Ultimate in Utility

Story & Photos By Carolin Santangelo

Growing up we called it a “utility” room. It contained all the necessary mechanical equipment that kept the house running. It was a good size room just off the kitchen, with a back door to the outside. It had a large closet to enclose the breaker box, hot water heater and furnace. This room included the washer and dryer, laundry tub and a big chest freezer, where we kept extra turkeys bought on sale at Thanksgiving and the side of beef.

Above the appliances (that were bought from PittsburghApplianceRepairs.com) were a bank of wall cabinets that housed everything from cleaning supplies to the roasting pan and large serving platters that only came out at the holidays. Between kitchen and laundry was a three-quarter bath with sink, toilet and shower.
Our dog, Tinkerbelle, slept in the mechanical closet, because it was the warmest place in the house during the winter!
Gone are the days when the washer and dryer are installed on the ground level of our raised island houses, or in basements in the North or mid-west. We deserve better than that. For many older island homes, laundry was often an afterthought, when a weekend fish camp was all that was conceived, and then the demands of vacations with extended family at the beach, with all the towels and linens that it requires, needed to conveniently be washed, and so the connections were patched into the garage.

During the design phase for small houses and weekend homes, it is tempting for the prospective homeowner to suggest they can get away with a compact closet space to house a stackable washer and dryer. I don’t recommend this, and as a matter of fact, have never developed a house design that limited the laundry space to this extent.
While your place on the island may be a weekend house now, and you think you can get by without a larger laundry area, what if someday you (or the next owner) will live there full time and may have need of more functional space to manage weeklong laundry needs?
At a minimum, I recommend a space that can accommodate side-by-side washer and dryer, with cabinet space above. A floor drain is recommended, though not required by building code in all areas. Having the exhaust vent recessed into the wall can help to conserve space required for this bulky attachment.
Where the location on an exterior wall will permit, I particularly like to include a modest sized (not dinky) window that will allow the person tasked with the laundry to have natural light, and a view of the outdoors while they fold clothes.

In larger houses, the space can be designed to incorporate an adjoining room to function as a butler’s pantry, for pantry goods as well as storage of those extra or seasonal serving items and stemware. It may even include a beverage cooler, or an additional refrigerator. In the largest homes, optional features of this space may be computer desk, hobby and craft storage, so plan for extra electrical outlets, cable and phone connections, too.
Front load appliances can be installed at floor level, with a work surface above, or raised on storage cabinets for easier access. A recent client requested a built-in platform just high enough to fit her laundry baskets out of sight below.
In my own home, the laundry includes a full size stainless steel utility sink. It comes in handy for those larger items that need to be pre-treated or soaked, and is a great place to wash the dog (has a ceramic tile surround for easy cleanup). Adjacent is a small chest freezer, which also makes a great folding surface. A folding step stool fits snugly against the wall. Wall cabinets above the sink contain the iron and cleaning supplies for the whole house, and a hanging rod above the freezer (and hidden from the kitchen behind the door) is used to hang those items that should be air-dried. Above the washer and dryer is a window with a pleasant view of the palm trees on the side yard, and across to the piers. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?
Seaside Home Design, LLC endeavors to educate Islander readers regarding a full spectrum of home design and construction issues; products and materials, and construction techniques; particularly those specific to seaward construction, and also profiles interesting custom-home design projects. Carolin Santangelo is a home designer and owner of Seaside Home Design, LLC. Contact SeasideHome@windstream.net, or 409-632-0381.

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