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

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If you're redesigning your kitchen from scratch, or perhaps planning a kitchen extension, consider incorporating a utility room (however small or large), 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.

And once you've found out how, be inspired by these tiny utility spaces for even the smallest home.

Laundry room

Utility room by Ikea

(Image: © Ikea)

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.

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,’ he adds.

Utility room

Utility room by Martin Moore

(Image: © 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 the storage space, 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 for just a few hundred pounds. That way the space can be reorganised and adapted to suit changes in your lifestyle.

Lewis alderson barnt green kitchen

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?

First, consider what you need from your utility room. 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 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 space?
  • Do you need a large 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: © 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: © Cue & Co)

If you are extending your home, always think about your utility room as subordinate to the kitchen. A large, 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?

Washing machine and dryer hidden in a kitchen cupboard

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

(Image: © 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 (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.

De Rosee Sa Caithness House

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

(Image: © 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

A food prep area by John Lewis of Hungerford

(Image: © John Lewis of Hungerford)

Creating a laundry room

  • Save room with a washer/dryer or stack your tumble dryer over your washing machine.
  • 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.

Laundry room

Laundry room by Ikea

(Image: © Ikea)

Matthew adds, ‘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

  • Storage 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.

Fitted shoe and accessory storage in a bootroom or hallway

Pembroke Shelving from Neptune

(Image: © Neptune)

Choosing the best units for a utility room

‘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.

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 kitchen 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.

Work in extra 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.

More ideas for your utility room: