Call it what you will — utility room, laundry room, mud room — the names say it all. It’s a place for the washer and dryer to live, a place for wet and dirty clothes to hang out, a landing point for muddy boots and chore jackets, you name it. If you have one of those multipurpose rooms and you’d like it to do even more, or at least do it more efficiently, here are a number of suggestions that allow a hardworking room to work even harder.
Deal with your hang-ups: Adding a clothes pole will give you a place to hang damp clothes while they finish drying, which saves dryer time and helps prevent clothes from shrinking or wrinkling. Clothes poles can be hung on the same brackets used for closet installations, and also offer an easy way of adding another shelf above the pole.
You can also make a simple and decorative clothes rack from piece of wood with pegs or metal hooks. Attach it to the wall near the door for convenient storage of coats and umbrellas.
Kick your shoes off: If you’re fortunate enough to have a larger utility room that’s accessible to the outside, add a bench to make it easier to sit down and remove wet shoes. Leave the bench open underneath, and add a shoe rack to provide a convenient spot for drying and storing shoes.
Don’t hamper your laundry day: By installing some convenient hampers, you can make laundry day a little easier. One solution is to install roll-out hampers in base cabinets, which better utilize the cabinet space and also free up floor space. Use at least two hampers, so clothes can be sorted as they’re tossed in. If cabinet space is at a premium, there are a number of compact hamper units available at home centers, both freestanding and wall hung.
Iron out the wrinkles: If you have an old, space-hogging ironing board that always looks ugly and is always in the way no matter where you put it, consider the addition of a folding ironing board that hides away inside the wall. Ironing board cabinets come completely preassembled, and simply slip into a recess in the wall between the studs. After installation, the only thing visible is the face frame and door, which are available in several door styles and wood types to match any home.
Basic models of folding ironing boards house the board only, and are the easiest to install. Some of the upgraded versions have an interior electrical outlet with a timer that lets you plug in the iron and then shuts it off again after a predetermined interval, and therefore require an electrical connection as well.
Add some flat space: The addition of a flat table or counter for folding clothes can be a real time and work saver. Clothes can be dealt with as soon as they come out of the dryer, and the wide, flat, solid surface is a whole lot easier to work on than folding clothes on the bed. Plastic laminate counters work best here, being durable, water-resistant, smooth, and easy to clean.
If space is limited, you might consider a folding table. Attach a laminate counter to the wall on hinges, with legs underneath — secured either to the wall or to the underside of the counter — that fold out to provide support and fold back in to let the counter lie flat against the wall when not in use. It also keeps your counter from getting piled high with junk, which kind of defeats its original purpose.
Paws for more help: If you’re fortunate enough to have a pooch or two sharing your home, the utility room can be an ideal place to handle some of their storage needs as well. A wall-hung hook or peg rack can hold leashes, collars and a towel for those damp, after-walk cleanups. There are a number of sturdy and sanitary bins available to store dog food, and a dedicated shelf or small cabinet is ideal for storing grooming supplies, medications, toys and other items that need their own home.
For those of you with larger utility rooms, you might be able to dedicate a corner to a dog-wash area and eliminate the need for those messy bathtub encounters. Some possibilities for this include installing a small bathtub on a raised platform — the elevated height makes dog-washing a lot easier on your back — or having a spot for a portable wash tub that can be stored away when not in use. Booster Bath is a great, affordable wash tub that breaks down easily for storage when not in use.
Most of the items you need for a utility room makeover are readily available at any home center.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.