How to make utility spaces work for you

Whether you have an area of kitchen or a dedicated room, Kya deLongchamps puts a crisp, spring spin on the utility area.

WE MIGHT be the whining scullery maids, but metre for metre, the utility room works more intensively than probably any other area of your home. A bit of planning around the endless rivers of washing and various domestic drudgery could turn an underrated room, a pause by the back door or just an obliging length of kitchen cabinetry into your secret weapon.

Sorry to fling something else into that flowing wicker basket but — aesthetically — the mud room, utility, or naughtily snobby “boot room” is actually trending. Heaving together a washer/dryer stack, introducing character or ironing out some storage problems, here are some ideas to utilise the best the service quarters have to offer.

Out of sight, up the walls

Designing the room for sheer practicality, small utility areas should go vertical for storage and embrace the washer/dryer stack (just 60cm of floor-space). Establish your wet counter (sink) if possible, and a (dry) area for folding clothes, laying down baskets and so on. Add blind storage (cupboards) and open shelving to suit. Shelving of 30cm resting on bulletproof 40mm laminate counter, set on a classic 1.8m layout of 30cm/60cm base cabinets including a sink, is a well-edited ideal for a crisp “back kitchen”. Have your local carpenter assemble and install — most of us can never get the job square. Try:

Add free-standing units

Tall, stable, free-standing open shelving allows you to identify and grab up what you need. Detergents and chemicals should, however, be out of reach and locked away from children. Softwood timber (paint it up from raw if you like) and airy open wire storage units of 30cm-60cm depth and various widths are cheap, cheerful and widely available flat-pack everywhere from B&Q to Woodies DIY, The Range and Ikea. Stick to one brand for a harmonious, neat final finish and MDF for a durable shelf surface.

System shelving

Shelving taller than 1.8m? Anchor a suitable legged unit to the wall or use full system rack shelving screwed in place. Look for products with garage-style upright tracks that allow you to build to a pattern and adjust shelving to various heights. Built-up and even over a sink and/or counter, system metal shelving can really rock even a modest area. Check the recommended span for shelf brackets and add lid-free boxes in your style to both micro-manage and tidy up the look. Put logic on regularly used items — placing them at an easy reach. Try Elfa tracks, brackets and shelves from

The locker room

If there’s sufficient passing room in the laundry area with access to the back door, think about building in or placing a bench for the family to pull off their everyday shoes, hang coats and store their outdoor gear. The hutch assembly of a long seat, hooks at head height (with some lower for smallies) and overhead cabinets that lift open on a hinge to the top edge are perfect. Sports gear can be flung into the laundry and if there’s a shower for the truly filthy athlete — this is the place for it. Add a long tall single 60cm cabinet for the vacuum/brooms/mops and more. Try the Home versatile hallway unit banked in doubles from Argos, just €43 or an Ikea Ilvari at €199.

Kitchen manners

Back in the kitchen proper, free-standing storage loaded with baskets will rarely hit the mark for German slab-style sophistication. Integrate neatly in standard blind cabinets, base-box storage style with a double height 30cm wide slide-out pantry unit with chrome racks.

Hafele does a five-basket type for around €150 (without panel front), Avoid wall cabinets in the utility area, even by the back door if the rest of the kitchen doesn’t wear them. They can ruin sightlines in an unattractive canyon. Keep the food prep’ area and machines at a polite distance.

Wall racks and bags

For a tiny utility, one 60cm-75cm shelf may be all you need for housing a few bottles of liquid detergent at an adult reach of about 1.6m. Choose from gentled industrial metal/timber varieties or mildly Victorian single shelves with stout hooks below. A batten to the front edge will avoid a crowning with falling bottles or boxes. Add fabric bags to wall hooks to carry bits the peg bag and other bits n’ bobs or to put empty laundry bags ready for collection.

Period style

A free-standing country-style table leaves room for deep, large laundry baskets below and a perfect folding surface. Tidied into baskets with a 60cm width for a washer/dryer stack, it’s a simple answer for a small area near the back door or in the corner of a kitchen.

A table with a good 90cm height to the side of your stack/sink adds a generous void to slide baskets out of passing traffic. Softening the look? Add real plants where light allows — they will love the slightly more humid atmosphere.

Tiling tales

It might seem like an afterthought, but if you’re going to flood any room in the house it’s likely to be the laundry room. Tiles run up into skirting and grouted properly will pool water away off the sub-floor. You can even add a floor drain if you’re truly worried about it. If there’s an adjoining shower-room (lucky you), the floor can be very slightly raked to flow in the right direction. Look for highly durable, chemical-resistant waterproof choices in tiles, vinyl or full waterproof (not simply resistant) laminates. Laminate over tile is a better defence. Put finished flooring right under the washer and dryer to the wall — the next owner may move the cabinetry!

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