It has been a long time since the days of rubbing clothing against river rocks in an effort to get them clean. Today’s sophisticated homeowner understands that the proverbial washboard is best consigned to a bluegrass or folk ensemble. Indeed, residential laundry rooms have evolved over the decades into wonders of design and technology.
For years, Sarah Cottingham, a busy family medicine physician and mom, who washes at least 10 loads a week, envisioned her dream laundry room. The most coveted feature? A large island for folding. When she and Doug, her husband, built their forever home about four years ago in rural Hopkins, a spacious, custom-designed laundry room was part of the blueprint. Like many who build or renovate a special laundry room, Sarah wanted not only capacity and utility but also multiple functionality.
“I like to sew and do crafts,” she says, “so I wanted to throw in a craft area and a place for wrapping presents.” A desk in the laundry room houses her sewing machine, and she hopes to find more time to sew in the future, especially clothes for her young children, 8-year-old Mac and 5-year-old Lila.
Sarah’s dream laundry room is now a reality. Located behind the kitchen between the mudroom and a bedroom, the laundry room is approximately 13 by 13 feet with white cabinets, a gray folding island on wheels with built-in storage, and the latest side-by-side GE appliances. The island top is granite, which matches the room’s generous wrap-around countertop. The room also features wired-in stereo so that Sarah can add a little zest to her chores.
“We also have an extra fridge and a sink along with two hanging areas,” she says.
Because of the amount of time spent in the laundry room, aesthetics were an important consideration for Sarah. Interior designer Darby Schroder helped curate the neutral color palate and suggested herringbone tile floors to add visual interest and texture. Capital Kitchens and Baths provided cabinetry.
“Another thing I love about the laundry room is the double windows looking out at nature. It’s really relaxing,” Sarah says. “We definitely feel very lucky and blessed.”
Sarah enjoys four colorful paintings by Ashley Williams of The Collective in Columbia. They hang above the window over the washing machine and dryer. She loves showing off the laundry room when visitors come to the house.
“One person thought my laundry room was the kitchen the first time she came in,” she says. “I guess it is the size of a small kitchen. Most people love it.”
Columbia native Alle Kaneft, a busy stay-at-home mom of three, simply couldn’t do without the well-equipped laundry room in her family’s two-story Heathwood home. This summer will mark two years in their new digs.
“Our house was already halfway built when we bought it,” she says. “A dedicated laundry room was already drawn into the plan. I wish I could say I designed it, but I just picked the colors and the granite.”
Like many dedicated laundry rooms, the Kanefts’ is located off the kitchen and adjacent to a mudroom.
“My favorite feature is all the cabinetry,” Alle says. “And it’s great to have a place to put my kids’ artwork. I have a corkboard in there where I put all our invitations and art stuff.”
The cabinets are painted in Sherwin-Williams’ ‘Sea Salt,’ a calming shade of green-gray. Alle appreciates that she can tuck toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and pet supplies neatly inside them. “The storage component was huge for me,” she says.
Alle’s laundry room also has a sink, granite countertops, a drying rack, and an extra refrigerator. Between her husband, Beau, a packaging company executive, and children Henry, 9; Finley, 7; Anne Collins, 3; and Molly, a fluffy Bison Frise, the household produces between seven and 10 loads of laundry a week, but Alle doesn’t let it get backed up.
“I wash at least one load a day,” she explains. “It keeps me organized. It’s also for my sanity.”
Alle highly recommends space for a dedicated laundry room. If she were to change anything, it might be the addition of a laundry chute from the upstairs. “That is a great idea,” she says. “But the storage is really key, and the space is amazing. I only had a laundry closet in our last house.”
To be sure, laundry nooks are no longer an afterthought tucked into a hallway closet.
“Many consumers now are building dedicated laundry rooms,” says Kevin Vancoutren, a superintendent with Mungo Homes. “In some of our bigger homes, we offer an option to have a laundry room both upstairs and downstairs.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Cottinghams and the Kanefts are millennials, the fastest-growing segment of homeowners. A recent study by Wakefield Research for online retailer Zulily found that millennials contributed $514 billion to the housing market this past year. Despite a slight decline since 2016, they comprise between 35 and 37 percent of homeowners in the United States.
“With laundry rooms, we have a lot of different options,” Kevin says. “Many cabinet styles are available. A lot of people tuck folding tables into their cabinetry. We get a lot of requests for wash sinks. We even have an option with a built-in dog-washing station.”
In a National Association of Home Builders survey released in 2018, an astounding 93 percent of respondent homebuyers said they wanted a dedicated laundry room. In fact, 57 percent of respondents said that if a prospective home did not have a laundry room, that would be a deal-breaker for them and they would not buy it. Period.
According to design experts in the housing industry, features that top the wish lists of many homebuyers who want laundry rooms include the latest programmable, front-loading appliances; a deep wash sink to pretreat, soak, or hand-wash items; plenty of built-in shelf or cabinet space for storage; counter space for folding; and sorting bins.
No family has ever said, “I have plenty of storage space.”
Space is at a premium when maximizing use of a laundry room or area. And if extra storage can be carved out, the more the better.
Shelves can be a homeowner’s best friend in the laundry room. They enable extra storage, and if the homeowner does not want the dryer sheets, fabric softener, and bleach bottles visible, they are easily concealed in wicker or fabric storage boxes placed on those shelves. With so many organization tools available today, a laundry room can be easily created that is uncluttered, organized, and neat.
A crazy fad exists in the world today called “extreme ironing,” in which enthusiasts will erect an ironing board and press their clothes in an unusual, even dangerous location, often while doing something outrageous at the same time. Examples include undersea ironing by scuba clad denizens and ironing while snowboarding or cliff climbing, hang gliding, and even skydiving. Note that this requires engineering know-how.
For many intrepid urbanites, simply taking an ironing board from the closet, setting it up, and actually ironing clothes is an exercise in extremism. Many skip wardrobe choices because ironing is required. The mere thought of hauling that folding ironing board out of hiding and setting it up, while not physically taxing, appears to be deterrent enough. Hence many laundry room dreamers envision an ironing board always at the ready, no fuss involved. Just plug in the iron. For this reason, the classic built-in ironing board cabinet is making a comeback. The homeowner simply opens the cupboard to lower the ironing board and, when finished, raises it back into the cabinet where it stands ready but out of sight.
A laundry room should be as pleasant a place to be as possible because it is where individuals spend countless hours on a mundane yet very necessary task. Americans on average wash more than 400 loads of laundry a year. That’s a lot of shirts to fold — and missing socks to search for — as well as time spent in the laundry room.
The Cottingham and Kaneft laundry rooms are surely ahead of the curve. As an added benefit, when their children, as young adults, come home from college swinging laundry bags over their shoulders, they may very well want to do their own laundry rather than ask mom to do it.
Today’s laundry rooms are just great spaces in which to hang out.