Utility room should not be an afterthought

The utility room should not be an afterthought. Yes, it needs to be functional but think about layout, storage and ventilation too, advises Kya deLongchamps.            

Tailoring an area of your kitchen — or devoting an entire room to laundry and domestic doings, utility rooms demand the same design attention as a small, fully fitted kitchen.

Functional? Superbly functional — but this precious place doesn’t have to look like a rag strewn engine room either.

Position and lay-out:

Any short run of wall, suited to plumbing and venting, sufficiently out of the traffic flow, or an external corner in a generous back hall, exiting the kitchen to the garden, can take a washer/dryer stack with flanks of cupboards and open shelving.

Small utility spaces can serve many — especially where you might even be dipping into an oversized closet behind doors to hide laundry. Ensure your new or retrofitted MVHR takes in the moist breathe of these vital service quarters, otherwise add a mechanical fan ventilation.

A larger stand-alone room is a hard working treasure. Make the metres count with meticulous planning. This room will take valuable weight off the primary cooking/dining area with added food-prep and pantry potential, a deep, tough second sink (every utility should have one) and a site for a chest or cabinet freezer. Small rear extension? Pour in illuminations with a Velux or Fakro rooflight or sun-tunnel — velux.ie, fakro.ie

Personalise the utility to your family’s needs. U-shaped fitted units can swing around the sink and washer/dryer leaving a full wall free as a rough and ready storage space for a bench and hanging space for sporty, outdoor crews.

Consider a working suite of back-stage rooms. Would the teens benefit from stepping straight into a wet-room/wc after flinging their kit? Or how about the dishwasher in your open plan kitchen/diner? Even with an all but silent-running decibel count, white goods take up blocks of 60cm base counter space and deliver a maddening, hypnotic hum — roll it out to the adjoining utility.

¦ Clean up with: Porcelain tile flooring with a safe key, tough enough for hotel laundries, from €25 m².

In wood laminates, try Quick-step with HydroSeal (includes their Majestic and Impressive ranges) from €35.50 2.952 m², laminatewoodflooring.ie (Cork).

Refreshing old cabinets, pre-coat or finish with Ronseal Cupboard Paint, 750ml €28.50, Woodies DIY.

Easy wipe-down steam resistiant, scrubbable, anti-bacterial? Crown Durable Matt paint in 17 colours from €12 a litre.

Units and countermeasures:

Unless you have oceans of room for floor cabinetry, design built-in storage with 30mm deep wall cupboards and stout shelves for frequently used items.

¦ Combine or substitute with ventilated wire system shelving — Elfa, or Algot from Ikea — which are versatile, cheap, hygienic, great for airing. (elfa.com; ikea.ie/storage.)

¦ Think wet and potentially humid, so given power is present, zone wet and dry areas. Counters should be bullet-proof and easy to care for — avoid dark glossy finishes — a trial.

¦ Ensure any MDF based carcass materials are sealed perfectly — they will be the first to bald out after a flood event or wet mop.

¦ Stick with the same door fronts as the kitchen, if possible, for unity and flow. Remember that 80cm is the minimum passing room where you are opening cabinets and swinging baskets, 120mm is a lot more comfortable when you are crouching by a machine.

¦ Streamline and simplify. Recessed pulls are a good idea where you are carving out a corner of a family kitchen. No fuss, simple, stainless steel sinks are best — forget that worktop-hungry double, unless you really need it.

¦ Sleek, slab, white tailored utility rooms not only improve the feeling of a north facing or even windowless space, but encourage you to keep surfacing clean. They’re a basic price too.

¦ Full height 40-60mm cabinets are a Godsend in any utility, swallowing ironing boards, sweeping brushes, upright vacs, your golf bags and more. For a casual space, see what you can hang up on firm pegs and just leave on show.

High reach? No more than 185cm, ideal for safe, adult detergent storage.

