Lynda Hal­li­nan’s project: a tidy en­trance way


Lynda Hal­li­nan en­deav­ours to make a bet­ter first im­pres­sion by de­clut­ter­ing her farm­house foyer and get­ting her boots in or­der.

AFIRM HANDSHAKE. A witty one-liner. The sort of win­ning smile en­hanced by ex­pen­sive ve­neers.

First im­pres­sions, aka ‘thin-slic­ing’ as de­scribed by Mal­colm Glad­well, best­selling au­thor of The Tipping Point and Blink, re­ally do count.

Some peo­ple find fame at first sight. Think Liz Hur­ley at the height of her pa­parazzi pop­u­lar­ity, when noth­ing but gold Ver­sace safety pins – and a fop­pish Hugh Grant – sep­a­rated her from her mod­esty. Or Su­san Boyle, bum­bling onto the Bri­tain’s Got

Tal­ent stage like a school­marmish spin­ster, her ill-fit­ted frock and ner­vous gig­gles of­fer­ing no clue to her ce­les­tial vo­cal chords.

Not all first im­pres­sions are favourable. When Os­car-win­ning cos­tume de­signer Jenny Bea­van col­lected a Bafta for her work on Mad Max: Fury Road, host Stephen Fry com­pared her red-car­pet en­sem­ble – un­tamed hair, leather biker jacket, black slacks, ca­sual scarf and flats – to that of a bag lady.

I, too, have re­cently been ac­cused of be­ing a bag lady – by my hus­band no less. Though the planet may thank me for shun­ning plas­tic su­per­mar­ket bags, my family is less for­giv­ing when they can’t get through our front door for all the eco-friendly hes­sian shop­ping sacks hang­ing from coat hooks be­hind it.

On any given day, our farm­house foyer is lit­tered with all the kit and ca­boo­dle as­so­ci­ated with two adults, two kids, four cats and a dog. A snap stock­take re­veals a dozen re­us­able tote bags, four pairs of gum­boots, my hus­band’s size-14 heavy work boots, three um­brel­las, a rub­bish bin, two hand tow­els, five rain­coats, three pairs of wa­ter­proof waders, three pairs of sneak­ers (all mine), half a dozen mis­matched gar­den­ing gloves, two plas­tic pon­chos, a brush and shovel, a long-han­dled mop, two dog leads, 6kg of cat bis­cuits (I buy in bulk) and a cat bowl in­vari­ably licked clean by the dog.

When vis­i­tors come knock­ing, what thin-sliced judge­ments must they make of my char­ac­ter? Herein lives a hoarder, they prob­a­bly think, al­beit one with an en­vi­ron­men­tal con­science, un­di­ag­nosed om­bro­pho­bia and far too many cats.

If only we had a mud­room in which to de­posit all our in­com­ing clut­ter. Re­ally, what could be more ver­sa­tile than a tran­si­tional vestibule sep­a­rat­ing in­doors and out, a place to ditch dirty boots and drip­ping rain­coats, wash your hands (and rinse freshly dug pro­duce), and let sod­den

dogs shake them­selves off be­fore set­ting paw on the shag pile?

In English coun­try houses, mud­rooms were tra­di­tion­ally lined with wood pan­elling (much eas­ier to wipe down than wall­pa­per) and laid with tiles or util­i­tar­ian con­crete floors for con­ve­nient hos­ing. A square but­ler’s sink was a mud­room musthave – mind you, so were but­lers

– as was a gumboot rack and jack, um­brella stand, low bench, laun­dry bas­ket, coat hooks and stor­age shelves.

In the 1980s, Martha Ste­wart helped make mud­rooms fash­ion­able again – in Amer­i­can farm­houses at least. At Turkey Hill, the dec­o­rat­ing doyenne’s for­mer Con­necti­cut man­sion, the mud­room was big enough to dou­ble as a din­ing room; it was also where she wrote all her home­mak­ing books.

My 70sq m house isn’t big enough for even a mi­nus­cule mud­room – our foyer al­ready dou­bles as our pantry, and I cer­tainly couldn’t write a book in there! – but the shel­tered en­trance to the spare room in the shed of­fered plenty of po­ten­tial for a makeover.

First, I bought a new door.

(Ac­tu­ally, an old one from the lo­cal de­mo­li­tion yard, com­plete with an or­nate knob.) The door was cerulean blue, be­fit­ting a Greek tav­erna, but after sand­ing it back I re­painted it like a wo­man possessed (co­in­ci­den­tally, ‘Possessed’ is the name of this shade of char­coal by Re­sene).

I built a gumboot rack, stacked my fire­wood neatly, and bought not one but two new door­mats. They’re cheap as chips, and fun to swap around. Then I or­dered my hus­band to don his chainsaw chaps to create some crazy paving from the branches of a stormfelled pine. These tim­ber rounds make funky mud scrap­ers, leaf col­lec­tors and fe­line claw scratch­ers.

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil: I don’t ex­pect the trio of pot­tery dragons at my door to turn a blind eye to the ill winds blow­ing fallen liq­uidambar leaves ev­ery­where, but I do ex­pect to win Lotto some­time soon. Dragons – even kitsch ones from a Ka­iaua Coast pot­tery – are sym­bols of pros­per­ity.

A tidy thresh­old doesn’t just create a pos­i­tive first im­pres­sion, it’s also jolly good feng shui.


Left: Tim­ber ‘paving’ frames Lynda’s door­mat. Above: A su­per-skinny hall ta­ble lim­its the op­por­tu­nity for ditch­ing, dump­ing and drop­ping. Vin­tage scales make a tidy re­cep­ta­cle for loose change and keys, while pot­tery dragons (top) add pos­i­tive feng shui.

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