Cleaning Up in the Laundry Room

Laundry rooms have come a long way from the days of loud washers and dryers stuck down below in dusty basements or banished to the garage. Laundry rooms have come up in the world literally.

In fact, more often now, they are part of the main floor in the home, taking their place, most times, off the kitchen, and sometimes on second floors as part of master bedroom/bath suites.

They have morphed into larger, multi-purpose rooms where consumers can do a load of laundry and accomplish other tasks, such as go online, pay bills, pot plants, store snowy boots and pantry items, and create arts and crafts.

Technology has also given way to quieter washers and dryers and a host of other products that can save consumers money on tasks such as dry cleaning.

As a result, laundry rooms are fast becoming another profit center for dealers and designers, just as home offices have become over the past decade.

"The truth is, kitchen and bath dealers have access to all of the products to do these rooms. If they don't sell these rooms, these products, then someone else will," contends Thompson Price, CKD, CBD, CR, with Callier & Thompson Kitchens, Baths and Appliances in St. Louis, MO.

Alan Asarnow, CMKBD, CR of Ulrich, Inc. in Franklin Lakes, NJ, concurs: "There's an opportunity to add cabinetry sales, for instance, and I think enterprising dealers are capitalizing on addendums to other sales."

'MONEY LAUNDERING'

However, while laundry rooms represent a golden opportunity for dealers and designers to 'clean up,' how can they capitalize on this greater emphasis on laundry rooms and boost their bottom lines through laundry care?

"I certainly encourage any designer todiscuss it as part of a kitchen or bath or upstairs remodel," advises Joan Eisenberg, CMKBD, ASID of JME Consulting, Inc. in Baltimore, MD.

"We are able to sell laundry rooms because we ask for the business. As strange as it sounds, dealers can be too focused on what they perceive as their only job in life the kitchen!" notes Susan Knight, president of Korts & Knight in San Francisco, CA. "My advice is, ask for the business. Don't be shy about telling people that while your store name and your advertising might only talk about kitchens, you are actually well qualified to do whole houses. Then put pictures in your portfolio that show those rooms."

Custom Kitchens, Inc. in Richmond, VA, goes one step further. "We have a display with front-loaders in our showroom,'" reports Richard Hendrick, CKD. "Having the laundry room on display as opposed to just talking about it or showing pictures helps open the door. And we use it as a sample area for things like granite, so we are always taking our clients there. It gets good traffic."

In addition, other dealers and designers recently polled by Kitchen & Bath Design News recommend always asking clients where their laundry area is when doing a kitchen or bath remodel and asking how it can be improved, if they would like it relocated and if they would like to do more than just laundry there and ask the same questions in the case of a new construction.

Indeed, dealers and designers agree that it is their job to raise awareness and bring ideas and solutions to the table that their clients may not ever have imagined on their own.

"People are asking for a bigger space, but they don't know what to do with it. Dealers can come in and help give them what they need," concurs Peter Ross Salerno, CKD, CBD and president/owner of Peter Salerno, Inc. in Wyckoff, NJ.

To that end, Eisenberg offers this advice: "Make sure that, with every client, you address their laundry needs no matter where in the house upstairs, on the main level, etc. and be creative in asking questions, especially in older homes, like where they would like to move the laundry. Find hidden space maybe grab some space from an unused bedroom. There are all kinds of ways, if you try."

The key is determining client needs, and being able to present ideas that would make their lives easier, just like in a kitchen or bath. To counter price objections, dealers and designers suggest pointing out the benefits of having a host of products dedicated to meeting all of their laundry needs at a lower price point than sending clothing out to be laundered or dry cleaned.

Furthermore, point out how laundry facilities can easily be incorporated into a multi-purpose area, one that could accommodate their hobbies, such as gardening, arts and crafts or sewing.

"We're promoting a multi-task area as part of the other work going on. The cost for this is less when you add this into other working projects," notes Michael Cavallaro, CKD, CBD and president of MC Designs Inc. in North Attleboro, MA, who usually adds extra universal storage to a laundry room and countertop space for folding.

"I perform a comprehensive needs assessment, just as I would for a kitchen or bath," explains Asarnow. "I usually recommend upgrading or replacing depending on the context of the assessment. It could be as simple as extending the kitchen floor into the room and installing a shut-off valve for the hoses. At the very least, I'll order up a valve emphasizing the importance of it, as it could prevent a major flood if one of the pressurized inlet hoses breaks. I use that as an opening to discuss the rest of the laundry area."

"There are so many possibilities. If, for example, you are running a kitchen floor into the laundry room, why not ask them about the rest of the room? You could upgrade the cabinetry, maybe not to the same level as the kitchen, but certainly to better quality than what they may already have, if any at all. Especially in new construction, you can do this. You could create a dual function such as laundry/butler's pantry," says Price.

It's a good idea to have options that can mesh with the nearby kitchen or bath, depending on the room's location, but that are at a slightly lower price point, because, as Price notes, it's often viewed as a secondary room that they don't really want to break the bank on upgrading. But, certainly, if the right ideas that make their lives easier are presented, the profits on a kitchen or bath remodel or an overall new-construction job could be easily boosted.

"[In fact], if you start presenting ideas for laundry rooms to your clients, you could be adding another $4,000 to even $8,000 onto a job," asserts Price.

"The biggest challenge to selling laundry rooms is often price. The customer thinks of that room as being 'inexpensive.' But the clients have never done the math of how many lineal feet of cabinets the architect has designed or they have requested for the laundry room versus the kitchen. The truth is that there may be more lineal feet in the laundry room than in the kitchen What we can then do is simply downgrade the door style and the finish. Otherwise the price is too great," adds Knight, who mostly uses laminate cabinets for the price and easy maintenance.

