Laundry Room Design Basics

Whether you're planning a new laundry room or updating an existing one, find helpful design advice and inspiration.

Vicki Ingham

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Laundry Room
Easy as 1-2-3

    To design an efficient laundry room that saves you time and effort, think about the tasks involved -- sorting clothes, washing, drying, folding -- and arrange work surfaces and appliances to facilitate that flow. Here open shelving (hidden behind a pull-down shade) holds baskets of pre-sorted dirty clothing adjacent to the washing machine, so loading the washer is a snap. The wash proceeds to the dryer, and the countertop provides plenty of space for folding clothes as you take them from the dryer. Minimum steps, maximum efficiency.

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 offers extra counter space for dealing with hand-washables. And if the laundry room doubles as a potting room or pet-washing station, separating the sink from the appliances keeps messes away from the clean laundry. More room for open and closed storage is another advantage of the L shape.

Galley-style Laundry room

    A galley-style laundry room makes practical and efficient use of space, and 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.

U-shape laundry room

    With a U-shape, you have the luxury of accommodating more functions in one well-organized space. The primary functions -- sorting, washing, drying -- are grouped in one corner of the U for maximum efficiency, and with more wall space, you can expand on the drying options. Here one clothes pole above the folding counter holds items straight from the dryer so they don't wrinkle, and a second pole over the appliances allows for air-drying. To speed up air-drying, add a wall-mount radiator ( The remaining leg of the U can be outfitted with the laundry sink and a fold-out or pull-out ironing board.

Room with a View

    Converting a sun porch to a laundry room offers several benefits -- lots of natural light, views of the outdoors to lift your spirits while you sort and fold, and easy access for venting the dryer directly outside. The straighter and shorter the dryer vent, the better the air flow, and good air flow enables your dryer remove moisture faster from the clothes.

Wet and Dry Zones

    To combine the plumbing efficiencies of a galley-style layout with an L shape, think in terms of wet and dry zones. 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. Hanging permanent press items immediately also keeps them from wrinkling. The short end of the L may be a convenient spot for a pullout ironing board.

Choosing the Right Spot

    The default location for laundry rooms used to be the basement and there are still good reasons to put it there (noise, humidity, overflow if a hose breaks). But the perfect spot for you may be in the master suite, close to the children's bedrooms, near the back door, or outside a loft bedroom like this one. If you choose an upstairs 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 is probably too noisy to place near the bedroom or in the kitchen. Washing machines with high-speed spin cycles (over 1000 rpm) may vibrate too much for an upstairs location.

Provide Task Lighting

    Natural light brightens the laundry room and eliminates that consigned-to-the-dungeon feeling, but you also need good task lighting over work areas. Use undercabinet fluorescent tubes or LED undercabinet fixtures to illuminate the countertop so you can match socks or check clothing for spots and stains that may require pre-treatment. Provide lighting that lets you see inside the washer and dryer to make sure nothing is left inside.

Safe Storage

    Include closed cabinets above the washer and dryer in your laundry room plans. This puts laundry supplies within easy reach where you need to use them but safely out of reach of young children.

A Laundry Pick-Up Center

    If you have the wall space, consider adding a shallow, open closet where you can hang clothes as soon as they come out of the dryer. Assign each family member a section, and each person can pick up his or her own clothes once they're clean and dry.

Choosing Surfaces

    Any of the countertop and flooring surfaces that make sense in the bathroom also make sense for the laundry room, but glazed ceramic tile is a particularly good choice. Tile floors and countertops are easy to mop up in case of spills and will not be damaged by bleach. Large square tiles that cover the walls to the ceiling give this bathroom vintage charm.

Space Considerations

    Plan the laundry room layout to allow 42 to 48 inches in front of front-loading appliances. This ensures that when the doors are open, you'll have room to walk around them without bumping into them.

Helpful Features

    A retractable clothesline can be installed between any two walls to give you extra drying space when you need it. The line is wound inside one receptacle and a keyhole-style slot mounts on the opposite wall to hold the end of the line in place. Wooden drying racks also expand air-drying capacity.

Using Color and Pattern

    The laundry room may be all about function, but there's no need for it to look utilitarian. Use painted cabinetry, wallpaper, and solid-surfacing countertops to create a color scheme unique to this room or to link the room to adjoining ones. Remember that even the accessories -- hangers and storage containers -- can help carry out the color scheme and create a unified, organized feeling in the room.

Designed to Blend

    To make the laundry room virtually disappear, consider custom-built cabinetry that encloses the appliances. Bifold doors open to reveal the washer and dryer, while a countertop the depth of the appliances provides a spacious folding station. A narrow, deep laundry sink sandwiched beside the wall is outfitted with a pot-filler faucet. Originally designed for kitchen use, it is convenient for handwashing items and swings out of the way when necessary. Pendant lights illuminate the work area, and upper cabinets store laundry detergents and other household supplies.

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