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Architect Design Tip: The Laundry / Utility Suite

Organised Laundry Room

Combining the best of US and European ideas

It’s not a room that you show off to guests, it doesn’t feature in photo shoots in glossy magazines and it’s not a room that you hear anyone bragging about; an afterthought at best, the utility or laundry room is probably the most overlooked room in every home and yet, when you think about it, getting this most practical of rooms right is sure to make everyone’s life easier. Elevating the humble utility or laundry room to suite status with space for a permanent ironing station, a steam closet and perhaps even a shower, is worth considering.

We’ve come a long way on the laundry front. Back in the 50’s, housewives had a laundry day – one day every week set aside to ‘do the laundry’ with family members having to wait for favourite items of clothing to be returned after being washed, dried and ironed.  Can you imagine?! In Europe, many families have a tumble dryer as a ‘backup’ for those days when it is simply too wet or too humid to hang the clothes outside to dry. In the US, most families never hang clothes outside to dry with everything moved directly from the washing machine into the dryer. Whatever your preference or local custom, having a well-designed and thought-out laundry or utility suite is worth considering, especially when you are taking the time to design your own home.

If your family likes outdoor pursuits, hobbies or sports where coming home covered in mud or grease or oil is part of your lifestyle, having a shower unit in your utility room, or close to your back door, probably makes a lot of sense. Having this shower unit as part of your utility/laundry suite means that muddy or greasy clothes, and damp towels, can be put straight into the wash.

Collecting laundry is a chore in itself. Having a laundry chute built into your home that takes all of the dirty laundry from bedrooms and bathrooms to the laundry or utility room is well worth planning. Hiding the laundry room away in a basement is a favourite US and mainland European trick but if you also plan to do your ironing in that space, being locked away in the basement can be unpleasant. If you prefer to iron your clothes as you choose to wear them, putting out the ironing board and iron on a daily basis is too time consuming, and many of us are forced to store our ironing paraphernalia in a cupboard or closet, taking it out only when we need it. In all honesty, how many of us actually keep the ironing board in a guest bedroom.

Modern laundry closets that steam and sanitize your clothes, reducing reliance on dry cleaners, are the latest addition to many laundry suites while space for a trouser press means less time spent lining up creases in trousers and pants. Having a permanent rail to hang clothes that are freshly ironed is another feature worth including in your laundry suite and it’s also a great place to store empty clothes hangers so they are always to hand when you need them. A well-lit room, preferably with a window, maybe even with a TV or stereo, will make the time spent ironing a little less monotonous and maybe even, dare I say it, enjoyable.

Obviously, every laundry/utility suite will have a sink, a washing machine and a dryer. Some may include an airing cupboard, most common in Ireland and the UK, where damp clothes can be hung to dry. In some laundry suites a heated closet is used to store bedding and towels avoiding mould and mildew.

Laundry Room with Hanging Rail
Laundry Room with hanging rail

Above the sink shelving, or a secure cupboard or closet, for detergents and other laundry products keeps these products out of reach of younger kids and out of harms way. Shelving with space for a basket for each family member, means that ironed clothing can be left neatly folded and ready for collection from the laundry or utility suite, so Mom doesn’t have to put everything away.

Planning your laundry or utility suite, as you design your new home or refurb project, can mean the difference between laundry being a well organised part of daily life instead of a chore than causes endless rows.

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