Planning and designing a utility room

A utility room is key for keeping appliances and laundry separate from open-plan living spaces. Here's how to create one, whatever space you have available

Utility room design with green walls and open shelving
(Image credit: Garden Trading )

Designing a utility room (however small or large) when you're planning your kitchen or perhaps adding a kitchen extension makes good sense, and is more and more a standard requirement in a modern home, just as an en suite bathroom or downstairs cloakroom is. Here's how to create your ideal utility room...

Need more advice on how to plan, design and furnish a kitchen before you starting planning for a utility room? Make sure you check out our expert advice feature, too. Looking for more inspiration? Browse our utility room design ideas – and don't be put off if you have limited space, we have small utility room design ideas, too.

Traditional utility room with sink, storage and plenty of cupboard space

For a similar traditional style utility room try John Lewis of Hungerford

(Image credit: Jeremy phillips )

Why make space for a utility room?

As long as fitting a utility room into your home doesn't compromise your kitchen or bathroom too much, doing so should add value – and if not, desirability – to your home.

‘I’m increasingly asked to create designs for open-plan kitchen-diners, including a separate area as a utility, so much so that it is now unusual if one is not part of a kitchen redesign,’ says Melanie Clear, founder and director of Clear Architects. If you too are looking to create an open-plan kitchen, have a read of our guide. 

With an ever-increasing number of appliances and gadgets in our kitchens, having a separate space to store them, as well as somewhere to carry out tasks such as the laundry, makes sense,' says Matthew Franklin, senior chartered architect at etc Design Ltd. ‘Utility rooms are now often seen as an essential element for a modern family home.'

Contemporary style utility room

Utility room by Martin Moore

(Image credit: Martin Moore)

The cost of adding a utility room

In terms of cost, adding a new utility room, either as part of a kitchen extension or redesign, is very much like adding a small kitchen

You will need to consider the same things, such as redirecting and moving services like water, gas and electric, while also thinking about utility room storage worktops and lighting. 

If you are fitting out a utility room to match the kitchen, expect to pay from £2,000, including plumbing and wiring. Alternatively, a local joiner could fit out the space on a budget and incorporate appliances and white goods that you already own.

A cheaper and more flexible solution would be to buy freestanding or flat-pack furniture and fit the units yourself (find out how in our guide to fitting a kitchen) for just a few hundred pounds. That way the space can be reorganised and adapted to suit changes in your lifestyle.

Large utility room with plenty of space for food prep and extra kitchen storage

If you have the room to convert unused space into a large utility off the kitchen, it’s worth including laundry, food prep and storage areas. A boot room zone will be indispensable, too. Lewis Alderson kitchens, from £35,000

How will you use your utility room?

When planning and designing a utility room, first, consider what you need from your space. This will allow you to plan both its size, if you're extending or moving internal walls, and to determine which fittings you'll need within it.

  • Is it a place for a washing machine and tumble dryer?
  • Do you need an ironing space and a laundry chute from the first floor.
  • Do you need laundry storage ideas included in your design?
  • Do you intend to free up space in your kitchen by having a fridge, prep sink, worktops and storage?
  • Will you be creating larder storage within your utility room?
  • Do you need a large utility room sink for washing a muddy dog, boots or sports gear?
  • Does it need to incorporate room for bike storage?

Larder storage in utility room

Larder storage in a utility room by Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

Where to put your utility room

Where will your utility room be best placed? ‘The location will be driven by your requirements,’ says architect Matthew Franklin. ‘You won’t want a utility space spoiling a view to the garden, for instance, but you might like it to have an entrance to your garden, which means your utility will need to be on an external wall.’

‘It makes sense to have your utility as close to the kitchen as possible, as it is more convenient and less expensive for the utilities to be connected, but there is no hard and fast rule.’ adds Jamie Telford, director at Roundhouse.

Another option is to have a utility room near or within a large bathroom if laundry space is to be its main role.

Laundry room, utility room within a bathroom

Laundry room by Cue & Co of London

(Image credit: Cue & Co)

If you are extending a house, always think about your utility room as subordinate to the kitchen. Designing a well thought-out kitchen will always add more value to your home than a utility room. Alternatively, think outside the box:

  • Could you incorporate the appliances from your utility room into your new kitchen design (see below)?
  • Could you wall off a portion of the garage to fit your washer, dryer and a fridge?
  • Do you have space in the garden for a shed or garden room that could be used as an external utility room?

Utility room integrated into kitchen cabinets

Laundry cupboard in a kitchen, by Cue & Co of London

(Image credit: Cue & Co)

Creating space for a utility room

The prime space for a utility room is one that is under-used, has become overflow storage or is full of clutter. Be creative, even the smallest nooks could be used to free up useful space in your kitchen.

