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Laundry Room Design Basics

Whether you're planning a new laundry room or updating an existing one, use our helpful design advice and inspiration to create a functional and efficient space.

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    Everything in this slideshow

    • Choose the Right Spot

      The default location for laundry rooms used to be in the basement. There are still good reasons to put a laundry room there: noise, humidity, and overflow if a hose breaks, for example. But your perfect spot might be the master suite, close to the children's bedrooms, or near the back door. If you choose a location near living or sleeping areas, shop for appliances with extra insulation and improved suspension that promise quiet operation and reduced vibration. If the dryer doesn't list a decibel (db) rating, it's probably too noisy to place near the bedroom or in the kitchen. The same logic might apply to washing machines with high-speed spin cycles (more than 1,000 rpm); they might vibrate too much to be located near living or sleeping areas.

      As shown here, a pull-out pocket door makes it easy to close off the laundry room to mask the sounds of washing and drying.

    • Task-Based Design

      To design an efficient laundry room that saves you time and effort, think about the tasks involved: sorting clothes, washing, drying, and folding. Arrange the work surfaces and appliances to facilitate that flow. Small as it is, this laundry room makes it easy for the laundry to go from the washer to the dryer to the countertop for folding. A clothes rod to the right of the dryer offers space for hanging items. Shelves above the washer and dryer keep laundry products within easy reach. And a laundry sink for hand-washing delicates is within steps of the washer/dryer duo. Minimum steps, maximum efficiency.

    • Laundry Room Measurements

      Make sure your washer/dryer duo has what it needs to function properly. Washers require drains and hot and cold water lines. Gas dryers need a gas supply line and more than 50 feet of venting to the outside. Electric dryers require 120-volt circuits.

      Washers and dryers measure from 24 to 33 inches wide. For loading and unloading, allow 36 inches in front of a washer and 42 inches for a dryer. That way, you’ll have room to walk around them without bumping into them.

      Measurements differ for front-loading models. Stacked units occupy less than 33 square inches of floor space and are accessible to people who have difficulty bending or stooping. Front-loaders are more accessible to wheelchair users. Install a dryer about 15 inches off the floor to make loading and unloading more comfortable.

    • Wet & Dry Zones

      Try thinking in terms of wet and dry zones to make the laundry room more efficient. Place the laundry sink and washing machine side by side to streamline plumbing lines and keep wet tasks together. Beside the dryer, install a clothing rod to hang items to air-dry. Immediately hang permanent press items to keep them from wrinkling. You might want to reserve space for an ironing board (stand-alone or pullout) close to the clothing rod to facilitate quick touch-ups.

    • Make Space for Folding

      Install a countertop so you have a place to fold clothes as they come out of the dryer. Ideally, it should be right above the dryer to minimize steps. If that's not an option, bring in a table or cart that's tall enough for you to work on while standing up.

    • Space for Hanging

      Every laundry room needs a place to hang clothes fresh from the dryer or delicate items you prefer to air-dry. Sturdy clothes rods hanging from wire shelving or installed between upper cabinets are two possible solutions. Position the rods far enough from the wall to leave adequate space for the hangers. You could also buy a double-tier clothes rack on wheels or casters.

    • Small-Space Option

      If you don't have room for a clothes rod in the laundry area, invest in a wall-mount clothing valet. It flips down to hold the hangers as you empty the dryer, then folds up against the wall when it's not in use.

    • Laundry Organization

      Being organized makes any job easier. Gather all of your laundry and clothing-care supplies into one utility cabinet near the washer and dryer so that everything is at hand when you need it. Store extra supplies here, too, so you'll know when it's time to restock. Make sure you store bleach and other dangerous compounds up high enough so young children can’t reach them. If possible, install a childproof lockable cabinet.

    • Convenient Ironing

      A built-in ironing board saves space and makes ironing less of a chore -- just flip out the board and plug in the iron. Wall-mounted ironing centers like this one might come equipped with a spotlight to illuminate your work surface and an electrical outlet for the iron. A TV installed nearby doesn't hurt either.

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      Include Good Lighting

      Natural light brightens the laundry room and eliminates that consigned-to-the-dungeon feeling. But just as with the kitchen, you need good task lighting over work areas. Use under-cabinet fluorescent tubes or LED under-cabinet fixtures to illuminate the countertop so you can match socks or check clothing for spots and stains that might require pretreatment. Provide lighting that lets you see inside the washer and dryer to make sure nothing is left inside.

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      Choose Durable Surfaces

      Any of the countertop and flooring surfaces that make sense in the bathroom or kitchen also make sense for the laundry room. Countertops made of laminate, stone, quartz-surfacing, or solid-surfacing make it easy to clean up spilled detergents or fabric softeners. Plus, their smooth surfaces prevent snags when folding delicate lingerie, blouses, or sweaters. Tile floors are easy to mop up in case of spills and will not be damaged by bleach.

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      Minimize Bending

      Front-loading washing machines save on water, but leaning over to load and unload them can be hard on your back. To eliminate that problem, raise the appliances to a comfortable height on cabinetry that also provides drawer storage. Some front-loading models now come with optional 15-inch-tall pedestals that raise them to a comfortable working height.

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      A Sliver of Space

      Need a small-space solution? Install a stacked washer and dryer in the bathroom for maximum efficiency, or near the kitchen to keep daily chores in the same general location. Either way, you’ll save steps.

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      Using Color & Pattern

      A galley-style laundry room makes practical and efficient use of space. Because sink and washer plumbing are in the same wall, running plumbing lines is easier and less expensive. Laundry baskets stacked on open shelving allow for presorting dirty clothing, and the washer is only a few steps away. Front-loading appliances give you the option of using the top of the machine for folding instead of installing a countertop.

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      The L-Shape Laundry Room

      An L-shape laundry room gives you the option of placing the laundry sink (just out of view on the left) on one leg of the L and the washer and dryer on the other. This arrangement offers extra counter space for folding clothes and dealing with hand-washables. While it's convenient to have the sink next to the washer, if your laundry room doubles as a potting room or pet-washing station, separating the sink from the appliances keeps messes away from the clean laundry. The L-shape laundry room also boasts more room for upper and lower cabinets, and display shelves for storing laundry staples.

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      Ultimate Laundry Room

      If you have a large laundry room, take a cue from kitchen designs and add a center island. This space not only accommodates laundry, but also a wrapping station and a kid’s crafting zone. With all of these functions going on, an island keeps activities separate while providing a handy work space for folding laundry, wrapping presents, and creating art.

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      Laundry Room Style

      Whichever layout you choose, it's easier to do laundry if the room makes you happy to be in it. Decorate your laundry room in a way that expresses your personality. Try a fun wallpaper or backsplash, include plenty of color and fun materials, and use cheery accents such as unique cabinet hardware.

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      Next Slideshow Creative Laundry Room Cabinetry Ideas

      Creative Laundry Room Cabinetry Ideas

      Get more storage and style out of your washer-dryer space with inventive, design-smart laundry room cabinetry ideas.
      Begin Slideshow »

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