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Four ways to make your entryway more functional

by Annie Midori Atherton, The Washington Post | September 16, 2023 at 10:00 p.m. | Updated September 18, 2023 at 3:01 p.m.
Shira Gill advises limiting the shoes that stay in your entryway. In her home, shown here, she keeps pairs that make the cut inside a rolling basket. (Vivian Johnson)

The confluence of back-to-school season and rainy weather makes fall a particularly messy time for entryways. Wet coats, sloppy shoes, umbrellas and backpacks pile up faster than the pumpkin-spice-flavored products at Trader Joe's.

Most of us aren't lucky enough to have gargantuan foyers or designated mudrooms, but organization experts say anyone - in any size space - can wrangle the chaos with a bit of creativity. Starting from the lowest-lift solutions, to more involved projects, here's what they suggest.


One of the easiest and most impactful things you can do to keep things running smoothly in entryways is to remove any items that aren't currently being used.

"I tell my clients to only put everyday items in the entryway space," says Shantae Duckworth, a personal organizer in Seattle. "It really sets the mood for the rest of the home, especially since this is going to be the first place that you see when you open the door."

Seasonal switch-outs are a good way to cut down on excess. Every few months, relocate jackets, shoes and other items that are no longer appropriate for the weather to a different part of the house.

Shira Gill, author of "Organized Living: Solutions and Inspiration for Your Home" (available Oct. 3), agrees editing is critical. "A big thing I've seen is having an insane amount of shoes by the front door," she says. "So my tip would be really limiting that volume to a couple of pairs that you need to run or walk the dog, but having a separate place in your home, like your bedroom closet, for the majority of your shoes."


An ideal entryway has three basic components, though achieving even one or two of these could be sufficient: a designated place to store necessary items; a way to hide unsightly items; and a place to sit while removing shoes.

If you only have room for one small storage piece, Duckworth recommends a simple three-tier shoe rack (the top rack can hold things other than shoes, such as bags). If you'd rather not see your shoes at all, Ann Lightfoot, author of "Love Your Home Again" and co-founder of Done & Done Home in Montclair, N.J., suggests a cabinet that's made specifically for storing them.

That said, you don't need special furniture to get organized. In Gill's entryway, a small stool serves as seating, and shoes either go inside a rolling basket on the floor or get concealed behind the closed doors of a credenza. "The dirty hiking shoes and the flip-flops are inside there," says Gill. She also keeps baskets on top of the credenza for mail, and accessorizes it with a lamp, flowers and a candle, "so it looks like a nice part of the living room."

For a mobile, multitasking storage solution, Lightfoot says she loves a three-tiered cart. "In the entryway it can be used for umbrellas, dog leashes and supplies and even weather appropriate items like sunscreen in the summer or hats and gloves in the winter." If you have a coat closet, she recommends investing in an over-the-door Elfa organizer. "It lasts forever, and its sturdy design allows for storing basically anything that would be needed in an entryway."


Regardless of your layout, "The best way to create a functional system is to take advantage of empty wall space," says Lightfoot.

This strategy works even if your home opens straight into your common space, as was the case for Gill. When she and her husband bought their Craftsman bungalow in the San Francisco area, she thought, "How do I create a system that still can blend in with our living room decor, so it doesn't feel like you're just staring at a heap of shoes and backpacks when you walk into our house? And how can that system also grow with our kids as they get older?"

At the time, Gill's children were 2 and 4 years old, so she wanted to make sure they could reach their own stuff. She hired a handyman to install two rows of hooks - one high, one lower to the ground - using 2-by-4-inch strips of wood and sturdy cast iron hardware from Schoolhouse. A large basket hanging on one of the hooks holds the dog's accessories.

If you'd rather not drill holes in your wall, one easy, renter-friendly solution is to buy a multipurpose storage unit that combines hooks, a bench and a place for shoes. Duckworth recommends the HOOBRO Hall Tree, available for about $100.


If your home has a front coat closet, you might even transform it into a mini mudroom. Jessica Bui, a content creator in Scottsdale, Ariz., made the closet near her entry into an attractive nook by removing the doors and redesigning the inside. With help from her handy father, the project took only a couple hours.

Bui and her dad wrapped the interior with vertical panels made of medium-density fiberboard. They sourced the material from Lowe's, where an employee cut it to size. Back at home, they secured the panels using a nail gun and finishing nails, then painted them black.

An Ikea Kallax shelf unit, laid on its side, happened to fit perfectly in the space. They turned it into a bench by covering it with a piece of wood; its cubbies store shoes. An upper shelf, plus a row of hooks found on Etsy, were the final touches. Several years later, Bui still loves the space. "My style has already changed quite a few times, but it's stayed timeless. It's very neutral."

  photo  Ann Lightfoot, co-founder of Done & Done Home, loves a three-tiered cart in an entryway, because you can seasonally rotate out the items it holds. She put this one together with summer necessities. (Kate Pawlowski)
  photo  Bui's father helped her transform her entryway closet into a nook with seating. (Jessica Bui)

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