Creating Accessible Entryways

I’m not sure if this is true of your house, too, but the entryways in my home always seem to be in chaos. They are the first spaces we enter and the last areas we see before leaving the house, and yet they so quickly become a dumping ground!

If you live with mobility issues, chronic illness, or pain, this can be especially problematic. It’s challenging to navigate your way through a cluttered space without stumbling over shoes and coats. Putting on shoes can be difficult without a dedicated space. And let’s not even begin to talk about storage for coats and bags, let alone canes or mobility devices!

As always, no one living with a medical condition wants a constant reminder of its presence (not that we need the design of a space to help us remember, anyway). We all want beautiful spaces; we just want spaces that work for our needs.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas for taming the entryway and designing a space that makes your life easier!

Seating

Image of entryway with built-in bench, drawers, hooks, and shelving for storage.
A wide entryway is shown with map patterned wallpaper in beige, navy, and olive. A long low wooden bench with built-in drawers and black metal cup drawer pulls runs along the right side. A blue wainscotting wall is fitted with black metal hooks and assorted jackets and bags. Straw hats and wooden duck decorations sit atop the blue shelving.

Seating may seem like an odd place to start when discussing entryways, but if you’ve lived long with mobility issues or the fatigue of chronic illness, you probably know that making it over the threshold of the doorway after being away can feel like tumbling, exhausted, across a finish line. When I’m having a bad day and have been out and about, often my first desire when I get home is to collapse and catch my breath. Conversely, having a safe, sturdy place to sit and put on shoes is not only a matter of comfort, but a safety issue. So with those things in view, here is a beautiful solution for both seating and storage. A built-in is, of course, the dream. Even if you don’t have space for a built-in this large, adding one or two small drawers that are constructed, and not simply furniture, has a few advantages. For one, permanent pieces like this are stable and secure. This means that there is no risk of the bench shifting or sliding when you sit. This is very important if you struggle with balance or limited mobility! The drawers in this example are easy to access even from a seated position, so there is no need to bend or crouch. I also love the specific drawer pulls in this piece. They are easy to operate without a need to grip anything, which is a plus if you have pain, weakness, or difficulty with coordination. The coat hooks are also easy to access, so no need to mess with doorknobs and hangers if you have difficulty with using your hands. Plus, let’s agree, this built-in is just beautiful!

Image of two folding wooden wall mounted seats; one folded and one opened.
Hallway with beige walls, white baseboards, and wooden laminate flooring. A Two wooden seats are mounted to the wall. The right side seat is collapsed, with a square of wooden slots visible and flush against wall. Left side seat is open, with wooden slats visible against wall, and small seat of interwoven slats extending out perpendicular from the wall.

Perhaps your entryway footprint is more limited and can’t accommodate an area for seating all the time. Our front entry is extremely narrow, and there is absolutely no space for a chair. I’ve been eyeing this folding chair for some time, because it seems like a perfect solution for seating without obstructing the path. The wood on this little bench is beautiful, and I love the simplicity of the slats. When it isn’t in use, the seat folds up flat against the wall and has an almost decorative look. It actually reminds me of a miniature radiator. If your space is as minimal as mine, consider an option like this to make it easier to tie your shoes on the way out the door.

Image of long wooden padded bench with back and arm rests.
A front entry is seen with beige walls, baseboard, and area rug, and dark wood flooring. A tall plant in grey pot sits in the right corner. A round wooden end table with various accessories is seen on the left. There is a large circular mirror with beige metal frame on the wall. A long, low wooden bench with short arm rests, straight back, and padded olive cushion sits beneath the mirror.

Another obvious solution that’s both decorative and functional is a simple bench or chair. Something like this would serve well. The solid wood construction makes it sturdy, and careful placement against a wall or with a rug to help anchor can prevent it from sliding or slipping. The back on this bench provides a little support, as do the arm rests. This bench is wide enough that you don’t have to hit a small target if you struggle with balance or mobility. And the padded seat would be comfortable to rest on.

