Laundry areas pair well with pet needs. (Photo courtesy of Closet Factory)
By Jamie Gold
Close your eyes for a moment. Picture your mom doing laundry. Was she carrying a basket of clothes down to the basement or out to the garage? Did she hang everything out to dry on a clothes line?Laundry rooms are no longer the unloved castoffs of home design. They are evolving into well-appointed, strategically located, multi-functional flex rooms with sleek appliances and stylish cabinetry. This may not make laundry your favorite chore, but it has come a long way from the dungeon duty of old.
The re-imagined laundry room
“More than just a place that is dark and cramped, buyers are using these spaces now for multiple things,” says Valerie Dolenga with PulteGroup, currently building Laurel Pointe in Vista. “Natural light is another concern — putting a window in the laundry will make the space feel better, larger and more enjoyable.”
“Often, laundry rooms can double as a mudroom, depending on their placement in the home. If space allows, a laundry room can double as an area for bill management or a hobby room,” she notes.
One other space-planning feature for many is a pet area, according to Rini. “The laundry room has also become the perfect place to set up a cozy nook for family pets. Incorporate a pet bed underneath your folding station. Keep food off of the floor and neatly organized in baskets or cabinets.”
“We have also seen pet showers located in laundry rooms,” Dolenga says. The plumbing systems needed for a laundry room and its typically moisture-friendly, low-maintenance flooring make this a natural placement.
The relocated laundry room
There are still laundry areas tucked away in garages and other remote spots, but builders and architects are increasingly looking at placing them in more strategic spots in new homes, whole-house renovations and additions. This can be near a busy entrance, as Dolenga pointed out, where they double as mudrooms. They may also be located near bedrooms to make the laundry task more efficient.
This is especially true for 50-plus communities like Pulte’s Del Webb: “Our buyers prefer them in close proximity to the owner’s suite. But if it’s too close, noise becomes a concern,” says Dolenga. One way they address that issue is to put the laundry area on the opposite side of a walk-in closet with access from the bedroom.
In larger two-story homes, there are often first- and second-story laundry rooms, or a main laundry room and auxiliary space near the bedrooms. “In some of our plans, where we have first-floor laundries, we will offer an option to allow for a small space within the owners’ walk-in closet for a stackable unit,” Dolenga says.
The re-equipped laundry room
One of the innovations making those compact laundry closets possible is the ventless dryer.
“We are seeing an increase in ventless machines as consumers become more energy-conscious,” says Amy Chernoff with online retailer AJ Madison. “Despite some minor inconveniences, such as having to empty the condensation pan or its smaller drum capacity than the average vented dryer, the compact size and energy efficiency of a ventless dryer makes up for it.” The biggest advantage is that they can be used in condos or closets because they don’t need to vent outside.
“The all-in-one washer and dryer is also a growing option for consumers seeking efficiency or wanting to save space,” Chernoff says. Their main disadvantage is that it takes longer to complete a load of laundry. However, with smart home technology taking a load from wash to dry without transferring machines, you might not mind the extra time. In some larger households, they’re often the auxiliary solution.
Smart home technology is increasingly popular in laundry appliances, Chernoff says.
“The ones that are worth investing in are those that simplify your daily life — whether that’s a self-diagnostic feature that recognizes issues with your machine, or can start your load of laundry while you’re out of the house and forgot to turn it on. Simple things that go a long way in saving time and frustration,” she says.
Other homes are going for new dual-capacity washer-dryer sets. The main compartment handles your major load, but a second, smaller compartment can do hand-washing or extra-soiled loads, without having to wait for the first to finish.
“Dual-load washers are popular for family-oriented consumers who realize that life doesn’t always go according to plan,” says Chernoff. “The worth is in its convenience, and for those who find themselves needing to simultaneously wash different loads of laundry or add in especially dirty items (think post-soccer-game uniform).”
Steam is another feature worth considering in laundry sets, she notes: “Steam is hygienic, reduces allergens, helps break down tougher stains, releases wrinkles and can help soften fabric.”
Laundry rooms are also getting enhanced storage — especially as they do double or even triple duty for the household.
“Cabinets not only provide storage for detergent and cleaning supplies, they can be as decorative as the rest of your home’s interior,” says Closet Factory’s Rini. “Incorporate door and drawer fronts that match the style of any room in your home.”
They can also be highly functional. Some popular features include hanging rods, pullout ironing boards, shelf dividers and wall systems that let you hang mops, brooms, laundry bags and other essentials.
Sink base cabinets are growing in popularity, too, as homeowners move away from basic laundry sinks to built-in models. “Whether it’s farmhouse style or undermount, kitchen sinks help to add a bit more personalized style to the space,” Chernoff says. These sinks are likely to have dressier kitchen faucets, too. Pull-downs are especially popular, the AJ Madison executive adds. They’re ideal for pets and hand-washables, as well as for filling mop buckets.
“A laundry room has one not-so-obvious need: a good lighting system. Installing task lighting such as under-cabinet or shelf lights will provide functional use since they illuminate specific work zones,” Zini recommends. It’s definitely time to move on from the single fluorescent light box.
Laundry day will never be the pleasure that beach day is, but it’s probably its inevitable successor. Make your space efficient, productive and pleasant to be in. “Add chalkboards to doors or end panels of units and other areas of your laundry room where whimsy messages and playful designs lighten the mood,” Zini suggests.
“One of my ‘must-haves’ are personal touches — from home décor and family photos to unique backsplashes and wallpapers,” says Chernoff. “Instagram is full of luxury laundry nooks and havens.”
Wherever your laundry area lives in your home, make it the best it can be for a better laundry experience!
Gold is a San Diego-based independent kitchen and bath designer and the author of “New Kitchen Ideas That Work” and the “New Bathroom Idea Book” (both from Taunton Press). Her website is jgkitchens.com.