Most people have become very adept at multi-tasking to keep up with the pace of today’s world, so it’s not surprising that the rooms in our homes are following suit. One logical place for a multi-tasking space is the laundry room. Kitchen and bath designers are noting that they are now combining the once utilitarian space with mud rooms, wrapping centers, pet care areas and craft spaces, among others. The result of that mindset is designs that feature upscale amenities such as streamlined cabinets and storage, granite countertops, deep sinks and lots of tile.
“At the end of the day, the laundry room is one of the workhorse rooms in the home, so it pairs well with other functions that can be a little messy, need a bit of countertop to spread out or just prefer a little bit of specially designed storage,” explains Theresa M. Sterbis, AKBD, of Project Partners Design, in Fremont, CA.
Often, the combination of a laundry room with another function is simply the result of not enough space in the house. This means that how the homeowners will use the room must be considered from every angle before launching into the design.
“The laundry room has definitely turned into a double-duty room in most cases, and we’re trying to make it more functional,” reports Alda
Opfer, CKD, CAPS, showroom manager, Brighton Design Center, KSI, in Brighton, MI. “And, most people want all of that stuff behind closed doors.” While she notes that sometimes the room will feature open shelving, more often than not homeowners don’t want to have to dust things or keep the space pretty and organized all of the time.
The most common secondary purpose for a laundry room is as a mud room, notes Dawn M. Whyte, kitchen and bath designer, Designs by Dawn/Lake Street Design, in Petoskey, MI. When designing a laundry room that is also a mud room, Whyte makes sure there is ample space for shoe and coat storage, children’s backpacks, sports equipment for active families and client-defined storage.
“In this day and age, lots of us have very busy lives and children. So, there is stuff being dragged into the home – sports equipment and backpacks. It all ends up somewhere, and it’s usually the mud room or the laundry room,” notes Opfer.
As a result, homeowners are looking to organize their lives, “and organize all of that stuff,” Opfer continues. “And the laundry room seems to be a good place to do that.
“We get a lot of requests regarding how to make the room the most functional space that it can be – how to maximize it and make it organized,” she adds.
To help organize the space, Opfer suggests giving the children their own designated cubby or locker – “something to put their stuff in so that everyone isn’t tripping over all of it.”
A place for the family pet is also a priority for the design of the laundry room. Storage for pet food and necessities, as well as areas to tuck away beds and crates, is a common request.
“We have even designed a dog shower in the laundry room,” offers Whyte, who notes that a dog shower usually works well there because of the tendency to install a tile or water-tolerable floor.
Gail Monica Dent, owner, Provanti Designs, in Seattle, WA has also designed a pantry/laundry room. The laundry amenities are on one side, and the pantry/storage area is along the opposite wall. “The added counter space works well not only for laundry and folding, but for entertaining and to hold food that isn’t being served yet,” she reports.
While much of the traditional discussion has been about how the home’s main laundry room can share its space, designers are focusing on an emerging trend – placing a secondary laundry area closer to the bedrooms.
“A common request that we see more often these days is adding a washer and dryer in the master suite,” confirms Whyte.
Both Whyte and Sterbis note that they have incorporated small laundry rooms into the master suite closet. “It always works well when the laundry is close to where the clothes are taken off or put away,” reports Sterbis.
“The laundry area is closer to where you actually have the laundry, so it just makes sense,” adds Opfer.
Stacking the washer and dryer is also becoming more common, especially in tight areas like the master suite closet where the designer is trying to maximize space. “Stacking gives us more room to maybe have a folding counter or some other storage there,” continues Opfer.
MUST HAVES AND WANTS
Designers agree that the must haves in a laundry room are a washer and dryer, along with a sink and storage.
“People often want a deep sink,” notes Dent, though she reports that homeowners aren’t necessarily washing their clothes in it. “They want to wash the cat or small dog, or they want to wash the grill to the barbecue. They want a sink that they can put big things in, and usually the kitchen sink isn’t it.”
When the laundry room is an offshoot of the kitchen, the overall design of the space is often kicked up a notch.
“The design of the house and the design of the kitchen often dictate the design of the laundry room,” reports Opfer. “Most of the time, especially with new construction, the laundry room is fairly close to the kitchen, and it usually follows suit in color.”
Opfer adds that, with regard to door style, she might suggest something a little less expensive in the laundry room, but in the same color family. Dent notes that she may add a glaze to the door in the kitchen to give it added sophistication, and leave the glaze off for the laundry room.
As for the cabinet interiors, “I like to make sure there is a place for everything in order to eliminate the clutter that can sometimes occur in a laundry space,” explains Sterbis. “Regardless of the level of materials used, if the room is disheveled, it won’t be pleasing.”
Sterbis adds that this may mean including hampers, storage locations for laundry baskets, special cabinetry for wrapping papers and ribbons or some other custom detail. “I have hidden many a water heater, fuse box or built-in ironing board behind coordinating cabinet doors to camouflage elements that may need to be there but don’t need to draw attention to themselves,” she reports.
Also hidden behind closed doors are things like multiple laundry hampers for lights, darks and whites, as well as pull-out trash receptacles. “There is always stuff that comes out of pockets in the wash, as well as lint from the dryer. A pull-out trash will add convenience,” stresses Opfer.
Hanging space in the laundry room is still a key request, especially as people shun the use of the dryer for delicates and items that shrink. Ironing stations are waning, however, as people get away from the drudgery of that task. When ironing areas are requested, they are tucked away behind closed doors, only making an appearance when in use.
Technology continues to invade the laundry room as well, with designers noting that it’s a great place to put in a charging station – to get it out of the kitchen and off the counters there. Undercabinet lighting is also gaining in importance, again as tasks other than laundry continue to be performed there.
“Overall, we like to create laundry rooms that are cozy and inviting,” notes Whyte. “The more pleasant the atmosphere, the more our clients can enjoy actually doing laundry.”