Best idea ever: creating a “mud hall”
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There was once a hall leading to the laundry room & garage in our house, as you can see in this photo from before the previous owner moved out…
Most probably would have left it that way, but we really missed our magnetic chalkboard wall & Instagram photo gallery. I’ve also always wanted a mudroom, and it was on the list for our home search. Mudrooms haven’t been popular until recently, so our 90’s house doesn’t have one. With 2 busy kids, a place to keep all of the items we need when we’re trying to get the whole pack out the door. We also needed a shared space to put the girl’s growth chart since they are no longer sharing a room. Why not use this otherwise under-utalized space conveniently located off the family room in view of the kitchen that also happens to be on the way out to the car?
Solution? A mud hall. With a magnetic chalkboard wall. And our Instagram photo gallery. Locker cubbies. And our growth chart. Can it be done? You betcha!
Before I dive into all of our ideas and projects, here’s a quick list of sources:
Wall paint: Benjamin Moore OC-31, “Fog Mist”
Trim & Cabinet Paint: Benjamin Moore OC-118, “Snowfall White”
Chalkboard Paint: Rust-Oleum Magnetic Primer & Chalkboard Paint
Instagram Frames: Michael’s 5″ Square Gallery Frames
Instagram Photos: Our own, printed by PostalPix
Magnets: Melissa & Doug Matching ABC (highly recommended) & Dinosaur Magnets
Hooks: Home Depot
Baskets: Michael’s / Baby, Inc.
Growth Chart: DIY
Poppy Art: DIY in painted Hobby Lobby frame
Lunchboxes: PB Kids & One Step Ahead
Backpacks: Gifts by DwellStudio & SkipHop
Keep scrolling for more photos & info on how we pulled all of these projects together…
I covered in detail how I created the magnetic chalkboard wall here if you need ideas specific to the chalkboard wall paint project. I also posted here about our Instagram photo gallery wall. Here are the basics…
We put up a chair rail to divide the chalkboard wall from the rest of the wall, then “floated” the wall to cover up the heavy texture. If you don’t smooth out heavy texture, you won’t get great results. You can buy joint compound (a.k.a. “mud”) premixed or in a powder you mix with water yourself in a mud pan. I use the powder. Smooth it on with a drywall knife & sand once dry. Then, paint on the magnetic primer. I use a trim roller. Do as many coats as you can stand and be sure to stir the heavy bits up out of the bottom of the can – that’s the magnetic part. Then paint on a couple coats of chalkboard paint.
For the Instagram Gallery, we hung 12 ~$5ea Michael’s frames in a grid. I have Instagram set to save a copy in my iPhone photos and add them to an Album called “Instagram” where I can quickly find them later. From time to time, I use the PostalPix app to print my favorites as 5″x5″ photos. When they arrive, we rotate a few older photos out for the new ones. It’s a great way to keep up-to-date photos displayed in a fun way at home and right above our chalkboard wall, where the kids spend a lot of time anyway, it’s a great place to display them.
The growth chart was an old DIY project. With a simple 1×6 trim board from Home Depot, I used a Wood Burner craft tool from the hobby store to burn in a design. Starting at 1 ft (so it doesn’t hit the baseboard), I created a ruler with inch and half-inch marks and numbered labels every foot. Chloe’s measurements are on one side and Cora’s are on the other. I spray painted the entire board white, then hand-painted the colored parts in. The pink/green/brown matched their room at the old house and I plan to repaint this later.
The really exciting part is our new “mud cabinet” locker/cubby system. We had the perfect place for this since part of this hall was under the stairs which was just an open, unused space in the back of Chloe’s closet.
We designed it to have a place for each child to have a space for their own bags & coats to be hung. Our household operates on a system of bags, one for each activity. That way I’m not unpacking and repacking bags constantly. There’s a bag for school, a bag for dance, and a bag for anything else we have going on. I usually keep an “eating out” bag stocked with coloring-type activities & wipes handy as well.
Above, there’s a place for smaller items that we are using for lunch boxes. Since their lunch boxes are personalized, it’s a great way to label the cubbies and it keeps them out of the kitchen (which can be the ultimate land of chaos in our home).
