There was a time that Britain fell out of love with the term ‘utility room’. Boot room was banded around and laundry room was latched onto – two alternatives that had a nicer ring to them, an interiors sense of romance. But as with any trend, they have a habit of doing a full 360. And so, it seems, the trend for skirting around the function-first terminology of ‘utility room’ is over. As a nation, we’re back to naming it as it is – a room all about use and usefulness. But how best to design yours?
Remember, function and form coexist
Too many new-build properties, which are quite commonly designed with a utility room in tow, have a tendency to make your kitchen’s neighbouring space a cold, clinical environment. It’ll typically be filled with the exact same cabinetry as the kitchen, a stainless steel sink, and Bob’s your uncle. If this scenario sounds familiar, your utility room will no doubt do the task in hand, providing you with plenty of extra storage space and the such, but will it be a part of the home that’s enjoyable to pass time in while you root around or take care of a chore or two? Quite possibly not. But it should be, and could be. Every inch of your home is deserving of looking good and making you feel good. And while we’re big believers in the Shaker maxim, beauty in utility, sometimes utility alone just isn’t quite enough.
Have a sink at the ready
If putting the dog in the kitchen sink, washing muddy football boots in a bucket in the garage or hand-washing delicates in the bathtub are all run-of-the-mill tasks in your household, why not migrate them to the utility room?
If budget allows, invest in a deep Belfast sink (or butler’s, as they’re also called) – a double one if there’s room to spare – and you won’t look back. It’ll become the sink that takes care of all the gubbins that currently happen in a part of the home that has never felt quite right or are, plain and simply, just a bit of a pain.
Plus, in summer, you can fill it with ice cubes and use it as a serve-yourself bar when you have your nearest and dearest over for barbecues.
Make your cabinetry clever
You need not settle for the same cabinetry that you have in the kitchen if you feel it doesn’t quite function as well as it could in your utility room. Some naturally will, like wall cabinets and the sink cabinet, but you may well want one or two designed, very specifically for a job you have in mind.
Take for example those in our laundry collection, where there’s a full-height cabinet created to house a washing machine and tumble dryer on top of one another – so you’re not taking up two spots of floor space. They’re reinforced to carry the weight and have ventilation channels to make sure nothing overheats. Or the laundry basket cabinet (which comes in two sizes), which means you no longer need to cart armful after armful of laundry down the stairs and through the house to the machine that lies in wait. A particular favourite of ours is the housekeeper’s cupboard that is effectively a larder for your utility room. It even comes with two hooks and leather loops to secure unruly mop handles and vacuum cleaner nozzles that have a habit of falling out every time you open the cupboard door.
Let your walls share the workload
Here, we’re not just talking wall cabinets, but shelving. Open shelving cabinets to store and display special occasion glassware and serving platters (rather than them occupying much-needed room in your kitchen’s cabinets); peg hook shelves so you can hang things like peg bags and feather dusters; a laundry shelf with a pull-out airing rack to give you yet more space to get everything dry; or floating shelves to have on display an ornament and plant pot or two, because this is a room that’s allowed to be decorative as well.
Maintaining consistency and introducing contrasts
If you’re renovating your utility room, talk to your designer about whether you want it to feel like an extension of your kitchen or a different space altogether – or somewhere between the two. It’s usually a wise idea to keep the flooring the same so that there’s a sense of flow between the two rooms, but there’s no rule to say that the cabinetry needs to be the same style or colour. The key is to ensure any contrasts are sympathetic.
For example, should you have a Neptune kitchen in the Chichester style but were torn between Chichester and Suffolk at the time, you might wish to have Suffolk in the utility room instead – a collection that’s more pared-back so will offer a step-change without straying too far from the timeless timber aesthetic. Or, take the colour that you used on your kitchen island and carry that through to all of the cabinetry in your utility room – again, giving you contrast with a sense of continuity at the same time.
Brand it as you please
With all this talk of utility rooms, know that this is very much a generalist term. If the notion of a laundry room sets your heart aflutter, then run with it and have it designed in a way that’s dedicated to that cause alone. If you want a boot room, then leave the washing machines and baskets where they are and go big with Pembroke shelving for boot storage and a bench for popping shoes on and kicking them off. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to have space for a laundry room and boot room, and there’s still the utility room’s role to figure out. If so, what about transforming it into a wine cellar?
A utility room is a room that can be anything you want and need it to be – within reason. That’s the true beauty of utility.