Keep kids' sports gear in place without sacrificing style

It starts with a lacrosse stick and cleats by the front door. Then comes the batting helmet and glove on the bedroom floor and the baseball cap on the kitchen table. Karate uniforms pile up in the laundry room next to soccer jerseys, and errant tennis balls roll down the hall.

Can we get through the spring and summer sports seasons without our homes ending up in total disarray?

Interior designer Betsy Burnham, founder of Burnham Design in Los Angeles, says nearly every home remodeling project she works on these days includes a mudroom with one priority: storing and organizing sports equipment.

Here, she and interior design experts Brian Patrick Flynn of and Kyle Schuneman of Live Well Designs offer tips on handling all this gear without sacrificing style, even when you don't have a mudroom.

Begin with work flow

Your system for handling sports clothing, Schuneman said, can be as simple as "two color-coded baskets by the back door or the laundry room: one for dirty, one for clean. Make it a habit to immediately put your uniforms in the dirty basket after the game," he said. "Once it's out of the wash, you fold it and put it in the clean basket," rather than putting it away with other clothing in a bedroom.

For a dose of style, use colorful woven baskets rather than typical plastic bins. Just make sure the youngest kids can easily reach their items.

The key is sticking to the system and putting things in their place.

Choose one spot for gear

You don't need a huge space for sports gear, and it doesn't have to be in or near a child's bedroom. "Often people are challenged for space," Burnham said. Any spot works: "It can be a little area under the stairs or one area of your entryway," as long as it's dedicated to sports stuff.

One option is revamping part of your garage, she said. Rather than using plastic storage bins and old boxes, outfit this space with vintage metal containers refurbished with fresh paint, or large baskets with lids.

Or spend a Saturday cleaning out an entryway closet, then add hooks and baskets for sports items. You may have more space than you think.

Get creative with cabinets

Many storage options are designed specifically for sporting goods and kids' items. But Flynn suggests thinking more broadly. His favorite creative solution, he said, "always solicits an 'Are you kidding?' response."

"I usually pick up prefab kitchen cabinets from big-box retailers, then install them as storage solutions for kids' rooms," Flynn said. "They come in all different sizes, many the ideal depth for basketballs or soccer balls, and many in excellent heights, tall enough for baseball bats or hockey sticks.

"My favorite is Ikea's Abstrakt in high-gloss red. I usually adorn the cabinet door fronts with large towel rings instead of drawer pulls. This way they add that playful, unexpected, kid's room touch, and kids can actually lay their soccer socks out on them, or their freshly washed hand towels."

Combine seating, storage

All three designers suggest seating with built-in storage.

"In a bedroom redesign I did for two young sisters, I had a window seat outfitted with deep drawers, which can hold everything the girls need," including tennis gear, Flynn said.

Schuneman hunts for vintage trunks to use this way.

"A trunk in a mudroom or entryway can double as a chic bench to be able to take on and off those cleats," he said. "If you have multiple items or sports, and want them separate, try getting smaller square trunks in varying shades and place them next to each other. It's a great way to have an easy color-coded system without it feeling like a kids' playroom.

"A vintage barrel or ceramic pot," he said, can "house your tall items, like baseball bats, tennis racquets and lacrosse sticks, next to the bench."

Put sports in the spotlight

Sometimes, celebrating the presence of all this gear is better than hiding it. Flynn is a fan of "open solutions, whether with hooks, shadow boxes or shelves."

Schuneman agreed: "Hooks are essential. No one wants to hang up their coats, but hooks on the wall are an easy way to throw your uniforms, hoodies and track jackets up. Give everyone their own hook with their initial on them."

All three designers suggest seeking out vintage school lockers or gym lockers, which can be found on eBay and elsewhere. Real lockers bring "a retro schoolhouse feel," Schuneman says, and are "incredibly useful. Each kid can have a locker and even the parents, too!"

If a room is "going to be full of uniforms, cleats and gear," Flynn said, "I run with the preppy theme by bringing in vintage wire baskets, plaid bowling bags, school banners and vintage schoolhouse pieces to play it up. This way, it becomes an obvious part of the design but in a playful, designer-caliber manner."

If "being a sports parent is who you are right now," Burnham said, "there's no reason to apologize for it."

"It's who you are. And everybody gets it."