There is also a bench with bins for storing shoes below. Each kid gets a bin and we keep our go-to shoes here. You know, the ones that are labeled for pre-school/Mother’s Day Out, crocs to throw on in a dash, playground shoes…
It all flows together for the perfect out the door station. Everything we need is on the way out the door and the girls can be responsible for managing their own locker. They hang up their bags & put their shoes away themselves. Gone are the days of me hunting for assorted items while I trip over toddlers undressing themselves in the clothes we just put on them. AND, they can keep themselves busy at the chalkboard wall while I’m putting the finishing touches into my own out-the-door bag. It’s a system that’s really working great for us.
First, we had to cut the sheetrock to find the studs, then determine what we needed to do to make sure that there would still be enough support with studs removed. Then we reframed and created a “sheetrock return” (where the sheetrock goes around the corner) to allow for the bench effect. If the walls look yellow here, you’re right! It’s because we did this part before the painters arrived.
For the cabinet, I had to call in some help. It was a complicated carpentry job with all of the angles and crooked walls. I would have spent more on the tools needed to do this than I did on hiring someone to do it for me, which also saves me time and space to store the tools later. Since this project involved taking down the wall into Chloe’s closet, I also wanted reinforcements so there wouldn’t be a crazy, dangerous backdoor to her room overnight. ☛
I designed the cabinet and had a trim carpenter build it. He brought it in section by section, then added trim around each piece for a finished look.
We did have to add some new framing behind the cabinet to add new sheetrock onto. Here’s a view of the cabinet coming into the dead space in the back of Chloe’s Closet.
When he finished, the girls immediately claimed their cubbies. I hung the hardware right away so that they could enjoy them while I was getting ready for the next steps and to make sure that the hooks were where we needed them before I painted incase I decided to move one.
Unfortunately, the trim carpenter overshot my “before the painters get here” deadline by, oh– 6 WEEKS (no bitterness here). That meant that I’d have to either hire them to come back (and pay them more) or suck it up and do it myself. I say suck it up because they used oil-based enamel on our trim & cabinets and I find painting with enamel very intimidating.
To get ready for paint, the first step in prepping new cabinets & trim is caulking. At this point in my life, I’m pretty sure that I’ve laid miles of the stuff. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Like most materials, a little goes a long way and most novices use too much. It just takes a small bead of paintable caulking (different stuff that you use to seal windows). Keep plenty of paper towels ready including a dampened one. Remeber to release the pressure in your caulking gun before you set it down (if you’re using one). After you lay a thin bead, dampen your finger on the wet paper towel and run it over your bead line gently.
After it dries, it’s time for lots and lots of primer. For this job, I used
millions 8 cans of Kilz low-odor aresol spray. After consulting my father, the former painter and all-around genius, he told me to get a great coat of thick primer (Kilz), spray until super smooth, then brush on the enamel. Making a smooth primer base would get the smoothest finish with a brush.
I did consider buying a low-cost paint sprayer, but after reading poor reviews and that they don’t work with oil-based paint, I decided to do it the old fashioned way with a brush.
So, I set up a totally non-creepy looking paint booth to keep the mess somewhat contained.
And blasted all 8
million cans of Kilz as smoothly as possible. There were some bumpy bits from the spray cans and a drip or two, but it was on thick and smooth-ish. Emptying 8 cans of spray paint isn’t easy on the hands. After it was good and dry, I sanded every surface smooth. It didn’t take heavy sanding, the Kilz paint sands very easily and quickly. I didn’t use a sanding block so that I could get a feel for what I was doing. Sanding too hard would have taken the primer right back off. Folding a piece of sandpaper into thirds gives plenty of grip so you really don’t need a sanding block anyway.
Then, after cleaning up, time for scary oil-based enamel. Per my father’s directions, I stirred the enamel well, poured a bit into a smaller bucket, and thinned it a bit with Mineral Spirits. Then, I brushed it on with an angled China bristle brush. The China bristles are super thin and help prevent brush marks. I applied the paint as thick as I could without it dripping. That meant much thicker paint on the horizontal surfaces like the shelf and the bench – places that quite frankly need thicker paint. After a bit more drying time, I reinstalled the hooks and bags…
…and that’s the story of how I made a simple hall into a magnetic chalkboard wall -slash- instagram photo gallery -slash- mudroom with cubbies. Our perfect entertainment/memory/organization station. I absolutely love the space and we are getting a ton of use out of an otherwise under-utilized area of our home. This is what you get from someone who just moved from a cramped mid-century modern home who loves to organized and create a space that is highly functional for the entire family (yet still has plenty of style). All in, it took a few months, but was well worth it.