Extreme Laundry: The Latest Laundry Trends

The cost and complexity of the laundry room continues to evolve, so it seems important to look at a few of the latest trends in the parts, pieces and design of this significant space.

At our “Luxury Kitchen Trends” presentation at the International Builders Show in February, I listened to my fellow speaker, CKD Connie Edwards, discuss the incredible design opportunities related to the expanding role of the laundry room in the home.

The Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in April also showcased a huge variety of laundry appliance features, both aesthetic and performance related, and the Design Idea Center included concepts in the laundry area focusing on a variety of functions beyond simply the tasks of washing and drying dirty clothes.

My friendly appliance expert, CKD Mary Jo Camp, tells me that prices for the washer and dryer today run from $600 at the low end to $3,500 for a pair of front-loaders on pedestals with steam features. In fact, these appliances can go as high as $6,500 for certain little giants or $24,000 for the commercial pair offered to the few “extreme launderers.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I’d still say these costs are noteworthy. They make a statement about the value of the laundry function to today’s consumers, and, as a result, the changing role of this space in the home from a design standpoint. We are looking at much more than a laundry room in today’s designs – there’s a lot more going on in this space than just cleaning clothing – so it seems a good time to mention some of the design ideas and considerations I’m finding.

Clever Solutions

Design considerations for the laundry space have changed, and that means we as designers must be thinking outside the box to devise clever solutions to address our clients’ primary needs and concerns. In particular, work and storage space are becoming increasingly important components of the laundry area.

While I have long been a proponent of the elevated washer/dryer, our firm is finding many people will still opt for the standard height or front loaders with the ability to design a standard counter above them, increasing the space for folding, sorting and storing clothes prior to their return to the dressing areas of their owners.

Several of the front loaders allow for the removal of the top of the appliances to accommodate a counter finishing at the standard 36" height.

When designed this way, access to shut-offs should be planned in an adjacent base cabinet or in an otherwise easily accessible area. Maintaining at least 48" in front of the machines provides for clearance around the door swings and for improved access for the variety of users.

The traditional laundry tub seems less critical than in years’ past, but at least one sink for hand washing and possibly a second for auxiliary activities such as potting plants or arranging flowers seems popular – a dirty sink and a clean one, specifically.

Traditional storage of laundry detergents and aids has been next to or above the appliances. A favorite new concept for me as well is the pedestal that houses a drawer for such detergents, dispensing the proper amount as communicated by the washer, eliminating the need to lift and haul those heavy bottles. Other laundry aids are still best stored next to – rather than above – the appliances, and cabinet accessories are available to make this storage easy to access.

We know the laundry room has risen from the basement, but statistics show a pretty equal division between locating the laundry near the kitchen/social center, and the bedrooms where much of the laundry is generated. Many appliance manufacturers have accommodated these preferences by creating machines that run more quietly than ever before. Even so, sound insulation in the walls should be planned to minimize the noise factor.

It is worth mentioning that multiple laundries are no longer rare – and many clients will choose to locate one in each of these preferred locations to maximize convenience.

Sorting dirty laundry has been made significantly easier by the incorporation of multiple bins, with a common choice being three bins: one for darks, one for lights and one for delicates. Today we are seeing a fourth bin being incorporated for collecting those items destined for the dry cleaner. All of these bins are usually behind cabinetry or otherwise concealed to keep the space looking good, especially when it is located in a higher traffic area.

Laundry chutes are back with a vengeance. Again, they drop into a concealed, generous collection spot in the laundry, keeping appearances tidy.

While the clothes line seems to be making a comeback in answer to environmental issues, several wonderful new accessories are available to provide maximum hanging in a minimum of indoor space. In addition to the hanging racks, the design of a shower-like area – complete with floor drain – or at least a hanging rod at adjustable heights over the sink, is a great idea.

This system can be expanded to include nets or shelves that can be used to dry sweaters or other hand washables that must be dried flat. Remember to provide proper ventilation when planning this much moisture in today’s tight homes.

Some storage for clean items is often desirable, as well. Frequently, table linens will hang in the laundry room, so closet or hanging space is also important for this. In some cases, especially near the bedrooms, cubbies, shelves or bins are sometimes planned to store clean laundry until it is picked up by its owner. Making these bins removable, such as baskets on sliding rails, makes pick-up and delivery easier. These areas can also be customized for individual family members to make the area more family friendly.

Ironing is making a comeback, too. Built-in storage for the ironing board and equipment is showing up in multiple locations around the home – the laundry and the master dressing area being most common. It is critical to be sure the user can approach the ironing center from either side. Traditional mangles and rotary irons are showing up, particularly useful for table and other linens, and they require careful planning as the user operates from a seated position.

While there are many auxiliary activities that can certainly be included in the laundry room, I’ll just mention the one that showed up repeatedly at the recent K/BIS. Where there is hanging space with a floor drain and likely a raised threshold, adding a hand-held spray, usually low on the wall, can add multiple functions, particularly as a pet bathing station.

It comes as no surprise that the space given to the laundry has grown, and as a result of this growth, expectations for what this space will provide have grown, too. Clients seem to be looking for a flexible space that can accommodate not just a washer and dryer, but a place to sort, fold, do hand washing and in many cases, accomplish other storage and household activities. Hopefully these ideas will help you meet those needs.