Laundry Rooms Take on New Roles
authors Jamie Gold | September 24, 2020
Where did your grandmother do laundry? Was it in a basement or garage? Where do you do yours? If you live in a single family home built in the last five or 10 years, it might very well be in a spacious, stylish room filled with natural light.
Laundry rooms have come a long way, baby! In fact, a funny thing happened along the way… homeowners started using them for non-
laundry activities, and the spaces evolved into multi-function flex rooms. It’s not uncommon now to find them hosting gardening hobbies, pet washing stations and other messy pastimes. Their access to water, cleaning supplies and typically durable, low-maintenance finishes make those a natural. They also do double-duty for hosting extra appliances, household storage and admin work, like paying bills and wrapping gifts.
These upgraded laundry/flex rooms provide income-generating opportunities for designers, remodelers, homebuilders and manufacturers. To explore these, I reached out to five industry pros. They are:
- Model Branding Senior Manager Lee Crowder with national homebuilder Taylor Morrison;
- Bob Gifford, director of business development for Hastings Tiles & Bath in New York;
- Interior designer Nina Green in the greater Philadelphia area town of Churchville, PA;
- Marketing Director Jason Horst with Tampa-based independent appliance retail chain Famous Tate;
- Interior designer Christine Spillar in the Denver area city of Littleton, CO.
Since moving out of their dungeon-like existence, laundry/flex rooms have landed in strategic home spots. “Long gone are the days of the washer and dryer sitting in a dark corner of the basement or carport!” declares Green. “We are seeing laundry and other flex rooms having their place in the main floors of the house in many shapes and sizes.”
“Having a laundry room that is either close to an entrance, so it can be multi-functional, or near the hub of your home – i.e., kitchen or master bedroom – allows you to use your time wisely,” observes Crowder. In the builder’s Darling Homes series, she says, “the laundry room is connected to the master closet, incredibly convenient for daily laundry needs.” In its main Taylor Morrison line, “laundry rooms are often near the garage entrance to the home. This location is great, especially right now when having a sanitation room/station is incredibly important,” Crowder shares.
Spillar agrees, noting that, while she works on remodels only, not new construction, “I would imagine that in new builds, these flex spaces would be ideal [as] not only a ‘safe’ entrance to the house, but a place to stage items coming in and going out.”
In larger, multi-level homes, it’s not uncommon to have more than one laundry room, sometimes connected with a chute, or a bonus laundry closet. It could be sited in the master bedroom, or in a children’s wing.
Flex Room Functionality
“We find the top two flex uses our buyers are using their laundry rooms for are pets and hobby/craft room,” Crowder says. “We can accommodate this by having open space in our laundry rooms that can adjust by the buyer, or they can add cabinets to accommodate those additional uses.”
“People want to add function to these rooms,” Spillar agrees, adding, “typically the wish list is extensive. They want extra storage, drop zones, folding areas, clothes drying/hanging areas and pet areas. Depending on the location of the laundry room, people want to make these spaces into more of a mud room/laundry room combo.”
Green notes, “Growing in popularity is the idea of rooms that have to do a variety of tasks, but it is imperative that they are attractive! These rooms tend to change from project to project depending on the client’s needs and space that we have to carve out.” In one home, Green multi-purposed the space as a butler’s pantry on the kitchen end and laundry area on the other. This space got quartz countertops with a waterfall edge, French doors and premium appliances. This was definitely not your grandmother’s laundry room!
In addition to the popular entry-style space is the bedroom laundry area. “Although tucked away, the idea is that the laundry isn’t in a lonely area of the house,” Green shares. These are typically appliance-only spaces, Spillar notes. They might be in a closet, and two-in-one washer-dryer combo appliances are sometimes being specified when space is extra-tight.
Along with upgraded locations, laundry/flex rooms are getting upgraded cabinetry and fixtures. For Hastings’ clients, it’s about choice. “We offer many finishes and materials. There are almost no limits,” Gifford declares. This includes 53 glossy or matte lacquer options for cabinetry and durable, low-maintenance Fenix or Corian countertops. People are opting for built-ins if they have the space, he says, but storage on wheels is a good option for functional freedom. Gifford also points to multiple storage types, such as “wire shelving for cleaning supplies, hooks and hangers for clothing/masks, undercounter storage for items that have been cleaned and are ready to be moved to another location.”
