Utility rooms have to do many different things — they may be a laundry, plant room and boot space in one. Natasha Brinsmead explains the design essentials

Location

Utility rooms are noisy places when in full swing — being home to tumble dryers, washing machines and the like. For this reason, locating them away from your relaxation and dining spaces, and not directly beneath nurseries or children’s bedrooms, makes sense.

If you can’t avoid placing the utility room near bedrooms and living spaces, opt for noise-reducing appliances. If you have a cellar or basement, these make ideal spots for locating utility rooms, although near a back door, off the hallway or next to a kitchen all make sense too.

Layout and Services

Plan the space out properly. You will need to make sure you have a hot and cold water supply and waste for the sink and washing machine.

You also need to bear in mind that if you have a vented tumble dryer you will need somewhere for it to vent to. If you do not have windows to the exterior, plan in an extractor to reduce moisture when air-drying clothes too.

Appliances

Work out how much space you’ll need for the room to function well. In general, washing machines need around 920mm of space in front for loading and unloading.

Most washing machines measure 600x540mm deep and tend to be around 850mm high — give or take a few metres here and there. If you are short on floor space, stacking a washing machine and dryer is a good idea.

Practicality

Choose a deep, sturdy sink capable of washing off muddy boots and pet bowls, opt for tiled floors that are easy to mop, and low-maintenance worksurfaces that will withstand spills. If you have children, also make sure you include a lockable cupboard for chemical-based cleaners.

Give thought to shelving and units and try to squeeze in some space for drying clothes — a pulley-style dryer that can be hoisted to the ceiling is a good option for those limited on floor space.

IKEA Utility Room

Utility room by Ikea

Designers on Utility Rooms

We asked two house designers to give their advice on planning a utility room

Darren Bray: “They’re becoming mini kitchens”
Darren Bray is associate director of award-winning practice PAD Studio

Darren Bray of PAD Studio

The contemporary utility room is one of the key main spaces of any new home; it can be seen as the workhorse of a house. The utility is that space that hides all the necessary essentials — laundry, boots, kitchen overflow and storage.

With the kitchen becoming an ever-more minimal space, the utility is now more of a kitchen overflow. Many of the recent utility rooms we have designed are sited directly behind kitchens, so that you can reduce kitchen cupboards and storage in the kitchen and replace them simply with streamline base units beneath worktops.

One utility we recently designed has the same finish and specification as the kitchen, with polished concrete floors and beautiful exposed birch ply shelves. Utilities are almost becoming mini kitchens with sinks, washing machines, dryers, food storage, large freezers and even space for the wet dog.

It is key that these spaces have plenty of cupboards, preparation areas and general storage. Include good natural daylight and access to the outside areas too, where practical.

Tony Holt: “Think carefully on location”
Tony Holt is an architectural designer and chartered architectural technologist, specialising in bespoke property design

Do you want a utility room or a laundry room? This is what I normally ask my clients before deciding on where this room should be located. A utility room is often thought of as an extension of the kitchen. Mass housebuilders incorporate this room by dividing off a section of the kitchen (making the kitchen smaller) in order to have this room listed on the sales brochure.

We’ve generally been conditioned into thinking this room should be accessed through the kitchen space but often, after a discussion of how they are going to use the space, my clients opt to have a laundry room on the first floor, which would be for washing and drying clothes and also contain storage areas for linen.

I often ask the question: ‘why would you take your dirty laundry downstairs to wash, dry and iron, just to take it back upstairs?’ If, however, the household routine needs to allow for drying clothes outside then the best place for the laundry room tends to be on the ground floor.

A common debate is often had on the need to have laundry next to and accessed through the kitchen, which comes from the mass housebuilding approach. It does make sense to centralise drainage and water supply, but usually the connecting door between the kitchen and utility room breaks the worktop and creates unnecessary circulation.

It’s usually much more space-efficient to have a laundry room accessed directly from the hallway, close to the staircase, so clothes and linen can be transported without going through the kitchen — this can still be located adjacent to the kitchen to keep drainage and water supply in one location.

As the utility room is not classed as a habitable room, there is no requirement for openable windows.

Main Image: Hand-crafted cabinetry in limewood by Barnes of Ashburton

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