Shoe Storage

Image of front entryway with tall narrow cabinet with four cubbies.
A narrow white cabinet is seen in a front entryway with white walls and gray tile floor, with woven black and white rug visible in corner. Four square cubbies appear to open with leather loops to serve as pulls. There is a wooden top with an assortment of baskets, plants, and frames. A round wooden mirror hangs on the wall, with beige felt fedora hanging beside. A low wooden stool with colorful blue and green seat sits on right side.

Oh, the clutter! Is there anything worse? Our shoes seem to multiply by the front door… If your space is limited, like mine, then a narrow storage unit like this may be just the trick. The drawers pull out and allow you to slide several pairs of shoes into each section. The ledge along the top provides a place for keys or other little things at a height that’s easy to reach on your way out the door. The pulls on this particular piece may be problematic if you have joint pain or difficulty grasping. I would consider adding pulls that are a little more robust (but still beautiful!) so that it’s easy to pull the cubbies open.

Image of built-in cabinetry with pull out shelves for shoes.
A front entryway with built-in wooden cabinetry amid white walls and brown laminate wood flooring. At center, we see a gray countertop with drawers beneath. Drawers have thin wooden edge with wide narrow cutouts for pulls. We see the backs of shoes on each drawer. One drawer in front right side is pulled out and we see soccer cleats and several pairs of athletic shoes.

If you have the room to create a built-in storage unit–or even a closet with space to spare, or an under-stair area–a set-up like this might be perfect for you. These drawers have plenty of room for multiple pairs of shoes, all tucked away neatly. The pull-out drawers make it very easy to access the shoes without much need for bending or reaching. If the narrow slots would make it hard to pull these drawers, you could easily add larger drawer pulls. And if you prefer your shoes to be out of sight, these drawers could be hidden by cupboard doors or a pretty curtain. The counter-height top in this particular piece also gives a convenient place to stash keys, bags, or other things you need to grab easily on your way out the door.

Image shows a metal shelf with bar holding three pairs of shoes.
A white wall holds a black metal shelf with metal bar across length of shelf a few inches above shelf. We see three pairs of shoes tucked behind the bar: beige and white athletic shoes, camel colored laced ankle boots, and black leather ankle boots.

A little unconventional, perhaps, but a storage system like this could be very helpful. In addition to displaying your shoes so that you can enjoy them, this shelf has some very practical benefits. For one, it can be mounted at any height. If you struggle with balance or pain, it can be difficult to bend to pick up shoes off the floor. With this option, the shoes can be lifted out of the shelf at any height and carried to your seat to be put on. This option is also easier than systems that require you to fit shoes into cubbies or hang them on hooks, as it requires very little dexterity and coordination to slide them behind the bar (and if you have more than a few pairs of shoes, you could add a series of these shelves–I think it would be a great feature wall!). Plus, the industrial chic look is just lovely.

Coat and Bag Storage

Image shows entryway with wooden coat hook, padded bench with shoe storage, and umbrella stand.
An black door with six panes of glass, a black metal umbrella stand with two umbrellas, and a dark brown wooden seat with shelving for shoes and black padded seat are seen in an entryway. A black metal circular mirror hangs on the wall overhead. A wooden coat hook with square base and straight pegs sits against the wall, with white leather purse, straw hat with black ribbon, and beige jacket hanging from the hooks.

Coat trees have somewhat fallen out of favor, but for space-saving and ease of use, it doesn’t get much better! A coat tree takes up an incredibly small footprint, leaving plenty of space to navigate the entryway without tripping over clutter. It can also hold several jackets, bags, or accessories. In terms of pain, mobility, or other physical challenges, it takes almost no effort to remove or replace a coat on the simple branches of the coat tree. And the varying heights mean that coats can be hung at any level, making them accessible from a standing position or from a wheelchair.

Image shows four wooden coat hooks hung on a wall.
Image shows a white wall with four wooden coat hooks secured with two brass screws each. The fourth left hook holds a knitted gray scarf and we see the top of a brown leather backpack hanging from the second hook.

Nothing really beats a coat hook for all-around simplicity and versatility. They can be hung in any space, at any height. They come in every color, shape, and size under the sun. They’re easy to use without requiring much dexterity, and larger designs such as this can hold coats, bags, backpacks, or just about anything you need to have handy on your way out of the house. For easy access from a wheelchair or for younger children, they can even be hung at a lower height (just be mindful that this can be a safety issue if children can get caught up in them, and there can be a potential for injury if they’re hung in a place where people might bump into them).

