Found Money

Kitchen and bath designers may have another way of finding money in the laundry.

Today’s laundry rooms are rapidly evolving in principle and practice, and are emerging as key profit centers for designers. Products that are often included in the kitchen – cabinets, sinks, faucets and appliances, to name just a few – are also important elements in highly functional, highly styled laundry areas, and are therefore a natural addition to the kitchen and bath designer’s portfolio of services.

Many laundry rooms are adjacent to or part of mud rooms, elevating their importance with regard to the central activity of the home. Others are within the immediate proximity of the kitchen, with some even acting as an extension of the space.

One thing is clear, according to Robert Gabert, CKD, president of North Palm Beach, FL-based Carousel Kitchen & Bath: “Laundry rooms are not just for laundry anymore.”

Gabert believes designers need to show their clients that there are multiple uses for the laundry area, such as for long-term storage, hobbies or sewing.

Put another way, as clients look to expand their homes in practical ways, designers can capitalize by using laundry areas as a new profit stream.

“With so many uses for the space, our clients will see the benefits of a more sophisticated design,” Gabert stresses.

Darrel Stoesz, sales/design consultant for The Kitchen Showcase in Denver, CO, concurs: “It’s amazing to me how quickly customers will spend money in this room once they see an idea they like.”

Beyond the Basics

Obviously, there are specific elements that must be included in the laundry room to make it functional. A washer, dryer, hang-dry area and sufficient counter space or folding table are all must-haves to make the room work. In addition, proper storage for detergent and other laundry necessities is a given.

Today’s customers are asking for front-load and top-load washers equally, according to designers.

But, cautions Gabert, “We can never assume anything when it comes to a washer and dryer ensemble configuration, since

each one has a different challenge in terms of upper storage height and depth as well as clearances for pedestals.”

Gabert continues, “New appliance technology and additional specialty appliances for the laundry room will require renovation, so any time we can expand space, it helps boost our bottom line.”

While Stoesz notes the sales of steam dryers – which help remove wrinkles from clothes – are on the rise, hanging areas are still a key element in the design of these spaces.

To add to the room’s upscale look, Stoesz usually incorporates a ‘bridge’ above the hanging space, and lets the crown molding continue across it to complete the look. “Crown molding used to be the first thing eliminated in the budget, but now more and more customers want the quality in this room to be equal to that of their kitchen, if not the same style.”

Moving beyond the basics, a laundry sink and faucet are desired elements for most laundry spaces, as is cabinetry.

“Although there are more high-end products available, for example, say steamers or valets, our customers are requesting storage as a priority in their laundry spaces,” reports Gabert. “Ironing boards installed in cabinetry are also popular.”

Susan Wittenbrink, designer for Keystone Kitchens in Woodinville, WA notes: “Storage is always an upsell opportunity for the laundry area, so cabinetry and additional shelving are often added there.”

And don’t forget lighting, Wittenbrink adds. “Ample lighting is another upsell item and is an important addition to a laundry design because it enhances the tasks typically performed here,” she comments.

While this is a highly functional space, aesthetics play an important role when it comes to boosting a project’s profitability.

“The days of a totally utilitarian, sterile laundry room are disappearing, and people are adding colors that reflect their personalities,” remarks Stoesz.

Clients are incorporating vivid colors such as reds and greens, as well as creams and variations on whites. “We also are seeing more wood colors being used to warm up the room,” he adds.

“Because of all of the exciting colors available now [with regard to laundry appliances] as well as the stainless steel options, we are seeing a correspondence between matching or complementary colors and the total amount of money being spent on this room,” continues Stoesz.

“We now have to explain to the client that there has to be a generous budget given to this room, as opposed to the old days of installing white melamine cabinets over the washer and dryer,” he says.

Indeed, Val Stuessi, CKD of Crystal, MN-based Crystal Design Center notes, “People want the laundry room to be a bright, happy place in which to work – tasteful with a touch of fun, with color or pattern in the design.”
As a result, countertop materials have also evolved in this room, with granite, quartz and stainless steel becoming more popular, along with quartz and granite composite sinks.

