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By Diane Toroian Keaggy, Published February 12 2012

Wrangle the winter clutter in your foyer

To determine how much havoc winter will play on your foyer, do the math. Take the number of people in your home and multiply by three. Three, of course, represents one heavy winter coat, one light winter coat and one ratty hoodie for balmy February days. Double that figure to account for scarves and hats. Then add 99 for the loose mittens that dust your entryway like a light snow. (And like snowflakes, no two gloves match.) Finally, divide your total by the hooks on your coat rack. For my family, the equation looks like this: 12:1 big mess.

From November to March, many of us are pinned underneath an avalanche of fleece and down. Fortunately, furniture and home decor stores have developed a variety of benches, lockers and coat racks to store your winter wardrobe.

“It’s amazing how all of the clutter can mount, especially in St. Louis where you can have cold and warm weather in one week,” said St. Louis interior designer Carolyn Peterson. “Take a good look at your space, take your measurements and think about what you want to make of your space. There is a lot out there that is as beautiful as it is functional.”

Still, Peterson warns against cluttering your foyer with too much furniture and accessories.

“I’m a less-is-more person,” said Peterson. “I ask, ‘What do you need every single day?’ Dwindle down what is necessary and maybe have other storage in a utility room for what you don’t use all of the time. When you have to go through five gloves to find a matching pair, you have too many.”

Which is precisely what happens in our house on a daily basis. So, Carolyn, what you’re saying is that furniture is no substitute for self-discipline.

“Exactly,” Peterson said. “I’m glad you said it and not me.”


Kristie Leritz has four active children. That’s a lot of hoodies. Leritz wanted to add a mud room to her University City, Mo., home. But when she realized how much kitchen space she would lose, she opted to build a compact wood locker system instead. Pottery Barn popularized lockers a few years back and now everyone from Restoration Hardware to Target has introduced their own version. Leritz’s contractor built her unit, which features baskets above the lockers to hold gloves and a large drawer underneath for shoes.

“I don’t know what I’d do without it,” said Leritz. “We really needed a place to put hats and shoes and book bags and all of the things that go with kids. When they come in, they go straight there. It’s habit now.”

Peterson says lockers are a great fit for families.

“They make sense because kids are used to going to school and using cubbies,” she says. “It gives the children responsibility for their own space and to use it well.”


When returning from school, our kids dump their sneakers in “the shoe bucket,” an old wood milking pail we bought at a Mexico, Mo., antiques shop for $35. Peterson recommends finding unusual pieces to serve everyday purposes.

“I ask myself more general questions – do I need a lid, do I want something open so I can throw things in and out? What is the need? For instance, depending on how a basket is finished, you might not want to put in nice open-weave scarves because it might pull the weave,” Peterson said. “But it’s fun to pick something unusual.”

Peterson likes the lidded, handwoven Senegalese storage baskets from serenaandlily.com ($69-$148). Less expensive, but also handsome, is Pier 1’s lidded Jawit floor basket ($60). Of course, traditional baskets are widely available in every size and price. Ethan Allen has two large open baskets we love – the Lancaster woven basket ($169) and the floppy seagrass basket ($139).


Any number of retailers sell beautiful benches either with built-in storage or space to put baskets. But St. Louis designer CJ Knapp encourages homeowners to mix and match materials. For instance, juxtapose a used piano bench with inexpensive storage towers from Ashley Furniture or even Home Depot. Closet companies also make durable towers.

“Or get orange crates, paint them a color and put your boots in those,” said Knapp. “You need to have place to sit down and take your boots off, but it doesn’t have to be a storage bench. There are so many antique benches out there. I’m not opposed to painting antiques. There are so many out there they don’t have a high dollar value, so you should have them the way you want them. Make it what you love.”

Other units we like include the salvaged wood bench from serenaandlily.

com ($995), the colorful quad cubby organizer from yliving.com ($69), the bench box with legs from ruksliving.com ($499), the Marin bench with cushion from Crate & Barrel ($699) and the Guidecraft easy-view storage bench from justentrywayfurniture.com ($310).


Mic Sandage of Creve Coeur, Mo., uses a simple wool rug for her front entry that she cleans with a garden hose.

Knapp says wool is not the delicate fabric many of us imagine. She recommends washing wool rag rugs in a delicate cycle. Wools that are backed with nylon or canvas should be professionally cleaned, said Knapp.

“Think about sheep in the field,” said Knapp. “Their wool naturally repels dirt and water and naturally breathes. What you don’t want to do is take a scrubber to it because that pulls all of the natural oils out of it.”

Knapp also buys indoor/outdoor rugs from Frontgate.com. We like the water and dirt shield mat with the pineapple center, which traps up to a gallon of water ($70).

“They look like a real rug, so you don’t have to lose design,” said Knapp.


Knapp also likes materials that are naturally old and distressed. For Sandage’s home, she found a coat rack converted from a French door from Sarried Ltd. of North Carolina. A metal liner has been added to the door to catch water.

“Anything that has that worn, distressed feeling, you’re not going to care as much about it if the kids put their shoes on it or someone puts a wet umbrella on it,” said Knapp. “It’s just going to make you feel more comfortable when you use it.”

We agree, but we’re also partial to many of the modern wall coat racks on the market. The Eames hang-it-all features brightly colored balls and is available at dwr.com ($199) as well as the bright green clover coat rack from cb2.com ($25).

Don’t forget Etsy.com, the online marketplace for handmade and vintage items. The maple wood slice rustic wood coat rack from maker Modern Rustic Art ($245) is more uptown chic than backwoods cabin.