Utility room vs laundry room: which should you have in your home?

If it's a toss-up between a utility room vs a laundry room, experts recommend exploring the subtle but important differences between both additions.

A utility room with sink, cabinetry, and washing machines
(Image credit: Armac Martin)

Utility room vs laundry room: it's a tough one, and surprisingly, there are some subtle but key differences to note when considering one of these additions to your home. Once perceived as luxurious extras, utility rooms and laundry rooms are increasingly common, even in smaller homes. And both are well worth the setup time and investment because they free up valuable space elsewhere in your home – especially in the kitchen. To say nothing of the fact that utility and laundry rooms can in themselves look beautiful, making the process of washing and folding laundry, and other household tasks, more pleasurable... For real! 

Before you start browsing laundry room ideas or carving out space for a utility, it's worth thinking about the pros and cons of both spaces. Once you've decided which is better suited to your needs, you can start thinking more about the design.

A utility room with light green cabinetry and stacked washing machines

(Image credit: Armac Martin)

What is the difference between a laundry room and a utility room?

The most obvious difference is in the names. Kyle Davies, the Director of Handyman Hunter explains that 'a laundry room is, simply put, a place specifically dedicated to doing laundry. It's where you'd place your washing machine and dryer and other related paraphernalia. A utility room, on the other hand, is a more general use space, hence the ''utility''. It's targeted as a very functional room that serves multiple purposes and is usually near yet separate from the kitchen for heavy-duty cleaning equipment and/or storage.'

Laundry room with integrated pet bed

(Image credit: Tile Club)

In other words, the concept of a utility room is similar to that of a laundry room's however, the latter is a more dedicated space for your washing and a utility varies in design. For example, one identifying feature of utility rooms is their extensive storage in comparison with laundry rooms. According to Volodymyr Barabakh, the Co-Founder and Project Director of building contractors Structural Beam, utility rooms typically 'hold extra cabinets for storage'. At first glance, you may think that utility rooms and laundry rooms are exactly the same, since both will have 'a sink, washing machine and dryer', but a utility room typically will also accommodate cleaning equipment and products, and maybe even functional elements like a boiler or water heater. Utility room storage ideas are an essential component of designing them.

It's also worth considering the differences in the typical locations of these two rooms. While both laundry rooms and utility rooms are often found near kitchens, this isn't always the case. Chris Alexakis, an interior designer and the co-founder of Cabinet Select, points out that 'a utility room is typically adjacent to a garage or closet, where it is convenient to store household cleaning supplies. On the other hand, a laundry room is usually a basement or lower-level room where the laundry appliances are within easy reach of a washer and dryer.'

Utility room vs laundry room: how to decide which will suit you better

The biggest factor in deciding whether you should have a laundry room or utility room is space. Laundry rooms are highly sought-out spaces but, Barabakh reminds, 'since a laundry room is exclusively used for laundry you would only opt for this choice if you have the space to dedicate a whole room to this.'

Generally speaking, laundry rooms don't have to be big, and even small homes can have one if there is sufficient storage elsewhere. However, 'If you are in need of extra storage, or if your belongings don't seem to have enough space around the house then you may want to consider turning this extra room into a multifunctional utility area.'

The choice will also depend on the layout of your home. Alexakis believes that 'it can be beneficial to have a single room to serve the purpose of both a laundry room and utility room' if the room in question is big enough. This will help you keep all your cleaning appliances like vacuum cleaners and household chemicals in one space.

However, it's best to avoid cramming everything in one smaller space, so 'if you don't have enough space for such purposes, you might elect to have separate rooms for laundry and utility. Laundry rooms are typically smaller than utility rooms, so the choice often comes down to square footage.'

Laundry room

(Image credit: Brandt Design)

Don't have a separate room at all? You could still have a utility area or closet, advises Davies: 'If you don't necessarily need a whole room within the house for additional cleaning equipment and whatnot, maybe leaning towards a utility closet is a better choice.'

The expense of realizing those neat laundry room storage ideas is also worth thinking about. Davies's top tip is that 'if you think having a dedicated space for laundry is excessive or out of budget or you just don't have the room for it, incorporating it in some other places (e.g. the kitchen) could be an option.' Open-plan kitchen layouts are especially forgiving of incorporating a laundry room-style area – just make sure it's well away from the cooking area.

A beige utility room with laundry bins

(Image credit: Armac Martin)

In a nutshell, a utility room is more versatile and can accommodate a laundry room within it: 'a utility room is for general use so incorporating a laundry area in the space is more than possible as long as you have the pipes and the systems in place. In that sense, the utility room is worth having as it is more flexible and can accommodate more use for the area.' A laundry room may look prettier and more streamlined, but it makes more sense if you have a room to spare for it.

Utility room vs laundry room: which is more desirable?

This may sound like an odd question in relation to rooms that are primarily functional, but there's no denying the fact that laundry rooms are very desirable spaces nowadays. Taking your home organization to the next level is definitely currently a thing, not least thanks to the rise of the Marie Kondo tidying up method. Barabakh confirms that between utility rooms and laundry rooms, 'a laundry room is definitely more glamorized.' Laundry rooms are associated with neatly folding fresh laundry, while utility rooms may conjure up associations of much more practical activities like looking for the floor cleaner. 

Laundry rooms are more readily associated with a nice design, although in practice, there's no reason why you can't make all those storage cabinets in the utility room look just as nice. Painting kitchen cabinetry as opposed to open shelving will take a utility room to the same level of desirability as a laundry room, although if you are planning on selling your home, you may wish to use the term 'laundry room' as it's so desirable.

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

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