The Laundry Room Joins the Family
One of the most important, but often ignored, rooms in the house is the laundry "room." According to Whirlpool, home owners spend from seven to nine hours a week on laundry. So it's no surprise that an NAHB consumer preference survey found that 95% of the home owners who were polled said they wanted a separate laundry room in their home, preferably one that is near all the dirty clothes.
That desire is being met in new and remodeled homes, where the laundry room has moved into the living quarters — often off the kitchen, bedrooms or bathroom — and is now spacious, with plenty of storage and finishes.
Granite or Formica countertops are providing more counter space to fold, iron and sew clothes; cabinets with wood finishes normally found in the kitchen provide storage for laundry detergent and other products; and appliances are high-end and capable of doing things that washers and dryers have never done before.
My company is just finishing up a 1,300-square-foot condominium for a couple and young daugher who want their home to be able to meet the needs of an empty nester household when that day comes. So in planning the remodel, we needed to take into consideration not just how things worked out now but how they would function at that point down the road.
We took the small area in their laundry room and created as much “space” as possible by adding cabinetry above the washer and dryer and installing a hanging table that drops down when it's needed for folding clothes. The family has enough space to work in the room without creating clutter.
The Garage: Not Just a Parking Space Anymore
The garage is another place in the home to find potentially prime unused space. According to NAHB, 82% of homes have two or more garage bays, but only about 15% of them are fully being used. This is a great opportunity for creating some "getaway" space for play, entertainment, exercise or even a second kitchen.
Home owners are choosing vinyl flooring and carpeting over grease-stained concrete; tearing down metal racks and putting up cherry or oak wood storage cabinets; and replacing cars and lawn mowers with La-Z-Boys, exercise equipment and wet bars. With master suites, basements and rec rooms already remodeled, garages are the last corner of the home ripe for rediscovery.
This is exactly where our condo clients decided to focus their quest for livable space. Their decision to abandon it as a space for parking cars was facilitated by its single door that required cars to be parked one behind the other instead of side by side. Carpeting gave it a more luxurious feel and the addition of exercise equipment and a ping-pong table helped reshape its identity.
We ended up installing vinyl slat walls along most of the room's perimeter, providing the family a place to hang their bikes and shelving for storage boxes and creating the flexibility to meet a wide range of needs.
In the hallway from the house, on both sides, we created storage for coats, shoes and books. Shelving extending from the floor almost to the ceiling can accommodate a small library, across from which is a custom-built closet to hang coats and stash away other personal items to maintain a look that is neat and tidy.
To keep the room warm, we replaced the existing metal single-skin garage door with one that's insulated with foam under a metal skin on both sides.
The owners do not expect to open the door very often, but space has been provided nearby so they can use it to take out garbage and recycling containers. The hot water tank is also in the garage, and it is now behind a wall and a door. Access is handy, but the tank is hidden and away from any wild ping-pong balls!
Creating More Closet Space
Closets provide another opportunity for creating new space. According to NAHB surveying, at least 50% of new home owners are happy with the storage they find in master bedroom closets, the garage, master bathrooms, kitchen cabinets, the attic and secondary bedroom closets. But in existing structures built in the 1960s and 1970s, remodelers need to use a little creativity to come up with something comparable.
Getting on the organization bandwagon can start with products from retailers like The Container Store and checking out HGTV and its show, “Mission: Organization,” which is devoted to organization and making the best use of space.
To make the best use of space in our client’s home, we redesigned all the bedroom closets to accommodate custom shelving. The master bedroom closet door was removed so an antique family heirloom cedar chest could be seen when walking down the hall toward the bedroom. To help create the illusion of “space” we hung a beautiful painting above the cedar chest, providing visual depth to the closet and hallway.
By adding the custom shelving and other pieces to maximize storage space and showcasing a great piece of furniture in the closet, we made the master bedroom look and feel bigger and less cluttered.
No matter how small the space, with a master plan you can create the illusion of more room. Whether you use wall colors or furniture placement to make a space bigger or convert unused space into a den, exercise room or bedroom, you can find “space” in every part of the home.
Donna Bade Shirey, CGR, CAPS, is president of Shirey Contracting Incorporated of Issaquah, WA. For more information, visit the company Web site or e-mail Shirey, or call her at 425-427-1300.
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"Creating the Not So Big House," available at BuilderBooks.com, focuses on key design strategies such as visual weight, layering and framed openings as it takes an up-close look at 25 houses designed according to Not So Big principles — creating houses that value quality over quantity with an emphasis on comfort, beauty and details. The houses are from all over the country in a rich varity of styles. To view or purchase "Creating the Not So Big House" online, click here, or call 800-223-2665 or order.
The NAHB University of Housing Offers Designation Programs and Other Courses
The NAHB University of Housing offers CAPS, CGR, CGB and a variety of other professional designation programs and business management courses that set builders and remodelers apart from the competition. To learn more about NAHB’s designation programs, visit www.nahb.org/designations. For a complete list of all current education offerings, click here.
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