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Redesigning a family-friendly entrance with U.S. hardwoods

October 09, 2009

Being out and about is simply the "norm" these days. Rain or shine, practically a third of each day is spent outside of the home. What returns indoors with us can be a problem, however.

Did you know that as much as 85 percent of the contaminants in your home got there via your family and you? Healthy and green living experts suggest stopping dirt, germs and other contaminants at the door. Not exactly sure how? A re-designed family-friendly entrance - mudroom or laundry room - is the perfect solution.

The mudroom concept is as old as the horse-drawn plow. Manor houses and farms usually had a back room or porch where muddy clothes and boots were deposited and hardworking family members washed up before entering the main house - an early version of today's back door. However, with the advent of indoor plumbing and eventual other "modern conveniences," mudrooms were sacrificed and the laundry room evolved into the home's "family" entrance or transitional room between the not-so-clean garage and the main living space.

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If you are striving to create and maintain a healthier living environment for your family, and changes to your home's "transitional room" are in the works, consider including some of the following to make the space functional, healthy and as attractive as possible:

1. Hooks and hangers for coats, wraps and rainwear. A bench for boot and shoe removal. Cabinets or walk-in closets for storage. Adjustable height shelving for purses, backpacks and briefcases. A vertical locker for storing baseball bats, skis, hockey sticks or other items. An umbrella stand.Hooks and a bulletin board to post schedules and keep families on track. Trash can and recycling containers and a general "catch-all" for car keys and other commonly used items.

Longtime champions of the mudroom/laundry room re-design include Martha Stewart and architect Sarah Susanka. In her best-selling book, "The Not So Big House," Susanka suggests transforming this often used, often overlooked area into an ultra functional yet very attractive space. Adding plenty of natural light will keep it bright and inviting. And a plethora of storage and space requirements will be satisfied by incorporating built-in cabinets, countertops, even an island.

According to the American Hardwood Information Center, U.S. hardwoods are the all-natural choice for sturdy, attractive and healthy design materials. Not only nature's "greenest" building material, hardwoods are easy to maintain, don't trap dust, dirt and other allergens and are often recommended by doctors for individuals with allergies or asthma. Plus, the wide range of species provides a spectrum of colors and grain patterns to satisfy any decorating scheme. And with native growth well exceeding removal, the U.S. supply of hardwoods for cabinetry, furniture, shelving, flooring, and millwork is - by definition - sustainable now and for future generations.

Oak, maple, hickory, and cherry make wonderful and popular species choices for cabinets and shelves. They are available in hundreds of styles and finishes and will suit any decorating preference. Then complete your design with bead board paneling complimented by hardwood flooring. Low-VOC finishes keep hardwoods looking great and performing well. And today's durable new finishes make U.S. hardwoods a wonderful choice even for wet, humid environments.

Remember, according to the healthy living experts, these alternative entrances provide an important barrier between outside and in. As you plan to make the space as functional as possible, by incorporating nature's "greenest" building material into the design, you'll make it healthy and beautiful as well.

o For more information on woods, go to www.HardwoodInfo.com.

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