Once an overlooked space, utility rooms now rank high on our wish-lists.
Lockdowns made us realise that a utility room is vital to a smooth-running home.
Dive in to find out why they are so desirable – and what the key trends are!
What’s so good about a utility room?
They are the engine-rooms of the home and if they are well-designed, provide smart storage solutions to maintain a fully functioning house. We tend to store all life’s necessities here, from a washing machine and tumble dryer to the ironing board and cleaning products: they are also useful in helping keep clutter out of the kitchen and behind closed doors, and providing space for our pets. The perfect utility room can create order throughout the house, and since 2021 we have been extra keen to upgrade this functional space.
Often doubling up as a laundry room, a utility room needs floor space for clothes airers, folding clothes and storing dirty washing as well as providing for overflow storage.
In 2021, internet searches for `utility’ were up 214% more than between January and September 2020, according to property portal Rightmove. The pandemic is believed to have influenced a drive for cleanliness and order; lockdowns gave us time to sort out our homes, carry out household chores and think about how our houses could function better. Ratcheting up the aspirational stakes, bespoke drying closets became sought after – these are thermostatically controlled cupboards with an integrated heating mechanism. Boot rooms and cloak rooms are also features of many utility room makeovers.
Utility room design
Architect Phil Simpson of People & Place Architects said:
Clients often want a utility room as part of a new build or extension; they are keen to have a room for laundry and muddy boots. Often their requirements are for a drying space, and this is a sustainable option – it is useful to have this and reduce energy bills rather than stack in a tumble drier, especially when space is limited.
Having a back door with access to the outside area where clothes can be hung out on a washing line is also useful. Utility rooms often act as a buffer zone between the outside and the rest of the house. I always recommend that it has a large sink, which is good for keeping dirty cleaning jobs out of the kitchen. If space allows, some people want a dog shower; these require a serviceable floor which is easy to clean.
As a utility room can be noisy, ideally, they are best sited away from social areas and not directly under bedrooms. While positioning a utility room next to a kitchen makes sense as it will be easier to connect appliances to utilities, other good options include cellars and basements. Plumbing essentials include hot and cold water and waste from the sink and washing machine, and if a tumble dryer is to be installed it may need to be vented outside. If there are no external windows, an extractor fan is useful to reduce moisture from wet clothes.
Make it the most practical room
Start planning the layout by thinking about the largest items first, such as vacuum cleaners and ironing boards which are best stored in a tall cupboard. If you plan a compact utility room, think about stacking white goods such as washing machines and tumble dryers vertically. Creating different sized drawers is helpful with storage, along with floor to ceiling cabinets. Make the most of existing space on walls; open plan shelving works well, offering easy reach access to items. A suspended pulley clothes dryer will save space and reduce the need for tumble drying. Other tips include allowing plenty of space for coat hooks and shoe storage while factoring in a sleeping area for pets.
Think about lighting; if there is no window giving natural light, consider downlighters or under cabinet LED strips which can be a space saving option. In terms of décor, classic panelling is a good choice; functional, painted timber is a more durable finish than emulsion painted walls. If extra toughness is required, opt for tile or stone surfaces. If a house is using renewable energy technology, a section of a utility room can be designated as a plant room for this.
According to the Homebuilding & Renovating website Homebuilding in terms of measurements, a 1.8m width will allow for a 60cm deep unit/worktop and leave a walking space of 1.2m around it. A 2.4m length will allow for 4 x 60cm base units, including space for a washing machine, tumble dryer and storage. Costs for a single storey, small utility room extension measuring 1.8m x 2.4m, will be between £7,776-£9,936. Installing a stud wall partition to separate room space will cost around £500. While there are, of course, many options, the cost for mid-range furniture for a room of this size can be between £1,000 and £2,000.
Utility room ideas
Wren Kitchens Design Director, Darren Watts, said:
Utility rooms are great for promoting organisation in both your kitchen and laundry area, providing order and harmony in your home. Laundry appliances such as washing machines and tumble dryers can take up a lot of space, so keeping them in a separate area can be extremely beneficial for freeing up some valuable space in the kitchen. Additionally, having a utility room separate from your kitchen is a great way to keep those occasionally messy items looking neat and organised.
A growing trend is that people are finding they’re a great space for pets. Creating a dedicated space for your beloved pet beds and bowls is a great way to use the area. By including a tall tower unit for a mop, brush and bucket also keeps the items handy for any spillages and muddy footprints. To find out more, visit here.
