What are the key things to know about your Laundry, so you can create a functional, fantastic space?
Consider how you’ll plan and design your laundry, so it can be the hard-working and functional room your family really needs. And you can maximise how it helps family life overall!
Where in the home
Laundries are a much-used space in the home, but also a space you don’t want taking great real estate in your floor plan. And so, often I see them get pushed to a ‘leftover’ space in the floor plan.
There’s a range of opinions on where to best locate your laundry.
My preference is to have it near the internal entry from the garage. Then, it can act as a dumping ground when everyone arrives home … for dirty shoes, clothing, sports gear, etc … before all of that stuff makes it into the house.
Some prefer to have it near the kitchen – the rationale being you can multi-task whilst using the kitchen, doing loads of washing etc whilst juggling everything else in the kitchen (which is often the heart of activity in the home).
In the USA, it’s common to have the laundry upstairs, where it’s closer to bedrooms (and dirty clothing and bed linen), and dryers are used instead of washing lines.
In Europe, it can be common for the laundry to be located in the kitchen or bathroom … and many compact home designs explore that option here in Australia too. If you’re planning this, check your local building regulations to see whether you need to include a dedicated laundry sink. (Some plumbing codes won’t let you use the kitchen or bathroom sink as a pseudo laundry sink).
Whether your laundry is a room or a cupboard, think about:
- getting dirty clothing to the laundry
- storing dirty laundry in the laundry whilst it’s waiting to be washed
- how you’ll be drying clothing
- what connection you want your laundry to have to other spaces in your home
Consider the acoustic privacy of laundries to living areas and bedrooms (especially if you generally do your washing or drying overnight).
And ideally, you’ll have the option to line dry your clothing somewhere (either externally or internally), so think about easy access to that space. I always prioritise a shorter distance between the laundry and washing line – because a basket full of wet washing weighs more than when it’s dry.
What will you include in your laundry?
Firstly, identify the appliances you’ll need to include. For most, this will mean a washing machine and a dryer. Will you do top loading, front loading, in a tower, or side-by-side?
Front loading can be a great choice if you want to maximise space and benchtop, purely because they can be stacked on top of each other in a tight tower, or side-by-side under a continuous benchtop. People tend to have very definite preferences about which way they want to go with their machines though!!
There’s also the sink … and whether you want something that’s purely functional, or want to choose something for aesthetic reasons as well (like a farmhouse style version).
If doing a front-loader, consider sitting the machine off the floor, so you don’t have to bend down so far to load and unload it. Some manufacturers will supply a structural drawer you can locate under the machine to raise its height.
Get the dimensions right so your machine can fit snugly and prevent those gaps where grime can gather. Locate the power point for the machine in an adjacent cupboard so you can easily switch on and off without needing to move the machine itself.
Then look at what else you’ll want in the laundry … storage, ironing facilities, drying space (we’ll be diving into some of these in more detail later). Think about what you want to reach and access from where, and use the design to make this easy on yourself. Mentally rehearse using the space so you set it up to be as functional as possible.
Then think about how the dimensions need to work. Super narrow laundries can be hard to use, and big spacious ones can become dumping grounds. Cupboards that are too tall can be wasted. Bending down all the time can be painful. Test the design dimensions at 1:1 so you know they’ll work.
Consider including a floor waste in the floor (not always required by building codes) for ‘just incase’.
Choose materials for durability and longevity, as laundries take a lot of punishment. Make the space easy to clean, and review the extent of splashback for easy-to-maintain surfaces. A budget approach can still be super resilient, great looking and functional.
Natural light and ventilation
Ideally you’ll locate your laundry on the southern or western side of your home.
These orientations work well because your laundry is a ‘service’ area. It can tolerate the western orientation (which brings hot afternoon sun) because you’re not in it for long periods of time. The southern orientation means constant, ambient levels of light, which is also good.
Locating it with these orientations enables you to prioritise the north and east for spaces you spend more time in (like your living areas).
If you can, include an operable window in your laundry so you can access natural light and ventilation in the space. Many prioritise storage over window openings in laundries, however, you can incorporate a high slot, or a narrow vertical window, and access that fantastic natural light and ventilation without giving up too much storage.
If it’s not possible, select an external door for the laundry space that has glazing in it.
One big error I see is when people do a laundry with a sliding door at one end that runs from wall-to-wall. The fixed glass side runs down beside the joinery, and the sliding part is the opening to outside. Only it’s a narrow opening when open. Think about how wide you are when carrying a basket of washing, and what that means for walking through doors.
My preferred option is an aluminium framed, 820mm fully glazed hinged door that opens outwards. You can choose an obscure glass if privacy is required.
Have the door open outwards (most plans show external doors opening into laundries as a standard). This will mean it’ll shed any water to the outside when there’s been rain. It also means you can push out on it when walking out with a basket of wet washing, and it won’t take up room inside the laundry as it opens and closes.
Depending on how much you use your dryer, consider how you’ll ventilate the space when the dryer is on, so you prevent condensation in the laundry (which is rife for mold growth).
Condenser dryers can be a great option for laundry spaces that aren’t well ventilated, or for internal laundries, and laundries in cupboards.
In homes with good overall storage design, there’s not a huge amount that actually needs to be stored in the laundry itself.
Many instead create a lot of storage in their laundry, and lose the opportunity for it to function really well as a laundry.
I prefer storage to be located around the home. Bed linen and towels near family bathrooms and bedrooms. Sporting, gardening and camping equipment in the garage. Family files and documents in or near the home command centre / study nook or home office. Kids gear in or near their rooms.
Think seasonally about what you need access to, vs what can be stored away for longer timeframes (even in roof spaces, etc).
Keep your vacuum cleaner in a cupboard near where you regularly use it (if that’s upstairs where all the carpet is, then locate it there).
Think instead about how storage can work for the regular working of your laundry space itself. Tall cupboards can store brooms, mops, ironing board, etc. Overhead cupboards or shelves (out of little people’s reach) can store washing powder etc.
Wall attachments can be great for irons, hand-held vacuum cleaners, etc. You can even hang washing baskets when not in use if you design for it.
Some of the best laundries have sorting storage for dirty washing. This can be through sizing joinery for specifically purchased baskets. Or it can be allocating deep drawer storage below bench. You can then train the kids to sort into the various colours / lights / darks categories via the drawers or baskets. And you can streamline your regular washing, plus not deal with the piles of dirty washing all over the floor.
Think also what happens with the clean washing. Many use their spare bed or sofa to deal with this, which just pollutes your rest and relaxation unnecessarily.
An uncluttered laundry will generally feel far better to use, and improve your overall experience of those necessary tasks that happen ALL.THE.TIME in family life. Designing it so it’s easy for others to also stay organised can be huge in helping family life overall. It will really help with the general feeling of organisation and calm in your home.
These days, the backyard clothesline doesn’t work for every home and every family. Back gardens are getting smaller and smaller, some climates preventing outdoor drying year-round, and people working full-time means they’re not getting home in time to get washing off the line.
A dryer is a solution, and there are some energy efficient options now that won’t guzzle your power or $$$. But if you can dry things naturally, it can be better for your clothes, and for the environment.
So, think about how you’ll design in drying solutions that enable you to have flexibility in your lifestyle, and still get your clothes dry without using a dryer. These are some options:
>> include a fold down or retractable washing line in your double-car garage or carport. This space is usually empty during the day, and washing can hang above the bonnet line. Most garages can actually fit 2 clotheslines, always undercover.
>> include hanging racks in your laundry. This can be a simple single rail over your benchtop for shirts and t-shirts, or taller hanging area for longer dresses etc.
>> include a foldable / retractable hanging rack in your laundry or another internal area. There are lots of options that fold down from the ceiling or wall, manual or electric.
>> look for hanging options that enable you to hang lots of things in a small space. For example,spider like, foldable hanging clothes lines with a series of pegs for underwear and socks, take up little space but can fit a lot.
