Common Utility Room Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Follow this expert advice for a laundry area that works hard and looks great, too
Professional advice from: Cat Hoad of Absolute Project Management; Claudia Dorsch of Claudia Dorsch Interior Design; Eva Byrne of Houseology
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your utility room has to be on the ground floor or next to the kitchen, say the professionals. “It may need to move up or down in the house, depending on other needs and use of spaces,” Claudia Dorsch says.
Be clear about how you want to use the space when it comes to deciding on its position. “For example, don’t put a utility on the lower ground floor if you plan to dry and iron everything on the top floor,” Cat Hoad says. “Perhaps a cupboard on the same floor with the washing machine and dryer in it would be better, if plumbing and drainage can be arranged. This is usually straightforward if there’s a bathroom nearby.”
Eva Byrne advises against using up valuable space – and light – next to the garden for a utility room. “My rule of thumb in a modest house is to locate the utility room towards the middle of the home where it’s darkest and it won’t impede the relationship between the living spaces and the garden,” she says.
Don’t presume that a dedicated utility room is the only way to go. “In a small house, a room devoted to utility functions can occupy precious space,” Eva says.
Work out if existing rooms could be redesigned to multi-task. “We’ve often combined a laundry with a guest cloakroom,” Claudia says. “Using clever joinery and interesting materials, finishes and colours, lighting and even art, we’ve created beautiful little spaces with dual functions.”
In this cloakroom, the washing machine and dryer are fitted along one wall, with open shelves, a hanging rail and a worktop, just seen reflected in the mirror.
For example, Eva hid a washer and dryer within the storage area in this office/exercise space.
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It can be easy to miss opportunities to incorporate helpful storage of all kinds. “Add as much storage as you can and ensure that corner units are used fully,” Claudia says. “We’ve seen many places where corners weren’t utilised.”
Building bespoke cupboards up to the ceiling makes the most of vertical space, although remember that the storage right at the top is only really practical for items you use infrequently.
Claudia also cautions against overcrowding the room with storage, as this can make it feel oppressive. “Include an open shelf and, where possible, add in space for two to three baskets for sorting laundry by colour,” she says. “Include this in any bespoke joinery you have made.”
Cat recommends fitting open cupboards. “They’re great for accommodating laundry baskets and recycling boxes,” she says. “Ensure there’s room to store bulky, movable items such as the ironing board and vacuum cleaner, too. It can be useful to mount these sorts of fittings on the wall to maximise floor space.”
And what about that ugly boiler, so often a feature of utility rooms? “Get some simple shelving built around the boiler and pipework,” Cat says. “You can add lots of useful, if not beautiful, storage in that way.”
Illumination is key in a utility room, particularly if it’s located in a space without windows. No one wants to be trying to pair a pile of black socks in poor light.
“Fit good lighting and consider LED strips in cupboards and alcoves as well as overhead lighting,” Cat says. “This will make using the utility much easier and more pleasant.” Mirrors will also help to boost the light and can make a compact room feel slightly bigger.
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Overlooking how easy, comfortable and convenient your utility room will be to use is an error.
“It’s a functional space that you, or someone else in your family, will probably use most days,” Cat says. “So it’s really important the ergonomics work, especially because lots of utility rooms are small and squeezed to maximise space elsewhere in the home.
“It will be incredibly annoying to use frequently if you have to stretch and crouch to reach everyday appliances,” she says.
Position the most used appliances with care, first, then build storage around them. Consider locating the washing machine higher up, as the designers have done here, so you don’t have to bend down to access it. An even more useful solution is to ask a joiner to build a pull-out surface beneath the appliance on which to rest items while loading and unloading.
Some utility rooms, like this one, are blessed with windows. Often, though, this functional room is squeezed into a pocket of space with no connection to the outside, in which case, you’ll need to think about ventilation.
“Fit an extractor fan that ducts to the exterior,” Cat advises. “The appliances in the utility room will probably produce heat and moisture, so it’s really important to ventilate it to avoid problems with condensation.”
In a small space, it can be tempting to limit how many things you include, but that could make the utility room less functional.
You might think you don’t need one or can’t fit it in, but you’ll never regret installing a sink. “An additional sink is almost always really useful, even if there’s only room for a small one,” Cat says.
Building in somewhere to hang and dry clothes will mean you can say goodbye to that space-hungry airer that sits on your floor. “Always try to allocate a space for air drying,” Claudia says. “Use a flip-down wall rack, an under-mounted hanging rail or hooks on the wall.”
“A heated towel rail is a great choice here,” Eva adds, “allowing socks and other small items to be aired easily. A pulley rail works well, too, or even a fixed clothes rail, which will allow you to air clothes on hangers.”
When designing your utility space, don’t fall into the trap of forgetting to have fun. Often, colour, pattern and texture are overlooked in the drive to make the space functional, but they can make a huge difference to how you feel about using it.
“Laundry is a chore, but make it the best-looking chore it can be by using colours, nice materials and good lighting and adding a bit of fun,” Claudia says. “If you have any spare wall space, hang a picture, too. In this laundry, we wallpapered the ceiling to liven up the space.”
Are you designing a utility space? Did you find this expert advice useful? Let us know in the Comments.