The Furore collection, from Crown Imperial, shown in oyster and black oak gloss, has floor-to-ceiling units and can incorporate both integrated appliances and interior storage. Prices start at £10,000

Why are utility rooms so popular?

A utility room is now a standard requirement in a modern home, similar to an en suite bathroom or cloakroom. ‘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 rooms are an easy way to conceal the more functional elements of the kitchen,’ says Tony McCarthy, from Crown Imperial, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. ‘And with the increase in open-plan living, we’ve noticed customers prefer to create a defined separation between their kitchen and utility functions, where space permits.’

If you’re extending your home, where should you think about putting a utility room?

First, consider what you need from a utility room in terms of space, appliances and equipment. It could just be a place for a washing machine and dryer, or it could be a laundry room with ironing space and a laundry chute from the first floor. There’s also a trend for back kitchens with a fridge, prep sink and worktops.

Then, you can think about where you’d like your utility room to be. ‘The location will be driven by your requirements,’ says Matthew. ‘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. In an extension, the size of your utility will also be governed by the space you want to allocate to the kitchen, which should always be more important.’

Jamie Telford, director at Roundhouse, adds, ‘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.’

How can you create space for a utility room if you don’t already have one?

‘I’d advise looking at what spaces might be under-used in the house and considering whether they could suit your requirements,’ says Matthew. ‘Is there an area of the kitchen that’s a bit of a dumping ground? Are you using your garage or the space under the stairs to full advantage?’

Once you’ve decided where you’d like to put a utility room, you can use partition walls to create a separate room, or, if the space is already defined, such as under the stairs, install kitchen units and appliances.

‘If you go for a bespoke kitchen company it will mean that the cabinetry can be built to fit your available space,’ says Jamie. ‘It’s often surprising how much can be squeezed into the smallest of spaces,’

What features should be in a utility room?

‘Ideally you should be able to include a washing machine, dryer, additional fridge freezer and a sink area,’ says Tony. ‘Sufficient worktop and storage space are also crucial to help keep utility spaces clutter-free. If you’re purchasing new appliances, consider those with a low decibel rating for a quieter working experience.’

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.’

utility room with boot storeRoundhouse Metro matt lacquer units, painted in Farrow & Ball Pavilion Grey, with worksurface in Blanco Zeus Rustic Oak, and glass splashback in Mushroom. Roundhouse bespoke kitchens start at £35,000

For a food-only space

If yours will be mostly used as a pantry or an appliance store, your utility needs to be no more than a well-lit, cool, shelved-out space. However, if you want it to be more like a mini-kitchen, you might like to include a food prep area, a sink, cupboards to house waste bins and a dishwasher, not to mention a freezer and perhaps an extra fridge or wine cooler.

Lewis alderson barnt green kitchenIf 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

Create a laundry room

If your utility is just for laundry and cleaning, an extractor fan will lessen the effects of condensation, and underfloor heating will help dry your washing without taking up wall space. 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 and pets, and cupboards invaluable for hiding away cleaning products, including a tall one for mops, brushes, an ironing board and vacuum cleaner. If there’s no wall space for drying racks, consider a pulley-style ceiling-hung design.

ikea kitchen utility larderA space that’s more larder than utility needs good ventilation, a cool atmosphere and plenty of open shelving and storage units to keep things neat. Ivar shelving systems, £58 per section; Sortera waste sorting bins with lids, £9 each; Bekvam step stool, £13, all Ikea

What kind of unit works best in 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. ‘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.’

Tony adds, ‘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,’ says Tony.

What do you need to consider when designing a utility space?

‘Don’t build it bigger than you need to, but don’t build it too small,’ says Matthew. ‘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 have plumbing zones near to one another.’

Although it makes sense to locate your utility room close to existing connections for drains and ventilation, these can be installed anywhere in the house, at a cost.

Wherever you choose to put your utility, you’ll need to think about heating, water supply, lighting, ventilation and drainage. ‘It may sound obvious, but don’t forget ample power points for all your appliances,’ adds Tony.

‘It’s important that a utility provides a practical and efficient function and flows well with the rest of the house. Ideally, the room should be sited near to the kitchen with outside access and good ventilation, but if it is to be used predominantly as a washroom, you may prefer to locate
it on an upper floor near bedrooms to make laundry easier, or perhaps in an unused cellar space, so no floor area needs to be sacrificed at ground-floor level,’ says Melanie. ‘The location will be decided on how the room will be used, as well as where there is sufficient space to make sure it’s a worthwhile addition to your home.’

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.

What will it cost?

A drying cabinet, such as the PEKO ETS-1900, costs from around £770 at Icon Appliances. If fitting out a utility room to match the kitchen, expect to pay from £2,000, including plumbing and wiring but not appliances. Or, buy flat-pack furniture and fit it out yourself for just a few hundred pounds.

Tips for design success

Melanie Clear of Clear Architects offers her advice:

  • Good drainage Ensure there’s 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 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