- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Bethesda resident Lisa Baker cannot wait to have her laundry room upstairs. A mother of two, Mrs. Baker does about 10 loads of laundry a week, making at least 30 trips up and down the stairs to wash, dry and bring the laundry from the basement to the upper levels of her town house.

“It’s not a bad thing. Exercise is good,” Mrs. Baker says.

Even so, Mrs. Baker wants her laundry room on the second floor near the master bedroom, in keeping with a 20-year trend to locate laundry facilities close to the source of dirty clothes, linens and bedding. Most of today’s new homes are built with finished laundry rooms near either the bedrooms or the kitchen, instead of in the basement, according to metropolitan-area interior designers.

“When the laundry room’s downstairs, and it’s time to put [the laundry] away, you have to bring it upstairs. Here, it’s close to the closet and the linen closet,” Mrs. Baker says about the custom-built, five-bedroom home she and her family plan to move into in July.

Laundry was done on the back porch until indoor plumbing became available in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The laundry room was moved into the basement because the basement could accommodate water from washing and provide space to hang clothes, according to Keidel Supply Co. Inc., a plumbing supplies distributor based in Norwood, Ohio.

In the 1980s, builders moved laundry rooms out of the basement to the upper levels of the home as a matter of convenience, says Skip Sroka, owner of Sroka Design Inc. in Bethesda and a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

“We live in a time where convenience has to be respected. No one has the time to run up and down stairs anymore,” Mr. Sroka says.

More than 90 percent of the homes that Mr. Sroka’s firm designs place the laundry room near the second-floor bedrooms off a foyer or hall.

“Everything from what you sleep on to what you wear, it’s there, so it makes perfect sense to have [the laundry room] up there,” Mr. Sroka says.

Susan Wegner of Bethesda agrees. She and her husband, Adam, designed their five-bedroom home, which was completed in July 2001, with the laundry room on the second floor across the hall from the master bedroom, instead of in the garage as with their previous home.

“When you have it in your garage, there is no room to do anything,” such as ironing or folding clothes, Ms. Wegner says. “It made no sense to put it near anything but the bedroom. … All you have to do is walk down the hall, not up and down stairs.”

A laundry room near the bedrooms is kept out of view from the activity areas of the home, whereas one near the kitchen is near the activity, says Karen Harris, chairwoman of the small projects forum for the Washington-based American Institute of Architects.

“People find that laundry tends to be something you do as you do other things,” Ms. Harris says. “Rather than an all-day chore,… it becomes part of your routine through the week. You want to have the washer and dryer near the other things you do.”

In that case, the laundry room is placed near the kitchen and its plumbing lines, or combined with a mudroom between the kitchen and garage.

“I’m surprised it took people so long to think about it,” says Carolyn Tucker, co-owner of Waterford Interior Design in Waterford, Va., with her husband, Wilson, a general contractor and builder. “As people got smarter and had more laundry to do, they began to realize they were spending more time running to the basement. … It’s a timesaver.”

Twenty years ago, washers and dryers were put into a closet at the bedroom level or utility room off the kitchen, says Phyllis Lustig, owner of Lustig Interiors in Vienna, and an ASID member. In the past five years, the laundry room has been treated as an “actual room” with the washers and dryers placed in a full utility room.

“Now, the builders seem to be putting in larger rooms,” Mrs. Lustig says. “It’s kind of luxurious to have a whole laundry room not that far from your bedroom. I think it’s very desirable.”

Likewise, the rooms are being designed to be desirable.

“Laundry rooms have gone from being the hidden room of the house to the well-decorated, well-equipped rooms of today,” says Julie Valeant Yenichek, spokeswoman for Lowe’s, a national home improvement retail chain headquartered in Mooresville, N.C.

They are, in fact, becoming more of a “designed” room, says Catherine Armour, chairwoman of design for the Corcoran College of Art and Design, a part of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Northwest.

“People are both taking the time and spending more money today to make the room look great and at the same time more comfortable to work in,” Mrs. Armour says.

For example, the room can be designed to provide space for folding, hanging and ironing clothes. There can be shelves and cabinets to store laundry supplies and cleaning supplies, pullout bins and other built-ins to separate clean and soiled clothing, counters to provide a work space, and wall hooks or drying racks placed over a sink or a floor pan to dry clothes. Drop-down ironing boards can be concealed in a cabinet, and a TV can be placed on a built-in shelf.

On a practical level, a laundry room needs a floor sturdy enough to hold 400 to 500 pounds of machinery, mainly the washer and dryer, and to have a floor drain or other source of drainage, says Sabbir Sultan, department head for Home Depot in Aspen Hill.

“The main thing you should do is make sure the flooring can take the washer and dryer the customer wants,” Mr. Sultan says.

Damage caused by moisture from the washer and dryer can be prevented in a few ways.

Mr. Sultan suggests using a semi- or high-gloss paint designed for the bathroom and kitchen. In case of a spill or water leak, Mrs. Armour’s suggestion is installing a baseboard with stone or ceramic or vinyl tile.

The flooring and other materials in the room can be matched to the finish materials in the rest of the house, she says, adding: “We are seeing rich wood finishes in cabinetry, sometimes painted white cabinets, but even mahogany and pear wood.”

Other design elements include wallpaper and borders, points out Jacqueline Antone, president and owner of Jacqueline Antone Interiors in Falls Church, and an ASID member. She recommends that white be included in the coloring to match the typically white appliances.

“It’s not a very happy place to be, so make it cheerful,” she says. “We spend a lot of time in there.”

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