"Having a cabinetry line available that would be a possible step-down in price is helpful," concurs Eisenberg.

"We carry several lines of cabinetry, so if we don't use the kitchen cabinetry in the laundry room, we have other lines to offer. It helps keep the entire project within the firm," further adds Connie Gustafson, CKD, with Sawhill Custom Kitchens & Design, Inc. in Minneapolis, MN.

CLEAN-CUT IDEAS

Because, often times, laundry rooms are pulling double or triple duty as mudrooms, home offices, butler's pantries, sewing rooms, etc., the design possibilities are almost endless, dealers and designers agree. Solutions are only limited to the needs and budget of the client, the size of the space and the imagination and ingenuity of dealers and designers to maximize a given space and budget for their clients.

That said, these dealers and designers have used a host of design ideas and have noticed a few laundry room trends that have worked for their clients, including the following:

'' "The design trends that we have focused on are bench seats and storage bins for shoe and coat removal, racks for coats and jackets for quick access for morning commutes, blackboards for notes for family members and the addition of craft-type cabinets," says Knight. "The other new function in the laundry room is [to provide] places for family pets and their needs. For instance, we've located kitty litter boxes in open cabinets and cut holes into cabinet doors for cats to hop through and eat."

'' "I'm including dog crates and pet areas," concurs Glenda Swanson, designer with Cabinets at Danada, Inc. in Wheaton, IL. "I'm also doing a lot of desks/ computer stations in the laundry room to keep the clutter out of the kitchen. To keep the 'drudgery' out the room, I'm also doing a lot of TVs. Then there are the built-in drying racks and baskets for sorting. These rooms are getting as big as kitchens 15'x15' and sometimes even a little larger. In some, I'm even adding islands, for those who want a hobby area included, for instance.

'' Salerno is also doing much larger laundry rooms 15'x20' or 22' and combining myriad functions, products and details. "I'm adding a lot more windows to make it brighter because you spend a lot of time in there. I'm doing sewing/laundry rooms, putting in ironing centers, folding stations, desk areas, TVs, a second refrigerator or a full freezer. In fact, I just did one with two washers and dryers, a full refrigerator and freezer and an island with a two-person sitting area to enjoy a cup of coffee, a small microwave, TV and ironing center."

'' "We are incorporating tall storage, large counter areas, built-in ironing boards, wall-mount LCD screens that are connected to the whole house system, and fun colors and materials to make it a comfortable space to be in," adds Cavallaro.

'' "I'll often combine the laundry room with the back entry, putting in cubbies for storage for each family member. I'll also do additional pantry storage and a sewing area. In fact, I've done at least three projects recently that have pocket doors that hide a sewing station," notes Gustafson.

The bottom line for design, agree dealers and designers, is to always remember to be creative and listen to your clients' needs. Again, just as with a kitchen or bath, successfully selling a laundry room has a lot to do with first floating their ideas to clients. Without doing so, they say, dealers and designers could be letting money slip through their fingers.

"My feeling is that, if you have an idea and don't show it, it'll never see the light of day," believes Asarnow.

KEEPING IT CLEAN

Today, there is also no shortage of products dealers and designers can sell in order to create a "dream" laundry room, say dealers and designers.

Many cite some of the quiet technology that a number of dishwashers now sport that made living and working in the kitchen much easier as a reason that the laundry room has moved up and in close proximity to the kitchen area. Today's washers and dryers are much quieter, they agree, allowing other activities to be performed in the space.

Then there's the surge in front-loading washers and dryers. It's a slow process, but one that is invading the top-loading sector. That, they contend, frees up space for folding and, therefore, allows them to include countertops that sit atop the washer/dryer units to provide their clients with much-needed folding space.

"The use of under-countertop washers and dryers is becoming big, which allows us that additional length of folding area," indicates Cavallaro.

Some washer and dryer models also have the option of a drawer pedestal, which dealers and designers note serve two purposes: storing laundry products and raising the washer and dryer to a better height. And even without this feature and using other models, some dealers and designers find it more beneficial for their clients to raise the washer and dryer, just as they do the dishwasher in the kitchen.

Other popular products for laundry rooms dealers and designers could consider selling are drying machines, dry-cleaning machines and sinks that wash delicates. A few even point to Whirlpool Corp.'s Family Studio of products as a good example of what laundry care products could be incorporated into this space.

"We find that the products being installed into laundry rooms are the same as they always have been: washers, dryers, ironing boards, storage cabinets for small cleaning appliances," adds Knight. "The additions are usually refrigerated units to tie into the main appliances in the kitchen."

In addition, the growth of laundry rooms has also caused some companies to respond with larger sinks specifically designed for the room, and pull double-duty in the case of a laundry/mudroom or laundry/gardening room. Eisenberg also notes that one architect she's working with is including a shower base with a drain that acts as a place for muddy boots and a place to catch the water from drip-drying clothes.

Then, of course, there's cabinetry, which can be customized to store a variety of products beyond those for laundry care. How much and what kind of cabinetry all depends on the needs of the client, how many purposes the room has to fulfill and the overall size of the room.

Other accessories that dealers and designers should consider selling to polish off a laundry room range from drying racks to built-in hampers and ironing boards/centers.

"I include areas for baskets, sometimes using double roll-out plastic containers for sorting clothing," notes Swanson.

In the end, tuning in to clients' needs when creating a laundry room layout plus a good knowledge of what's out there is the key to successfully selling laundry rooms, stress dealers and designers.

Gustafson agrees, concluding: "After attending K/BIS, I probably did three laundry rooms because I had seen the latest products out there for laundry rooms." KBDN

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