- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Once hidden in the shadows of the basement, the washer and dryer have cleaned up their image, rising in the hierarchy of household appliances to become decorated centerpieces of modern, multifunctional laundry rooms.

This migration upstairs has put a new spin on washing clothes, helping to turn a dreaded chore into time well spent.

With the average family washing eight to 10 loads of laundry a week, according to a survey by Whirlpool Corp., the laundry room is one of the highest traffic areas in a home.

An updated laundry room now has become a selling point, Realtors say. Convenient laundry rooms are becoming the must-have feature of new and remodeled homes.

Whether it’s upstairs or downstairs, experts say homeowners are looking for a more spacious and stylish place to do the family’s wash.

Some homeowners are creating dual-purpose laundry rooms. Others are painting, decorating, expanding and installing upgrades in existing laundry rooms — just as they would the kitchen or family room.

“There are two types of people,” says Steve Lowe of RE/MAX Realty Services in Bethesda, who points out that most of his buyers no longer want to do laundry in the basement. “While some people like to have the laundry room near the kitchen with a mudroom, others like to have the laundry facilities on the bedroom level.”

Mr. Lowe says having a dedicated laundry room definitely helps in resale.

“Home buyers want laundry rooms that aren’t on the basement level. They especially take notice of laundry rooms on the main level that lead from the outside,” he says.

Other industry observers agree that a well-planned, multifunctional laundry room can help in resale, as more people discover that a laundry room can be an integral part of the home and a pleasant place to take care of the household chores. Builders are accommodating this lifestyle change, too.

The Gulick Group, for example, is a builder based in Reston that includes generously sized laundry rooms in its new homes.

“Some of our larger homes, especially, have nicely sized laundry rooms, and we have a few people who want to expand them even out more,” says Barbara Vitol, assistant sales manager for the Wild Meadow community in Ashburn.

A survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reveals that a laundry room tops the list of amenities that people say they must have in their homes.

“It really amazed us,” says Gopal Ahluwahlia, vice president of research for the NAHB. “Ninety-two percent of the respondents said that the laundry room was a desirable essential.”

Jamie Antoine, mother of three in Beltsville, says that while she enjoys some of the features that her main-level laundry room offers, she thinks it would be better to have it upstairs.

“I would like to have the laundry room on the bedroom level so that the clothes would get put away in a more timely fashion,” she says.

Experts say placing the laundry room near the hub of the family activity, instead of an isolated basement, makes it a lot easier for everyone to get in on the action. The advent of quiet-running washers and dryers have made upper-level laundry spaces more desirable.

Once the migration upstairs is complete, homeowners also want to incorporate their laundry rooms into the rest of the home’s living space.

“Buyers want a place that looks more like a regular room, not just a utility room,” says Tanya Sabel of RE/MAX South in Woodbridge. “I see a lot of home buyers looking for more functional laundry rooms. They want actual countertop space and storage cabinetry.”

“I like the cabinets that are in my laundry room, but I would love for it to be larger and have shelves and built-in laundry drawers that can hide dirty clothes,” Mrs. Antoine says.

“People want fancier laundry rooms with double sinks, kitchen cabinets and places to put away and hang everything,” Mr. Ahluwahlia says.

“People like to see a lot more cabinet space than open shelving and a space to fold their clothes,” Mr. Lowe adds.

Industry insiders note that built-in ironing boards, cubby holes for sorting clothes, as well as racks or closets for hanging clothes, are in high demand in laundry rooms. Some laundry rooms place the washer and dryer on small pedestals so the homeowner won’t have to bend down so much to load the machines.

Besides more convenient laundry-related facilities, experts say home buyers seek laundry rooms that serve a dual purpose. Some laundry rooms include a gift-wrapping station, sewing center, hobby area and planning center with a desk.

Whirlpool Corp. has even taken the idea of superlaundry rooms to a new level and developed what it calls the Family Studio, a laundry room space that includes elements to make it functional for a variety of tasks.

“We see the Family Studio as a natural evolutionary step in home design,” says Maria Villanueva, brand manager for Whirlpool. This space gives homeowners room to do activities that would normally clutter the kitchen or dining room, she says.

“We already knew from talking to our customers that laundry is a priority,” Ms. Villanueva says. “Several consumers had already built multifunction rooms, places in which they could combine their household chores with those of their family’s and be able to spend more time together.”

“Crafts and homework can be done in the Family Studio in addition to normal laundry tasks. This is an ideal space for an Internet-linked computer, television or anything else that you can imagine,” Ms. Villanueva says. Items such as an island for folding clothes, extra cabinets and shelves for storage, track lighting, an ironing station, and a drying cabinet for air-dry washables can all be put into in the Family Studio.

“People are looking for comfort and convenience. They don’t want to run around the whole house to do their laundry,” Mr. Ahluwahlia says.

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