Too often, laundry areas are given little thought in the
design of a house. The washer, dryer, and sink, if there is
one, are just lined up against the wall of a mudroom or even
relegated to the basement because the homeowners don’t
want to lose precious floor space upstairs. But considering how
often it gets used, a poorly thought-out laundry area usually
proves inadequate. That’s why, in my work as a kitchen
and bath designer, I am often asked by homeowners to
incorporate the laundry into a remodeling project.
Most requests are simple: provide counter space for sorting
and folding clothes, a hanging rod for clothes to drip dry, a
small storage area for detergents, good lighting, and a small
wastebasket for cleaning the dryer vent. Some clients expand on
these requests to include amenities like a pull-out spray
faucet, a built-in ironing board, a laundry chute and dirty
clothes hamper, and recycling-type bins for sorting the
There are no established guidelines to follow like there are in
designing a kitchen, but here are some tips for laying out an
efficient laundry room.
Appliance specs. Always
check with the homeowners to make sure that you have the exact
brand and model numbers of the washer and dryer so you can
verify the dimensions, clearance, and hookup requirements.
Remember that the dryer will most likely need to be vented to
the outside, which may affect exterior aesthetics. Also, try to
keep the duct as short and straight as possible, to remove
moisture effectively and maximize dryer efficiency.
Watch the dryer door.
Remember that the dryer door may be left open while clothes are
being folded. Try to avoid conflict with passage doors and
leave enough floor space for the user to walk around the open
door. Top-loading machines should also be checked for
clearance: Measure the door in its highest open position, then
add at least 6 inches for hand room.
Wet zone. It’s a
good idea to place the sink next to the washer so that all the
plumbing and water sources are contained in one wet zone. You
may even want to discuss the possibility of incorporating a
floor drain in this area of the room in case of an accidental
overflow — especially important for upper floor laundry
areas with living spaces below. Installation of a floor drain
can be handled just like a custom tile shower base (see "Mortar
Bed Shower Floors," 4/98), though instead of an expensive
waterproofing membrane you could use a 60-minute felt paper
under the finish floor. For best results, the floor should be
slightly sloped toward the drain.
Another option is to place the washer in a plastic shower
base or plastic tray that is plumbed to a drain. The limitation
of this approach is that the shower base may only catch
overflow from the washer itself. In a case I recently heard of,
the washer hose broke at the hookup, spraying water out of the
laundry closet and resulting in $20,000 damage to the home
— even though the washer was sitting in a shower pan with
a plumbed drain.
If a hanging bar for dripping clothes is requested, this
should also be contained in the wet zone. A small bar hanging
directly over the sink will generally suffice, or the area can
be expanded with a countertop drain board.
Even the smallest
design should include wall cabinets or open shelving over the
washer and dryer, and a base cabinet for the sink. From there,
you can build to meet the homeowner’s desires. Some of
the available units allow for a more built-in look, like the
stacking units enclosed with end panels in Figure 3. Higher-end
washers and dryers, such as the Asko brand, fit under a
countertop — which saves space by providing the counter
area above for sorting and folding.
There are a host of built-in fold-down or pull-out ironing
boards available. When placing the ironing board, make sure
that there is enough floor space to walk around both sides and
the end of the board when it’s open. Another option is to
provide a tall cabinet to store a freestanding board.
Extra base cabinets are always welcomed because they can
house a pull-out wastebasket for cleaning the dryer vent trap
and disposing of dryer sheets, a hamper for storing dirty
clothes, or bins for sorting loads of laundry. Additionally,
these base cabinets will increase counter area, which is always
welcome in a laundry.
lighting is critical to a successful laundry room design.
General lighting should be supplemented with task lighting in
at least two areas: at the sink, to help the client treat
soiled clothes, and at the folding area, so that dark socks can
be matched correctly.
The Small Plan
laundry area doesn’t necessarily require a lot of floor
space. The laundry in Figure 1 incorporates the washer
and dryer, a sink, some counter space, an ironing board, and
several shelves and cabinets — all in less than 20 square
1. This small laundry center occupies less than
20 square feet, but contains all the elements: Washer,
dryer, sink, ironing board, clothes rod, and
This design can easily be incorporated into one end of a
kitchen. Using a stacked washer/dryer in its own closet allows
the unit to be hidden behind doors when it’s not in use.
A 36-inch-wide base cabinet includes a sink for hand washables,
while the 12-inch-high cabinet above leaves space to hang a
laundry pole. The 15-inch-wide by 24-inch-deep cabinet at right
opens to reveal a fold-down ironing board and storage.
The Medium-Size Laundry
The laundry area in Figure 2 works well when you have a little
more space at your disposal.
2. The author has used this design to convert a
walk-through mudroom into an organized laundry. The
sink, drip-dry rod, folding area, and storage are on
one side; the washer/dryer and shelving line the
This plan, which takes up 36 square feet, might be used to
replace a walk-through mudroom. The utility sink is set in the
center of three 24-inch-wide base cabinets, while two
18-inch-wide upper cabinets anchor two laundry poles. The
washer, dryer, and shelves are on the opposite wall.
A Large Laundry
laundry in Figure 3 occupies 55 square feet.
Figure 3. This laundry design
includes lots of storage in its 55 square feet of floor
space. The base cabinet to the left of the washer/dryer
contains a pull-out ironing board.
At the left end are 12-inch-wide curved base and wall
cabinets, followed by 18-inch-wide cabinets. Three Plexiglas
bins on the counter hold detergents; the base unit holds a
pull-out ironing board in its drawer. Next, the stacked
washer/dryer fits snugly between two full-height end panels,
with a 12-inch-high wall cabinet on top. To the right, base
storage includes a 12-inch-wide cabinet, a 36-inch corner sink
cabinet, and a 36-inch cabinet. Above, the laundry pole hangs
between the washer/dryer and the 24-inch-wide upper cabinet,
which also has an 18-inch-high working door.