Taylor Morrison executive Crowder says their homebuyers mostly want crisp white cabinet finishes (associated with cleanliness), but some opt for fun colors if the area is separate and enclosed. Popular upgrades include deep drawers for cleaning supplies, pull-out hampers and finished openings for pet beds.
Designer Green says, “Some clients wish to use the same exact cabinetry as the kitchen, especially if they are nearby or can be seen from the kitchen area. In other areas, we have used builder-grade cabinets, but upgraded the countertop and backsplash, etc. to have a more expensive look.”
Washer and dryer pedestals are also popular storage options, Famous Tate’s Horst notes. Not only do they provide space for laundry products, they put side-by-side front loaders at a more ergonomic height for many users.
“We are seeing more homebuyers adding a farmhouse sink into their laundry room,” shares Crowder. “Because sanitizing and washing hands as soon you enter the home is so important, we are hearing about the desire to add voice-activated or motion-sensor faucets into their laundry room for a safe hand washing location close to the entrance.”
Gifford points to more sophisticated faucets and fixtures with double-swivel spouts and sink washboards, which let you “wash more delicate items, similar to traditional washboards.” The models available through Hastings are solid surface, as opposed to the ones your grandmother or great-grandmother used!
Spillar suggests, “Other products that would be great additions to flex spaces are the Delta Faucet bottle washer and the Elkay bottle filler. Sports bottles could be washed and filled right as you are about to leave the house for school, work or exercise.”
Lighting has gotten enhanced, too, Green observes: “Gone are the days of a single bulb or the practical fluorescent light! We are adding statement lighting and chandeliers. It makes doing laundry more appealing when we can make these spaces attractive,” the designer muses. Spillar recommends LED lighting on dimmers for better visibility and control.
It’s not unusual to find more than washers and dryers in laundry/flex rooms. “With the popularity of French Door and counter-depth refrigerators that offer great style, but slightly reduced freezer capacity, we’re seeing small- to medium-sized freezers being added to orders,” comments Famous Tate’s Horst. (Early in the pandemic, as noted in a previous Trend Spotting, freezers became a hot commodity and harder to find.)
Horst also points to the growing popularity of a newer appliance type: “Brands have introduced clothing refresher products that have a narrow design to fit in laundry rooms or even master closets. These are meant for lightly-worn clothing that just needs wrinkles relaxed, or for dry clean only items, like men’s suits or women’s work wear…both of which have become not as relevant during the recent Work From Home trend, but still provide great convenience in the home.” (While business clothes have gotten less use in the pandemic, some refreshers can help sanitize stuffed animals, blankets and other family items, beneficial for reducing household germs.) Steam settings on dryers are popular for fabric refreshing if there’s no space or budget for a separate appliance, Horst reports. Automated detergent dispensers have also become popular, he says, as have new technologies to eliminate washer odor.
“Our top-selling laundry package is a top load,” Taylor Morrison’s Crowder says. She points to larger capacity and ease of cleaning as two reasons why. “Adding a beverage fridge under the countertop is another appliance we are seeing in the laundry room.”
For upstairs laundry spaces, “It’s good to note that today’s front-loading models offer enhanced vibration technologies so that they can operate quietly and smoothly, even on a second floor,” observes Horst.
For trending laundry appliance finishes, he points to “dark grays like graphite steel and black stainless, along with champagne, while some unique matte finishes in sapphire and satin nickel are being chosen.”
“Something that I hear often is that people’s laundry rooms are their favorite in the home,” shares Crowder. “If doing laundry is your stress reliever, you want to make sure that room suits your needs and makes you happy while you are doing all of that folding.” Most of us will take whatever stress relief we can get these days, right? ▪
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC is an author, wellness design consultant and NKBA Chapter presenter. Her third book, Wellness by Design (Simon & Schuster), was published September 1. You can learn more about her Wellness Market presentations, books and consulting services at jamiegold.net.