How to design a Utility Room

With so much uncertainty in so many areas due to the global health crisis, many house-moves and renovation work projects are, rightly, paused for now. 

However, to the extent it’s possible to do so, we suggest continuing to work on finalising the planning/ designing/ decision-making during this ‘on hold’ period.  When normal-ish life resumes, you can have made (most of) the remaining design/ choosing, etc. decisions and obtained related costings, with less time pressure than usual, and be ready to start ordering and getting on site at an appropriate time. 

Working on your renovation project may also be a welcome distraction…  We’ll continue to share content to advise and inspire.

Design your ideal Utility Room

When it comes to allocating space in the home, a utility room can be a contentious issue. Some people consider it to be a luxury or waste of space, while some (perhaps those who do most of the household cleaning and management…?) recognise the potential for a good utility space to significantly improve their life!

Our view? If you have the space, then do it: As client Tracey Petherick says, Utility, Boom!

…but make sure you allow enough room for it to be fully functional.

Why a good utility room needs space;

  • A utility is a working space. If there isn’t room to comfortably get the washing out of the machine, it will be really annoying to use.
  • Very few people enjoy doing housework. You can make it a better experience by having a good environment… and 10cm can make a lot of difference to that environment. It’s the difference between hitting your hip on a cupboard door handle every day … or not.
  • A utility room is a storage space: everything that is stored in your utility would otherwise have to be under your stairs, in your kitchen, hallway, or scattered all over your home. It might feel like you are stealing from other rooms to create the utility, but you are actually freeing them up from miscellaneous clutter!

What to consider

Layout

You’ll need adequate space to operate appliances. For example;

  • In front of the washing machine to comfortably load/ unload
  • Around the ironing board

The below diagrams show the space needed, in mm, in front of or around these appliances to use them. These are minimums – they don’t allow for someone else to pass behind you while you work.

Diagram showing a plan view of standard sized washing machine and the minimum 1000mm by 700mm rectangle of space required in front for access
Washing Machine with minimum access dimensions
Diagram showing a plan view of ironing board, and the minimum circulation space required around it; 300mm at the end, 650mm on one side and 150mm on the far side.
Ironing board with minimum access dimensions

Other things to consider when planning your layout;

  • Hanging/ drying space – this should be positioned so you can easily walk past or under drying clothes.
  • What worktop space will you need?
  • Do you need a sink? If yes, what size and height?- if you are planning on washing a pet in there you may want this to be lower (and wider) than usual.
  • What do you need to be able to store in here? Be sure to allow plenty of space in front of storage cupboards for wrangling bulky items like ironing boards and vacuum cleaners.
  • Remember that washer & dryer doors open in opposite directions (and these doors can’t be changed).

Safety

Utility rooms contain lots of potential hazards. Just as when planning a kitchen, it is important to consider these during design. For example;

  • Cleaning chemicals should be stored out of the reach of children & pets.
  • Bulky items should be securely stored so they don’t fall out when cupboards are opened.
  • Stacked washer/ dryer machines must be securely installed e.g. with a suitable stacking kit.
  • Appliances should be installed with fused spurs.
  • Install a smoke / heat detector (your electrician should be able to advise on the suitable model based on proximity to kitchen & ventilation levels)
  • Your carbon monoxide detector should be in the same room as your boiler, or in the nearest communal hallway.
Your utility room should have an extractor fan
Carbon Monoxide alarm
The correct stacking kit depends on your chosen appliances. This is an AEG one.

Ventilation

It can be tempting to bury the utility room in the dark ‘middle’ of the house, away from external walls, but don’t forget ventilation:

  • If you have your boiler in here it will need venting to the outside.
  • Any room with a sink or appliances that use water needs an extractor fan, like a bathroom does.

This ventilation will need ducting to the outside (and usually rear) of your property – you’ll have to consider the route.

Other utility room design tips

  • Include accessible sockets (at a safe distance from the sink) – you (or your cleaner) may want to be able to charge your phone and listen to the radio at the same time as ironing.
  • Make sure you have plenty of bright task lighting.
  • If you have daylight, keep some plants in there. They’ll love the humidity (and will be good for your mental health).
  • Compared to a kitchen or bathroom, you’ll only need a small splashback. You could splash out on some lovely tiles to make housework more of a pleasure.
  • Alternatively, keep the tiles plain and choose a bright colour scheme for your painted walls.

Images: Practical doesn’t have to mean dull – brighten up your utility room with house plants, a summery colour scheme, or bright tiles…

Accessories for sophisticated looks styled by Absolute Project Management
Absolute Project Management colour scheme 'Late Summer' - two shades of yellow with rich green and off-black
Tom Pigeon tiles

If you don’t have enough space for a full utility room…

Don’t despair. You can still significantly improve your housework-life by getting smart with existing storage. For example;

  • A stacked W/D in a sound-proofed cupboard.
  • Ironing board in a guest bedroom
  • Refit your existing ‘cleaning things’ cupboard so that you can get the vacuum out without pulling everything else out.
Ideal Laundry room storage by Absolute Project Management
Washer & dryer with stacking kit in cupboard with space-saving bifold doors.
Work in progress – this guest room wardrobe features a handy pull-out ironing board…
Clever vacuum cleaner storage under the stairs
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