When it comes to planning a utility room, a good way to start is to think about what you would need to include. Whether it be a washing machine and tumble dryer or a space to iron. From there, you can think about how you would like to style the space. In regard to styling, a key aspect to think of is including good quality worktops and flooring. With the utility room being such a hardworking space, you should choose durable materials. A great worktop surface to choose is a luxury laminate or durable quartz. You can find out more about these here.
Likewise with flooring, choosing a durable yet easy to clean material is key in a utility room. A great choice would be Wren’s Woodpecker Flooring, as it is waterproof, durable and available in an array of colours and patterns.
Organisation is key
A spokesperson for the kitchen and homeware store Lakeland said:
Utility rooms are a really popular feature at the moment. I think since we have spent more time at home, we are looking at how we can improve this environment and people have noticed more and more how nice it is to keep this separate to our socialising space. Being able to leave clothes drying by without compromising on space in your kitchen or living room really is ideal.
We have seen a real trend for organisation, and this doesn’t stop at the utility room. We have seen products such as baskets and shelf organisers doing really well as people look to tidy the home and make their life less cluttered. Our Dry:Soon heated airer range is definitely a best seller for within the utility room. It has great drying power and uses so much less energy than a tumble drier, so it is an all-round winner.
When choosing flooring in a utility room, Inga Morris-Blincoe, general manager at lifestyle-floors said:
The main focus will no doubt be practicality. Nobody wants to have to panic about a drip of water when pre-rinsing washing or go through a rigorous scrubbing routine to remove the inevitable mud that flakes off football boots. That doesn’t mean neglecting the aesthetics of your room! There are some gorgeous wood, tile and even abstract designs available in waterproof LVT, vinyl, and even water-resistant laminates.
Finding the perfect functional and handsome floor need not be another household chore. As well as being waterproof and easily cleanable, you should look for a floor with a long wear warranty. Nobody wants the disruption of moving furniture and disturbing piping to replace a failed or simply unsuitable floor from around washing machines and other equipment.
The best flooring options
There are three main types of flooring we would recommend for a utility room: luxury vinyl tile (LVT), vinyl and water-resistant laminate. All of these are cleanable, water resistant or waterproof and are available with long wear warranties. Traditional laminate must be kept dry, which makes it tricky to care for in an area where spills, stains and mud are inevitable. However, there are several water-resistant laminates available now, including our Love Aqua range, which are even suitable for bathrooms. This makes them a perfect choice for your utility room if you are looking for a beautiful wood-effect floor.
Vinyl is another popular choice for utility rooms because it is 100% waterproof and can prove great value. Modern vinyl has some incredibly realistic wood, tile and even abstract designs, and is now available with up to a lifetime wear warranty, which is a brilliant bonus for a room that is often put through its paces.
Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is ever-growing in popularity, and it is easy to see why. Supplied in individual planks similar to laminate, the range of super realistic designs has no bounds, with tiles, mosaics, inlay strips and different laying patterns such as herringbone all available. It is also suitable for underfloor heating, meaning your utility room will never be a cold, draughty spot where washing will struggle to dry. LVT is often seen as more expensive, but for a high quality, incredibly beautiful and 100% waterproof floor it could be well worth the investment into your utility room. As the popularity of this option has grown, so has the range of choices available.
Decorating your utility room
Once you have designed and built your utility room, you will need to decorate it, and it should be somewhere that you actually feel happy to be in, according to Amy Stansfield, interiors writer at Wallsauce.com who said:
Choose closed cabinetry for a minimalist look. Often laundry rooms can look untidy and disorganised. To keep things looking smart and clean, choose closed cabinetry for all storage as well as your washer and dryer.
Use laundry baskets to be organised. Get the family learning how to do laundry as well as keeping the space clutter-free with laundry baskets. Assign a basket per person or have a different basket for reds, whites, darks, miscellaneous items etc. get the family to bring down their own laundry and sort their items into the different baskets.
Stack the washer and dryer if you have a small utility, to free up wall space. This can also leave more room to have cabinetry and a work surface.
A deep sink such as a vintage style Belfast sink allows you to soak soiled items in and they are handy for cleaning muddy shoes. Be creative with a feature wall; make the utility room somewhere you like to spend time in by upping the style game. Choosing a custom-made wallpaper mural in a design or image of your choice can make all the difference. For instance, a vintage floral pattern if you have an old soul, a scenic sunset beach to feel zen, or simply a sleek marble to create a stylish space.
Have I missed anything?
Which tips will you use first?
If you have a point to add about utility rooms, please leave a comment via our contacts page.