Mud here, suds there: How to organize your utility rooms

Today’s generation is rapidly reinventing the definition of home. We are transforming our homes into personal spaces where we regularly indulge in experiences that we, at one time, went outside the house for. Along with this transformation comes the demand that each space performs its function the best way it conceivably can, while looking as striking as possible. In my view, this is the hottest lifestyle trend today. Fashion trends come and go but lifestyle trends stand the test of time.

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One space that is, shall we say, bursting at the performance seams is the mud room/laundry room. This hybrid has always had a huge demand on it, yet we’ve always tried to make one room out of the two — one collective space that has ended up delivering neither function nor form.

When designing a space, I first look at the purpose of that space and determine how to get the most out of what it is meant to do.

Ungrouping these spaces is the first thing that must happen. Each should be a room of its own. The mud room is the transition from the outside to the inside of the home. It is a dedicated highway for the entire family, including pets. This is where we shed the winter wear, the dirty boots, the sports equipment and even the grime the dog drags in.

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Here, layout is the first challenge. Make a list of all your demands and create a plan that delivers. Some elements I add include specialized storage spaces, cellphone charging stations, utility sink, dog wash, standup air dryers (for sports equipment or winter wear) and much more. The floor must be waterproof and withstand tremendous foot traffic, so porcelain tiles, quartz surfaces and even ceramics offer a beautiful look with outstanding durability. Look for surface textures that don’t hold dirt and grime; that just makes them a challenge to clean.

Consider installing in-floor heating in this room, it will add a luxurious feel while keeping the floors dry and free of mildew. I even like to heat the floor of the pet wash to eliminate any lingering dampness. (Before tiling, you must treat this feature just like any other shower or wet area. The membrane type waterproofing systems are superior methods of waterproofing and should be considered in all wet areas.)

The mud room needs to be efficiently designed and include the best in storage solutions. With everything in its place, it helps the entire home operate smoothly. I prefer to utilize cabinetry for coat and shoe storage instead of framed closets with doors. Framed-in closets take up valuable real estate with their wall thickness, while a regular swing door provides inadequate access and needs a lot of space for the swing. Drawers are a key element of organization, so it’s important to properly plan the size of drawers required. The style and colour of cabinetry sets the ultimate tone for this space, so speak with a specialist cabinet retailer for advice (for example, it’s important to note that light cabinetry will quickly show wear and tear from the tremendous abuse it will take in this room).

Of course, designing the perfect laundry room depends on the amount of space you can allocate. Some laundry rooms get as much use as the kitchen so need to be as efficient. It doesn’t really matter where in the house it’s located, although my personal preference is always on the second level of a home — it’s more central and closest to the major sources of dirty laundry. The key element to consider first is the size and configuration of the laundry machines. If they’re stackable, that’s great — you can maximize your storage thanks to their smaller footprint. On the other hand, side-by-side front-load machines can take a counter overtop to provide additional work surface. (Make sure to select machines with front-mounted control panels, though.)

Installing pocket doors to cover the machines for a finished look is another designer option.

Next, create a flow within the laundry room that accommodates the order in which the work is done. I find it’s always more effective to utilize individual rolling hampers and create open cubby spaces among the cabinetry for them to tuck into. Check to see the hampers don’t prevent the machine doors from opening. Then, design your cabinetry to accommodate various sizes of specific items such as detergent bottles; use fewer drawers here as cupboards will better accommodate additional linen and towel storage.

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The laundry’s floor should be waterproof, with a drain in the centre of the room, especially if it is located on an upper level of your home. The same waterproofing system as in the mud room should be used. Sheet flooring provides a seamless water-resistant surface with endless design possibilities. Also, consider installing automatic shut-off valves on the water supply lines of the washing machine. It senses an electrical draw from the washing machine. In doing so, it knows that the washer is in operation and then turns on the water lines to the unit.

Since the laundry room is no longer all-purpose, the sink and faucet should be selected to be stylish, yes, but also effective for the specific uses at hand. Whether it’s a deep stainless steel sink or a colourful apron-front sink, it will add usability and splendour to your space. All counter surfaces should be highly durable because this room will surely see its share of chemicals and cleaning supplies; installing a hard-wearing quartz countertop provides a resilient, elegant surface that will not stain.

Whether you love to iron or simply do it because you have to, make sure you accommodate well for this task. You need an area that is well lit, with a dedicated power source and enough room to maneuovre around the ironing table. Most irons require water and therefore you should have reasonable proximity to a sink for filling. I prefer to have a place to tuck away the ironing board and iron when they’re not in use, and if space allows, utilize an all-in-one unit that fits into the wall cavity and keeps the components hidden.

Finally, if the room is a little tight, consider installing a pocket door here, too, to eliminate crowding.

That’s the practical stuff. Be sure to select paint and accessory colours that are bright and fresh. Don’t be afraid to bring a touch of personality to your spaces, however mundane they might seem.

By Ramsin Khachi, Special to National Post | 22/10/13 3:30 PM ET

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