¦ Clean up with: An extra 1800mm commercial grade prep table with lower shelf, ideal for that large kitchen or utility, with 60mm up-stand, Vogue €326, nisbets.ie.

For tight areas, do a round edge/corner counter — try B&Qs Earthstone. 1800mm (in Glacier) from €350.

Pyramis granite/resin composite sinks — virtually indestructible. From €244.95, kitchenfittingsdirect.com.

Ergonomic storage and services:

Assess what storage you need for a utility and also what you might want to cull from the kitchen units, to free up more space. Throw in about 15% more blind storage, floor mounted baskets and open shelving.

¦ Ironing board caddies, in-cabinet carousels, plastic stacking cube systems, and side of machine shelving units can make use of every centimetre of vertical and horizontal dead space.

¦ Go through a virtual round of tasks as you like to do them. What bothered you in your last work space? Improve on those points.

¦ If you’re in a tight spot near the back door, get baskets up off the floor, adding hooks for wall-hung laundry bags instead. Encourage sorting by dividing bags up by darks/whites at source.

¦ In a cramped corner, ladder narrow shelving as deep and tall as stacked machines — or on longer shelves add rods to the bottom edge for hangers.

¦ Building from scratch, a laundry chute from upstairs is a brilliant device of the hospitality industry that can skid dirty clothes to be pitched straight into the washer.

¦ If you iron a lot of clothes, look at fold-down boards close to a socket 60cm from any tap. Brabantia do a wall mounted hook for a standard board which also cradles the iron, €18.99, homestoreandmore.ie 

¦ Cheap wall mounted caddies can hold bottles, tools and products/

¦ A short drop down length of counter made from an off-cut of your main countertop is a useful station for folding.

¦ An overhead airing rack is another cheap addition with many uses from drying children’s artwork to finishing clothes.

¦ Clean up with: Algot, wall hung upright basket systems, hanging rails and shelving, from €26-€284, IKEA. Plan your design at http://www.ikea.com/ie/en/customer-service/planning-tools/algot-planner/

Home Monk’s Bench/Laundry Box, €43.99, Argos.

Cabinet and folding shelves: €179, Eureka Manufacturing, eurekamfg.com (Shanagolden, Limerick)

Tips for your next washer

¦ Match your family’s needs. 7/8kg (dry) is about average. A 9kg/10kg machine used

regularly for half loads is washing money down the drain, but if you have gone 6/7kg and are left with items in hand, size up.

¦ High drum capacity plus extras like direct drive mechanics and steam washing elevates price.

¦ Energy ratings of A+ and A++ are standard, A+++ is the ideal and €300 will buy a 7kg A++ washer.

¦ Ratings are assigned to the wash and spin cycle as one. Examine the Energy Label on the machine for exact Kw readings for the annual expense for 220 runs. These are not 60 degree washes but judged on longer, cooler, eco-cycles. A+++ still draws 48-52l of water per cycle.

¦ Time delay allows you to use off-peak (Night-Saver) electricity more easily for washing between 11pm-8am. Remember there is an extra charge for these meters of €50 to €60, so ensure the figures add up. electricireland.ie. Apps to mobiles, androids and tablets for starting machines while away from home are yet to show their real worth. Specialised cycles, beyond sports and delicates, buck efficiency. Quick-wash cycles can generally handle only 1.5kg of wash depending on the machine. Look out for add-drawer machines that can swallow a few extras even while running. NB: Consistent 15 degree runs add up to a stinking washing machine.

¦ It’s the blasted dryer that boots our electricity bills into touch. Look for spin speeds in your washer of 1400rpm to 1600rpm to get those clothes as wrung dry as possible before machining them or putting them out on the line. Ensure the feet of the machine are level to reduce vibration.

¦ Nothing cracks fingers, ankles and mood like a cranky, mean door action. Look for a full 180° opening and a door that holds position rather than swinging in on you. Is the operation comfortable on the hand? Open the detergent drawers and examine ease of operation and clunk-click.


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