After a few years of this, it occurred to me (duh) that it would make a lot more sense just to hang a simple, wall-mounted coat rack in the kitchen. Then we would have a logical place to store coats and hats right near the door, where they'd still be easy to drop off and pick up on entering and exiting, yet they wouldn't get in our way. On a recent trip to Home Depot, we found some ready-made ones for about $25—but we also found individual hooks in a variety of styles for $5 apiece, and we figured we could buy some of these and make our own custom-designed rack using something out of our overflowing scrap wood bin. I was a bit hesitant at first, because I'd seen a reasonably nice-looking coat rack in the IKEA catalogue for only $10, and I thought it was silly to spend $20 on supplies to build something we could buy for $10—but since we'd already made two trips to IKEA recently and weren't likely to be making another one any time soon, we'd have to make a special trip just for the coat rack and spend close to $10 on gas and tolls to get there. So under the circumstances, it made more sense to pick out some hooks and build our own. (And as it turns out, that was a smart choice, since I just checked the webpage for our local IKEA store and it appears they no longer have the rack in question.)
So we rummaged through the scrap bin and eventually fished out an old board that seemed to fit the bill pretty well. It was painted on one side, but we could just put that side against the wall and save the trouble of stripping it—and the other side had a nice weathered look that you'd pay big bucks for if you bought it out of a catalogue. Over the next few days, Brian routed the edges, filled up a largish chink in the board with wood filler, sanded the wood, and applied a coat of stain (its original color looked rather nice, but the filled-in spot stood out too much). Then we gave it a couple of coats of finish, lightly sanding it after each one, and last night we got down to the business of placing the hooks. This was the trickiest part of the process, as we had to make sure not only that the hooks themselves were evenly spaced, but that the rack itself was positioned where it could screw into the studs—so the hooks had to avoid blocking the places where the screws needed to go. Brian took careful measurements, both horizontal and vertical, and marked the location of each hook before screwing it in place. Then we took it upstairs, positioned it on the wall, and leveled it—and once we were sure we had it where we wanted it, I held it in place while Brian secured it to the wall. Here are two pictures of the finished piece: first by itself...
...and now in use, holding my hat and lightweight summer jacket.
It's surprising how satisfying a little project like this can be. We only spent $20 and maybe an hour or two of work on this (spread over the course of a few days), and the finished result is, technically, just a small item—but it's a small item that will solve a fairly big problem in our house, and in a cost-efficient and space-efficient way. Makes me feel a bit like I did after completing the much bigger (but still not overwhelming) pantry project two years back: boy, that was easy! Why on earth didn't we do it years ago?