Every home has an organizing system and flow. Some are more successful than others. Now that kids are back in school, its a great time to think about re-organizing your space to maximize the look and function of a “Command Center”. There are many names for this space in a home. Just search “Drop Zone” or “Mudroom” and you will find images inspired by Martha Stewart and Pottery Barn. No matter what you call it, or what “system” you buy, many of these spaces turn into a  cluttered, disorganized mess and don’t function as originally intended. Here is a perfect example of a space intended to function as a desk and closet Command Center that doesn’t work well:


For my clients with school aged children, this seems to be a top priority when renovating their home. Every project I have been hired for involving young families in the last 2 years has included this space as part of the program. The AIA also reported an increase in requests for “Mudrooms” up from 37% to 45% in 2015 as seen here. The homes originally built in 1970s and 1980s did not accommodate modern lifestyles and the sheer amount of STUFF that kids now use and take to school, sports, and other activities.  Often garages open directly into kitchens with no transition and parents are left adapting a small corner of the kitchen to accommodate the clutter.

The good news is that your kitchen doesn’t necessarily need to grow in size to become more functional or look tidy.  Small changes can make a huge impact. Lets face it, we all enjoy a well designed space that looks pretty. The best selling success of Marie Kondos book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” proves that. Organizing kids backpacks, school papers, shoes, coats, lunchboxes, schedules can be overwhelming and Pinterest is full of beautifully staged photographs that look nice, but last only for about 2 hours until the kids get home! No number of chalkboards, pin boards, cute framed quotes or hooks can change that!


This kind of idyllic image is all over Pinterest,  and while it might make a pretty photo, it doesn’t work long term. These exposed wall systems will not solve the problem, or grow with your kids.

Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can help in figuring out new ways to use a space you haven’t considered. Architects are trained problem solvers who can offer creative suggestions and ideas for transforming a kitchen. Personally, I’m ready to make-over my own Drop Zone in my house and have been considering some ideas. I need my Command Center to be functional AND beautiful and it needs to be easy to keep it that way.

Small changes to consider:

1.Take out Closets, Pantries, and built-in desks –  by removing stud walls and doors, valuable space is gained by using cabinets instead. Desks in a kitchen only create a magnet for clutter.

2. Conceal Paperwork – no one really wants to look at all those school papers on display all the time. Hide school schedules on insides of cabinet doors. Install charging stations in drawers for devices. Build small cubbies to store small items. This image by Starline Cabinets is hugely popular in houzz.com and demonstrates the success of concealing the Command Center.


docking drawer


3. Ditch those whiteboards – use  electronic calendars, chore charts and organizers whenever possible. Seriously, we live in 2016 so why should anyone erase and remake a whiteboard calendar each month? Get current and go digital. Sync your Google Calendar with your spouse and teen. Even your  childcare provider can share a digital calendar. Use Evernote  or Cozi for To Do Lists and Grocery Lists. Look into apps to track kids chores, like famzoo.com. You’ll love that all that clutter disappears once you make the switch to digital!

4. Move crafts (and chalkboard dust) out of the Kitchen –  yes little Sophie might want to sit at the table all day and make art, but keep it out of the Kitchen. A small homework caddy for essential tools can be stored out of sight in cabinets or drawers.


5. Make the drop zone by your door pretty – Find some grown-up art and objects that make you smile. You’ll feel good every time you come home.


Big changes to consider:

  1. Relocate your laundry-  if your washer and dryer are on the main level in the Kitchen, consider moving it upstairs and reconfigure that space as a Mudroom/ Drop Zone with new cabinetry.
  2. Renovate the Kitchen to provide a more functional layout for your family.
  3. Add an addition to include a Mudroom (or expand the kitchen to allow for one)

Here is a Mudroom addition I designed that had access directly to the Garage, the kitchen, and the backyard.IStwco25j8us9n0000000000

Here is a before and after of a compact “Drop Zone” in a local Oakton project:





Here is a full Mudroom I’m currently designing for a client with two small children and a dog:



If you want some more ideas on how to make some small changes to your Command Center, check out this book “Design Mom- How to Live with Kids a Room by Room Guide”. If you’re interested in exploring some larger changes to make your space function better, consider hiring an architect to suggest some things you may have never considered!

Happy Back to School Renovating!