Image of wooden cabinet system with four cubbies and cupboard doors.
Image shows a light blonde wood cabinet system with four cubbies. The doors are flat with cutout on vertical aspect of door as handles. The far left cubby is open slightly to reveal a blue, yellow, and red child’s backpack.

For the endless collection of purses, work bags, backpacks, and other things, a locker system is a workable solution. Each person could have their own cubby. Handles like this would be easy to operate without the need to grip, and the unit could be mounted at any height from floor height to above the head. Locker systems come in a variety of colors, materials, shapes, and sizes, so it’s possible to find one that fits your decor perfectly! Look for solid, sturdy construction that can hold up to frequent use, easy-to-grip handles, and enough space to store the items that clutter up your entryway.

Cane and Mobility Device Storage

Image of woven wooden umbrella stand.
Image shows a tall, narrow woven medium brown wood umbrella stand against a white background.

Canes and crutches aren’t just an essential mobility aid, they can be a fashion statement! It can be a challenge to find creative ways to store them, though. Most days, I can get by without my cane as I navigate the small spaces in our home. But I often need it when I leave the house, so I like to keep it by the front door. A simple umbrella stand is a great option for storing canes in an accessible place. It’s incredibly easy to use and displays all your beautiful canes or crutches in an organized way. Umbrella stands come in all shapes and colors and sizes to fit your décor, and they’re extremely affordable. They can double as umbrella stands, too, to corral some of that entryway clutter.

Image shows handmade wooden cane stand with holes drilled for walking canes.
There is a handmade wooden umbrella stand with circle base with a series of round cutouts to fit the bases of a canes. Three straight upright pieces of darker wood connect the base to a top , which is a slightly larger circle of light wood like the base with holes drilled for canes.

A dedicated cane stand is another great option. There are a variety of options on the market, and many of them are beautifully handcrafted like this one. These stands allow you to display multiple canes without having them fall over. The small footprint means it can be kept right by the door so you can easily grab a cane on your way out. They do require some coordination to line the canes up with the holes, but as long as this isn’t an issue for you, a cane stand is a wonderful solution.

Image shows a wall with three chair-shaped wall hooks holding canes and walking sticks.
The corner of a light gray bedroom is pictured with striped beige and navy bedspread. There are three hooks on the wall, black and shaped like a variety of three chairs. A red and blue floral cane hangs from the seat of the far left chair hook. A black cane hangs from the middle hook. A pair of red walking sticks with cork handles hangs from the far right hook.

Sometimes the most functional and fun solution is the one that’s a little outside the box. This is my bedroom, where I use IKEA Fjantig hooks to hang my canes. I loved the idea of the canes, which give me support during the day, resting on miniature chairs (as chairs also provide me support all day long). While these hang in my bedroom, this solution would also be great for entryways. These hooks are not only fun, they’re incredibly affordable. And they make me smile every time I see them!

Image shows wood and metal handmade mop holder for cane storage.
A dark wooden mop holder with black metal clamps for mops hangs on a white wall. We see a wood and metal gray brush and a silver metal mop handle hanging from the holder.

Stay with me for a moment: do you know what’s roughly the same diameter as a mop handle? A cane! Do you know what’s easy to mount on the wall, easy to attach things to, and easy to release? A mop holder! In all seriousness, this is a fantastic option for storing your canes. Mop holders come in all shapes and sizes under the sun, from individual clamps, to pieces with multiple clamps. They can be mounted with screws for long-term use, or mounted with temporary adhesives if you will only be using a cane in the short-term. They can be hung at any height on any surface. And they’re incredibly easy to use. There are even some fun mop holders out there, with different colors or quirky shapes that reflect your personality.

One response to “Creating Accessible Entryways”

  1. […] I’m always on the lookout for regular items that come in handy for those of us in the chronic illness community. For the past few years, my main walking cane has had a flip-up handle that allows it to balance on the edge of tables and desks. I recently bought a new cane, though: a beautifully hand-carved wooden one. I can’t bring myself to clip a plastic handle to it, so I’ve been on the lookout for ways to safely hold my cane when I’m not using it. […]

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