Laundry Rooms Get Upgrades

Bright, bold colors, energy-efficient front-loading washers and dryers, and well-planned spaces can lessen laundry day drudgery.


Photo by Ramona d’Viola

Once relegated to the garage, basement, or other unloved portion of the house, the lowly laundry room has arisen as a fantastically functional organization station. Today’s modern interpretations turn laundry day drudgery into a pleasure — or a least less of a chore — with efficient appliances in time-saving locations.

If you’re considering a remodel or newly built home, don’t confine yourself to the usual locations for a laundry room. Consider the second (or third) floor. With proximity closer to living quarters, it makes sense for obvious reasons, like a lot less schlepping of clothes up and down stairs. If you have kids, there’s a greater possibility of dirty clothes actually making into the machine (and off the floor) if the laundry room is nearby.

However, with all that convenience come some caveats, namely noise, vibration, ventilation issues, and possible leaks.

 An upstairs laundry room requires added insulation to dampen noise as well as an “arresting pad” to keep the machine from shaking the shingles off during the spin cycle. If the washer and dryer are going behind a closet door, they will need additional venting and space, especially around stacking units, to help dissipate heat.

A water leak on an upper floor will damage anything below, so invest in a leak-proof washing machine pan to catch water before it reaches the floor. Several smart versions take leak prevention to the next level with sensors and a pump, if you really mean business.

But don’t give up on that first-floor laundry room just yet. Usually adjacent to the kitchen, a laundry room near the home’s hub provides step-saving convenience in a more traditional location. From an infrastructure perspective, the advantages of a kitchen-side laundry room are sharing existing plumbing lines and high-voltage electrical outlets for dryers, without the added expense of rewiring or plumbing.

With a spectrum of colors to choose from, you’re no longer constrained to bright white appliances in a drab setting. Inject a little personality into the laundry room with bold tiles and bright colors.

For the best use of space, particularly with small laundry rooms, design around all the “must haves.” Just as a kitchen has the refrigerator/range/sink triangle, design your laundry room with the same efficiencies of function. If you lack the floor space, go stackable to free up space for storage, shelves, or cabinets. A countertop for folding, and a utility sink with a gooseneck faucet complete the triumvirate for a highly functional space.

Keep in mind the impact water and laundry supplies can take on surfaces. Choose durable finishes like poured concrete counters and floors. Consider porcelain ceramic tiles for impervious, long-lasting finishes that can hold up to abuse.

For really snug quarters, try a front-loading machine, with built-in storage below. With no lids to contend with, front-loaders provide folding surfaces and space for storing soaps and supplies in pull-out drawer “pedestals.” And, although they tend to be a little more costly, front-loaders are highly efficient, reducing the amount of water needed to clean clothes and spinning more moisture out for shorter drying times. You’ll recoup the costs from PG&E before long.

And while you don’t need a huge space for your laundry room, if you’ve got it, definitely go big. Add a “laundry island” for plenty of room to fold all that fluffy, warm laundry. Top it off with a heat-proof ironing pad, and the island doubles as a pressing table. Add hanging racks and individual laundry baskets for every member of the family, and you just might inspire them to do it themselves.