim & door paint in deepest black, leftover from painting the french doors at home. While it isn’t specifically meant for furniture, the trim & door paint worked amazingly well on the chairs. After everything had cured, there was a noticeable increase in the structural integrity of the painted chairs and the slick surface is super easy to wipe down. I stuck the black chairs at the heads of the table and left the other chairs in their original condition.
On one side of the table, I opted for a pair of simple wood benches. Ever since our stay in an Asheville cabin, I’ve had all the heart eyes for bench seating. It’s super kid-friendly and feels more communal than individual chairs.
Last month I hosted a co-ed wedding shower (it was more like a big party than a traditional shower) for my sister and her fiancé at the studio. I had to borrow and set up extra folding tables and chairs for 40 guests, but everyone gravitated toward the banquet table and the benches. I had “a moment” watching people eat, drink, talk and laugh around the table.
Even though this isn’t an actual living space, I hope you take away some ideas or inspiration for your own home:
*Mix-n-match seating around a dining table lends a casual vibe.
*Consider benches for kid-friendly seating options.
*When scouting furnishings, search secondhand local sources (ReStore, eBay, craigslist, etc.) first, then fill in the gaps with big box purchases.
*Think outside the paint can. Many specialty paints can be used beyond their marketed application.
*Old + new work best when sticking to a limited color palette and when pieces share similar lines.
*In an open space, punctuate zones with oversize pendant lighting.
If you’re in need of quality lighting, I can’t recommend Barn Light Electric Co. highly enough! They have a slew of residential and commercial options. In my own home, I sourced the sconces above the kitchen and bathroom sinks from the American lighting company. I’ll never forget when the electrician (our cousin-in-law) installed the kitchen sconce. He was so impressed with the quality and construction of the light that he asked for the source so he could recommend it to future clients.
Barn Light Electric Co. is kindly offering up a store credit to one lucky reader! See entry details for the giveaway below. I rounded up a few of my current favorites if you’re interested in checking them out. I prefer neutrals but many of the lights are offered in different finishes and colors to suit any style.
Steve has been traveling quite a bit for work lately, but we were able to sneak in a quick family trip to the Cincinnati Museum Center to check out The Art of the Brick exhibit by Nathan Sawaya. It’s incredible! The creativity, time, patience and attention to detail that went into each piece are mind-blowing. Just when I thought I had seen the best piece, I was even more amazed by the next. In the end, all of it was too good for me to choose a favorite. The flying pig is a tribute to Cincinnati’s Porkopolis days. If you’re local or headed this way soon, the exhibit is open until May 1st. The kids loved it – especially the interactive LEGO playground.
Mabrey is really into
cuddling tormenting Cheetah these days. Every time I turn around she’s carrying her “like a baby” which is ridiculously funny because Cheetah is HUGE. I can’t believe she hasn’t scratched Mabrey yet. She’s such a roll-with-the-punches pet.
*Speaking of family pets…ADORABLE.
*The point is…she can choose.
*A scratch-off world map to document your travels. Such a cool idea!
*84 Lumber introduced a new line of tiny houses.
*How am I just now discovering this cool lil’ blog?!
*I’ve always thought IKEA shoe cabinets would look less generic with a DIY wood top. They do!
*Giddy about Paula’s new midcentury home. Phase 1 is coming along!
*I love this white + walnut kitchen.
Happy springing forward!
images: 1-3) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 4-7) Caitlin at The Shingled House