>> drying rooms and drying cabinets or cupboards can also be brilliant, especially in colder climates. You can purchase proprietary drying cabinets that are simple installations, or create a cupboard that includes ducting from your heating in the floor or ceiling. These can dry clothing quite quickly, and surprisingly, don’t need to be that big. Check your local regulations for requirements re de-humidification, and material requirements.
>> in smaller homes, don’t be afraid to use what you have – especially for the less frequently washed items like sheets, etc. Stair balustrades can be great drying zones with rising heat and ventilation. Your understair area is also a useful zone to repurpose.
Doing a 2 storey home? Include a laundry chute.
You’ll need to think about this right at the start of your home design process, because it’ll determine how your layouts work so you have the right spaces over the top of each other in the arrangement of your home.
One of the ways you can save money in your build, and help the services in your home, is to group your wet areas together, and locate wet areas upstairs over the top of wet areas downstairs.
(By wet areas, I mean bathrooms and laundries).
Planning your home so you have the family bathroom over the top of your downstairs laundry means you can incorporate a chute quite easily. And it means you won’t have to carry loads of dirty washing down the stairs each day (plus you can encourage the family to be proactive in getting their dirty washing to the laundry).
You can still incorporate a chute even if it doesn’t run from upstairs bathroom to downstairs laundry. I’ve done homes where the upstairs laundry chute hatch is in a hallway, or a linen press, or the ensuite. I’ve also done homes where the downstairs end is not inside the laundry, but nearby.
Consider how the chute terminates at each end.
Upstairs, I’ve done options where it was a hatch in the floor of the linen press or walk-in robe. I’ve done options where it was in a cupboard of the bathroom. Or where it’s in a hatch on the hallway, that’s been done as a frameless panel to keep it discrete.
Downstairs, look at where you want the washing to ‘drop’. You can have it drop in a cupboard where you can locate a basket to catch it. You can have it drop onto your benchtop in the laundry (either open or inside a cupboard).
How do you stop kids from using the chute for things other than laundry (including themselves)?
- look at the height it’s located at to avoid little kids getting access to it
- make it lockable
- locate it in the master bedroom somewhere in a more secretive location
Your laundry chute doesn’t need to be a straight drop either. It’s possible to angle it, and it still work. Discuss any assumptions you’ve made with your team prior to starting construction so you know it’ll work around structure and plumbing.
One of the ways you can save space in your home, and make your home multi-functional, is to include other purposes and functions in your laundry.
The mudroom has become an inclusion in many homes. Originally used in homes in colder climates (especially where it snows), mudrooms were a space that acted as an airlock into the home, where wet shoes and coats could be stored before entering the home. Now, homeowners are including them as a ‘drop zone’ into the house, often located near the internal garage entry, for bags, shoes and coats.
Mudrooms don’t need to be a dedicated room though. They can be a zone or space within the laundry. Great joinery design that enables shoe storage, a bench to sit on, and some hooks for coats and bags (or even little cubby holes) can be super functional. It really doesn’t need to be big.
Another inclusion many are looking at for their laundries is to help with their pets. Dog wash areas, or sinks large enough to wash a dog in, with shower attachments for ease of use.
If you leave via your laundry to exercise or walk your dog, then design for it, and include things that make this easier.
Friends I know located their laundry so the keen cyclist hubby could leave and come home after a bike ride, via the laundry, without disturbing the sleeping house. That includes undressing out of sweaty cycling gear, putting it in the wash, and having a shower in a nearby bathroom and getting dressed before stepping back into the house! The whole layout of the downstairs area was to facilitate him not waking everyone in the house each morning.
Laundries can be such a great zone because they usually have connection between the inside and outside of your home, and they generally have durable flooring and surfaces. If you design them well, they’re easy to clean, and so can be a much better access point for bringing dirty kids or pets in from outside.
I’m not a fan of locating the second or guest toilet inside the laundry though. Walking through the laundry to go to the loo never feels great, and always makes that toilet feel more utilitarian and less like a ‘powder room’.
Finishes and details
Here’s a few mistakes people make with their laundry fitout, finishes and details (in no particular order).