  • If the under stair cupboard is used as a dumping ground, measure it up and consider stacking your washing machine and dryer to create a small utility room (find tons of under stair solutions in our feature).
  • Consider installing a worktop in a storage cupboard. If there is potential to add plug sockets, you could free up kitchen worktop space by moving appliances.

Small utility room under the stairs

This bespoke under stair utility closet is by De Rosee Sa Architects

(Image credit: De Rosee Sa/Alex James Photography)

What features should be in a utility room?

What you choose to include in your utility room is essentially down to how you want to use the space:

Creating a food-prep area in a utility room

You could also relocate your small appliances, like the toaster, microwave and anything else that eats up worktop space.

Utility room with built in cupboards

A food prep area by John Lewis of Hungerford

(Image credit: Garden Trading )

Creating a laundry room

  • Save room with a washer/dryer or stack your tumble dryer over your washing machine.
  • Swap out a tumble dryer for a smaller and cheaper-to-run dehumidifier.
  • A deep sink will be useful for soaking clothes and washing muddy boots (or pets).
  • Lots of versatile laundry storage options.
  • Cupboards invaluable for hiding away cleaning products.
  • Tall cupboards can hide mops, brushes, an ironing board and the vacuum cleaner.
  • If there’s no wall space for drying racks, consider a pulley-style ceiling-hung design.
  • An extractor fan will lessen the effects of condensation.
  • Underfloor heating will help dry your washing without taking up wall space.

Utility room design as a laundry area with open shelving for storage

Laundry room by Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

Utility spaces should be uncluttered, functional rooms, with easy-to-clean worktops and as much storage space as is possible. If there is enough space, a spot for ironing, an open cupboard with hanging space, and shelves for freshly laundered clothes, are all very useful.

Creating a boot room

You needn't make lots of space for a boot room to combine it with a utility room. Use our guide to designing a boot room to find out all the essentials and see our boot room design ideas for inspiration, but look to include:

  • Storage options for shoes and boots and outdoor clothing.
  • Hooks and drying space for damp coats.
  • Benches to sit on while taking off muddy walking boots.
  • If you have dogs, a small shower for hosing down is a popular addition.

Added boot room to a utility room design

Pembroke Shelving from Neptune used in a boot room 

(Image credit: Neptune)

Choosing the best utility room cupboards 

‘If the utility room is connected to the kitchen, it makes sense to continue to use the same style of cabinetry as it will enhance the feeling of space and visual continuity,’ says Jamie Telford, director at Roundhouse. ‘Consider the practicality of the worktops and the internal layout of the cupboards – you may need shelf space for upright vacuum cleaners, mops and brushes, for example, as these need to be housed in tall cupboards. Focus on practical, wipe-clean units, with a mix of open and closed full-height storage that is, ideally, tiered for easy reach for all the family.’ 

Utility rooms may not have natural light, so combining a well-lit room with a neutral or light reflecting unit will help give a spacious feel. ‘You may also wish to consider choosing handle-less styles with integrated appliances for smaller utility spaces to give a seamless look.

Extra things to consider when designing a utility room

Whether you’re adding a utility as part of an extension or you’re converting an existing area of your property, it’s easier and more cost effective to build it near to already existed drainage and ventilation. You’ll also need to think about redirecting heating, water supply, electrics and don’t forget ample power points for all your appliances.

  • Good drainage: Ensure there are sufficient links to the mains and speak to a plumber to assess the cost of relocating pipes.
  • Natural light: Locate the room where there’s access to the outside and a window for ventilation. Consider glazed doors or rooflights, too.
  • A practical layout: Think about the items you wish to store in the utility and ensure cupboards are large enough to accommodate. Try integrating appliances behind doors for a streamlined look.
  • A robust worktop and floor: Invest in hardwearing utility room flooring to withstand wear and tear and heavy duty worktops, especially if the space is to be used for food preparation, as well as household tasks.

Small, well designed utility room

This utility room, designed by Neptune, is small but practical

(Image credit: Neptune)

Work in extra utility room storage

Whatever your intentions for the space, the utility will quickly become the overflow room, so allow for more storage at planning stage than you think you’ll need – open shelves are the most efficient option, but tall, floor-to-ceiling cupboards with sliding doors are ideal for small spaces that you want to look neat, providing hanging space for coats, shelving for outdoor items or bins for recycling. Find tons of storage ideas and buys on our dedicated hub page.

More ideas for your utility room: