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An earnest young couple with a mind-blowing budget is searching for a house in an unnamed North American suburb.Their must-haves: open-concept living (does anyone enjoy living in rooms anymore?
), a three-car garage, and above all a , because their three sons play hockey and have the heroic amounts of gear that kids lug around with them from dawn-streaked rink to rink.
The couple’s ultimate choice features a mudroom I wouldn’t mind actually living in: a gleaming white space featuring a built-in hall tree with four bays for storage, state-of-the-art front-loading laundry equipment, and a slate-tiled floor with subsurface heating. They’re literally liminal spaces, areas not meant for actually living, but rather to shed the accouterments of snow, rain, and mud.
It’s the only place in the house I can put the broadfork, the seed potatoes, and the gleaming Ball jars of pickled peppers I put up last September.
It’s a filter that snares the debris of the farm before it can migrate into the public areas of the house.
Now all of the household items that weren’t worthy of deep storage in a barn or shed could be piled up, in a manner that was accessible, yet out of the public view.
Although this arrangement continued for centuries, the term “mudroom” is a late entry into architecture-speak.The second, larger Puritan colony of Massachusetts Bay was conceived as a "city upon a hill." But it also struggled with internal turmoil—like the Salem Witch Trials—and external conflict, like King Philip's (Metacom's) War.It’s late at night, and I’m staring at seed catalogues while the scripted tones of a reality real estate show—my favorite soporific—drone on in the background.This evolved into a mudroom, targeted mainly at kids in raincoats and muddy boots who could leave the unpleasant trappings of the exterior world behind before entering the ambience of suburban hearth and home.The mudroom evolved with 1950s house forms that heralded a revival of colonial architecture—“Cape Cod” houses, gambrel-roofed Dutch colonials, and blocky shapes evoking garrisons on the western Massachusetts frontier.These forms, developed at the height of the Cold War, felt patriotic at an anxious time when those values were perceived to be under siege.It shouldn’t surprise us that home builders incorporated comforting features like mudrooms to connect us to our Revolutionary past, even as Sputnik soared into the atmosphere and Rosa Parks declined to give up her seat on the bus.That’s mud time, our fifth season, which is just coming to its end.The lingering odor of poisoned rodents decaying under the mudroom, their open-air graves marked by middens of broken medicine bottles, pottery shards, and withered corncobs accumulated over the last century.Deeply pragmatic, they began to reuse their original houses as “the Little Houses,” where they could store their junk.(These practices are immortalized in , Thomas Hubka’s classic study of northern New England farms.) Woodpiles, stacks of Long Pie pumpkins, and tools lined the floors and walls of the Little House, which you would pass on the way to the back house, or privy.