>>> In an effort to create a matchy matchy feel through the home, they carry the same finishes through their laundry as they’ve used in their bathroom and ensuite.
Your laundry is a space that is rarely seen by anyone other than those living in your home. Whilst it works well to create a holistic colour palette throughout the home for continuity and connection, the laundry is somewhere you can have fun and do something quirky. Pick a fantastic tile for your splashback. Go a few tones darker for your cabinetry. Bring some joy to the space so it’s not so utilitarian in colour scheme.
>>> You carry the same expensive finishes from the kitchen through into the laundry
A laundry can be durable and low maintenance, without guzzling your budget. If you’ve used stone benchtops in the kitchen, don’t be afraid to use a laminate benchtop in the laundry. You can choose a thick benchtop still, and colour tones that tie together with your kitchen and other wet areas, but save some serious $$$.
>>> Washing machine doors
Know which direction your washing machine and dryer door will open, and don’t put it against a wall or in a corner where you’ll not be able to swing it fully back. Having it bounce against a wall, or be restricted, can make loading and unloading washing more tricky.
>>> Narrow cavity slider to enter the room
In saving space, I see homeowners use a 720mm cavity sliding door, which doesn’t fully open due to the handle on it. And voila, you can’t move a 600mm wide washing machine and dryer into the laundry via that door. Stick with an 820mm door as a minimum.
D-handles or bar handles are a joinery handle where there’s a small projection of the handle beyond where it’s fixed to the door … and I’ve watched my husband tear so many pairs of shorts on such handles, as he catches his pocket on the projecting end of the handle. I’ve seen other homeowners have a similar experience. I won’t ever specify these again in any home!
A laundry is a place to bash and crash a bit. Choose finishes, fixtures and details that will sustain this.
This may be controversial, but I really encourage you to never specify a laminate, vinyl or hybrid flooring for any space in your home, and especially your laundry.
The manufacturers of these products have really nailed their marketing and convinced homeowners they need waterproof floors throughout their home. And consequently, homeowners are choosing the most unnatural, toxic and high VOC materials to cover their entire floors with.
They are not all scratch-proof. They can move and pull away from each other. They are not all fully waterproof. They are printed surfaces designed to look like a natural product, and I just don’t get why anyone wants such a fake imitation of something real in the place they spend every day (for years and years). They sound horrible underfoot.
There are a couple of products in vinyl that are eco-friendly, but you have to look carefully. There are a couple of hybrid options that are too. But for the most part, they are fake imitations of a natural material.
I know that these are lower cost choices than the natural options. I know that they give the impression of a more luxe floor for a lower budget. I get that, when you’re managing your budget and figuring out how to stretch it across all the things you want, it feels right to choose a lower-cost finish that still promises so much durability.
However, when you actually look at how these products are put together, and see all the layers, the manufacture, the glues, the fact that the finish you’re choosing to stamp an aesthetic appearance all over your home is literally a piece of printed paper … we’re building homes we want to last for decades, out of the strangest stuff these days.
If you choose to have these products in your home, please choose well. Do your research into how your choice is made, what the components are, the level of VOCs, the true durability (how has that been tested given the recency of these products?) and how will it really perform?
For any flooring choice – run it under your laundry cabinetry. Avoid the beading, and problems with replacing cabinetry later (and needing to match flooring then).
If your family is like most, your laundry will be an incredibly hard working space.
Think honestly about how you will use this space in your future home, and design it so it makes this simpler and less stressful. For example, if that means that dirty washing normally gets dumped on the floor, ensure your laundry privatised space so it doesn’t clutter the rest of your home. And then design in opportunities for greater organisation with laundry to help your family use the space better.
Create a space that works really hard for you – so it makes your life easier overall.
FOR MORE ON YOUR LAUNDRY, MUDROOM (and LINEN AND WARDROBES:
Be sure to listen to my podcast episode on designing your Laundry and the associated spaces. You can listen here >>> LAUNDRY PODCAST EPISODE
Images are sourced from Canva.