Wittenbrink likes the idea of using stone left over from a kitchen countertop in the laundry room. “This stone would normally be used as a remnant for another job,” she explains, “but using the
same material that was used in the kitchen [for the laundry room] can be a very profitable aspect when designing a laundry area.”

Laminates also remain a popular countertop material in the laundry room because they offer a plastic-coated smooth surface that is easy to clean, she continues. “Laminates are also available in lots of colors, and are durable and less expensive than other countertop materials,” she comments.

Wash and Go

Moving past the basics, one of the keys to profiting on laundry rooms is to understand how the space is growing in size and importance and taking on multiple uses. Long gone are the days of using it simply as an area to wash and fold clothes.

Today’s laundry room is often being incorporated into another room that is growing in popularity – the mud room. A dedicated mud room is an ideal space for growing families as a place for coats, backpacks and sports equipment.

Jim Dove, design consultant with Canterbury Design in Morristown, NJ notes that, as usable space becomes more of a premium, he finds himself designing rooms for multiple uses, and sees laundry rooms coordinating with the mud room.

“I make the mud room an aesthetically pleasing and functional space because, to me, it is truly the ‘family entrance,’” he explains. “The laundry area makes great sense here for a family on the go because muddy sporting equipment doesn’t cross the threshold into the clean living areas,” he adds.

“I see laundry rooms being a multi-task area and doubling as a mud room,” adds Wittenbrink. “Having a place for everything makes life easier, with cabinet accessories such as wire baskets, closet hampers, shoe cubbies and shelf organizers.”

Stuessi continues: “It can be a great space for shoes, boots, jackets, sports equipment, or also be a getaway and include a TV, small refrigerator, phone and computer, much like a home office.”

“By combining a mudroom or a craft room with a laundry room, the client is getting more bang for their buck,” stresses Dove. “It’s easier for the client to justify spending the money if they are getting a multi-purpose space.”

It also makes the design more appealing for the customer from a budgetary standpoint – and therefore a more likely sale, he offers.

The laundry room will also get a more upscale facelift if it is used as an adjacent space to the kitchen.

“These rooms can even be planned to serve as the bar area during a party, offering an attractive area with dedicated sink and counters and good lighting,” offers Stuessi.

“In some cases, combining the laundry room with the kitchen makes sense,” concurs Gabert. “This will give greater square footage for a more open design.”

In this situation, the laundry room can act as a storage and utility room for the kitchen, housing everything from linens and extra dishes and pots to spare appliances such as freezers, second refrigerators, ice makers and wine refrigerators.

“And, multi-purpose rooms are getting larger and pricier, so it is also more appealing to a designer salesperson to commit the time necessary to make the space fantastic,” Dove adds.

Gabert believes that laundry rooms will only become larger multi-purpose rooms going into the future. “We, as designers, need to focus on the space to accommodate our client’s lifestyle [and improve our bottom line].”

Show your Stuff

One of the best ways to plant the idea of a laundry room renovation with your customers is to install a dedicated laundry display in your showroom, designers agree.

“Having a showroom display showing some of the possibilities for that space, both as a laundry room and a mudroom, has been very advantageous for us,” notes Stoesz. “Since people are very visual, many will try to budget to incorporate the ideas they see into their home.”

Stuessi agrees: “We have a laundry and mudroom display in our showroom, with hampers, a bench/coat hook nook, an Asko undercounter washer and dryer and a desk with a sewing machine on it. You can barely tell it’s a laundry room, and everybody that passes it wants it!”

Gabert adds that including laundry rooms in all marketing and portfolio material is another sure-fire way to create buzz about your design services. “By showing a multi-purpose room, we can spark interest to renovate,” he says. “The key is to expand the sale beyond the kitchen or bathroom.”

Wittenbrink agrees: “Before-and-after pictures always get customers excited about how they can [improve] their space.”

In the end, Gabert stresses: “Laundry areas are definitely a source for new customers who maybe aren’t ready to do their kitchens or baths but are inclined to use a professional designer.”

Stoesz agrees: “Customers will do smaller remodel projects in their homes, and laundry/mudroom projects are very popular for that reason. We value these projects as inroads to other projects.”

He adds that often, the quality of the cabinetry that customers choose for the laundry room is better than what they have in their kitchen. “That spurs on that next project,” he concludes.

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