THE modern laundry room has moved far beyond the often ill-considered layouts of the past, with washer/ dryer tucked away in a poorly lit basement, to become a dynamic, contemporary space that meets a wide range of specific needs and requirements.
In designing a laundry room, or designing any space in a home for that matter, I begin by making observations of the lifestyle of the homeowners that will be using it and then follow-up with lots and lots of questions. Detailed questions draw out the unique personalities of the homeowner and, in turn, inform the design and help shape it to be a true reflection of the client and their lifestyle.
Are the homeowners an active family with young kids or a more sedentary couple of empty nesters? Do they like to do lots of smaller loads during the week or do they prefer doing a few larger ones on the weekend? Do they fold their clothes in the laundry room or bring it somewhere else and will they iron there? Do they need space to drip-dry clothing?
Empty nesters and couples without kids typically prefer their laundry space closer to their master bedroom and their clothes. They generally don't need a large space for folding and ironing and often only require an alcove area with a small amount of storage to meet their needs. A bump-out in a corridor with front loading washer and dryer - freeing up space for a countertop above- works great for such a scenario and when concealed with fold-away doors, is the perfect setup for efficiency and economy of space.
With larger households comes larger laundry spaces and typically the need for a separate room. The size of this room and how it functions depends strongly on the answers to those questions I asked above. Some families see the laundry room as a multi-functional space that affords the washing and drying of clothes as well as a host of other functions. In a number of projects over the years I've incorporated a craft space within the laundry room, allowing the homeowners to use the space for a number of other activities such as model building, sewing, gift wrapping, painting, and the like, activities well suited to a room with lots of counter space and lots of storage.
Other households, often the active ones, prefer to incorporate their laundry space with their mudroom. This can be a very successful arrangement allowing the users to dump their clothing directly into the wash without having to traipse through the house to find the washing machine. In such an arrangement I will typically provide space to hang-dry athletic gear and I may suggest the addition of a shower as well.
A less common but still popular trend is having the laundry facility as part of the kitchen area. In such an arrangement I typically like to make a clear differentiation between the two functions even if their physical relationship is close. An alcove area adjacent to the kitchen with a capacity to be closed off is the ideal setup. The biggest fear is that the potential disarray of a laundry room could spill into the kitchen area.
The laundry room has changed much over the years and now represents a carefully considered space that reflects both the interests and personalities of the occupants that use it.
Kevin Vallely is a residential designer in North Vancouver. Follow along Kevin's "small house" design at cliffhangerhouse. com.