Utility room ideas – 10 ways to design a space that balances form and function

Let these stylish utility room ideas prove that these practical spaces can be beautiful too...

a simple laundry room design
(Image credit: Herringbone Kitchens)

Think utility room ideas and perhaps you instantly think of a purely practical space, a room where bulky appliances are hidden away, piles of laundry cover every surface and there's not really much... exciting, design-wise, going on. But alas, we are here to prove that wrong and show that utility rooms can be every bit as stylish as a kitchen, with beautiful cabinetry, tiles, hardware, and more. 

'The utility room can often be an afterthought or overlooked space but there's no reason it can't be as stylish as the rest of your kitchen/house!' agrees,  Julia Brown, Design Director at Mowlem & Co. 'Things to consider for a great look are tongue and groove paneling or hand-painted finishes, with a large butler's sink and stone surfaces which can all add traditional charm, while the very best in hi-tech kit can either be on display or tucked away in aerated cupboards, perhaps with folding, sliding or pocket doors to maximize elbow room! Also, consider combining the utility as a boot room, but add elegant storage solutions such as wooden rails and pegs, wicker baskets, and built-in benches.'

And there's plenty more where that came from, and we've asked interior designers from their top tips to make a utility room feel like a space you actually want to spend time in. We've thrown in some practical laundry room ideas too since this room does have to balance form and function...

1. Plan out your storage from the start

Laundry room with dark green cabinetry

(Image credit: Wing Ho)

Okay, let's start with the most important part of utility room design – storage. As, Victoria Sass of Prospect Refuge Studio says, 'This is a room where the more specific you can be, the better your room will function. Think about what you are going to use this room for and be really honest with yourself. Things like: “Is it truly big enough to wrap gifts in?” If not, maybe store those supplies elsewhere. Or “Is the room centrally located?” Does it make sense to make this your cleaning supply hub?'

'Then think about how you can best store those specific objects. Tall cabinets with no bottom panel are great for rolling a vacuum into. Deep drawers are good for storing cleaning supplies upright without a lot of rummaging around. Put organizers on the backs of cabinet doors. Roll out shelves are always a good idea and use wire rollouts for things like dryer balls and dust cloths.'

'Keep layout and details simple, but materials interesting. Don’t go overly ornate on things like hardware or shelf brackets, it adds to the visual clutter. Do have a little fun with color, flooring, and countertop material - make this a room you enjoy spending time in! And as always, adding art makes everything better. The laundry room is no exception.'

2. Consider the positioning of your appliances

Blue utility room

(Image credit: Marie Flaningan)

Bulky appliances like washers and dryers are of course the whole reason to have a utility room, so naturally, they are going to dictate a lot of design decisions within the space. So when planning your layout start with them. 

'Always consider appliance placement and how to maximize efficiencies surrounding them. For example, if you have frontloading washers and dryers, set them under a countertop for additional storage and folding space.' suggests interior designer Marie Flanigan. 'If you have the space and do a lot of laundry, double up your washers and dryers. You can either stack them or place them side by side. When possible, I always try to include a sink in a laundry room, making stain fighting, washing, and soaking extra convenient.'

3. Discover the multiple functions of a bootility room

Utility room with grey cabinetry

(Image credit: Mowlem&Co)

We love the sound of a bootility! A mix of a utility and a mudroom. Simon Bodsworth, Managing Director at Daval, explains it  perfect as being a space that 'combines the best attributes of a utility room and bootroom, is able to support modern lifestyles and given that pet ownership is higher than ever before, taking a more considered approach with dedicated storage space, integrated pet stations and durable materials that can withstand heavy use, yet remain beautiful is going to be essential for achieving environmental wellness at home.'

'I believe that bridging the gap between indoor and outdoor living will only grow in popularity as we move into summer and fresh design concepts like the bootility room are helping to retain the social aspects of open living by minimizing noise from laundry appliances and preventing dirt and debris coming into the main areas of the home. My feeling is that utility rooms and laundry rooms have become more desirable during lockdown, alongside pantries and walk-in larders, as consumers see the importance of having a designated space to take care of chores and boost their storage away from a kitchen living space.'

4. Pick a hardworking sink

White utility room with floor level marble sink

(Image credit: Ryan McDonald)

A laundry room sink sees a lot of action so it's important to choose a design that works for you and your lifestyle. The open, almost trough-like design used in this utility by reDesign home is a great option if you have the room  – it can be used to pre-rinse, dump in muddy clothes that need a soak, or even clean pets. 

Alessia Zanchi Loffredo, founder of reDesign home, says 'When designing this laundry/mudroom my goal was to marry an appealing style to functionality. A laundry room with a multipurpose sink can truly change lives; now for this homeowner, no cleaning task is too small, from bathing dogs to washing large size sports equipment.'

5. Remember to add character too

Yellow utility room with black and white wallpaper

(Image credit: Ryan McDonald)

Okay, practicalities out the way – sinks, layouts, storage, and appliances – now it's time to think about aesthetics. The best utility rooms are ones that don't feel like utility rooms. Treat these spaces almost as you would a small kitchen, think about the color scheme, the cabinetry design, tiles etc.

And don't be afraid to go bold. A utility isn't a room you are going to spend a lot of time in, so you can be a bit braver with your colors and prints. We love this sunny yellow utility room idea, again by reDesign Home. And the wallpaper! Such a simple update that can make a laundry room feel more like a considered space in your home. 

Alessia Zanchi Loffredo says that 'a wallpaper with botanical motif provided the inspiration for this cheerful laundry room. The penny round ceramic tile flooring paired with the beadboard paneling painted in a pale grayish delivered a personal touch and cohesiveness with the whole house color palette.'

6. Be practical (and chic) with a darker color scheme

Utility room with dark walls and wooden cabinetry

(Image credit: Michelle Drewes)

Utilities, by their very nature, do tend to be smaller rooms, and we know, we know, the rule is small room lighter colors, but we've seen plenty of spaces that prove that rule is one to be broken. Darker colors can have just as much of a space-expanding effect on a room so don't shy away from these moodier hues. 

Melinda Mandell who designed this space, says 'I love adding drama to laundry rooms with moody texture, pattern, and warm wood grain. Laundry rooms can be fun and functional!' Agreed! And note how this tile layout, slim and vertical helps add height to the room too and there's the added benefit that darker hues aren't going to show up dirt or splashes either.

7. Hide appliances behind pocket doors

Rustic utility room with wooden cabinetry

(Image credit: Christopher Stark )

There are some really clever laundry room cabinet ideas out there that blend form and function. Case in point these pocket doors that can slide out of the way when appliances are in use and then once your laundry is done, those (let's face it) ugly appliances can be hidden away again. 

Designer Heather K. Bernstein , who created this beautifully practical space, says ' Laundry is chore-enough already, why not treat yourself to a functional yet stunning space to take on this mundane task. I wanted to treat this space as an extension of the kitchen or any other room with custom, thoughtful cabinetry. The fold-away doors reveal the workhorse machines behind, but when all closed up this is a beautiful space in and of its own. Cheers to never dread doing laundry again.'

8. Pick out effective utility room lighting

De Rosee Sa

(Image credit: De Rosee Sa)

Utility room lighting is key to an efficient space and should be planned at the early stages. Again, treat it like any other room's lighting scheme and try and tick off the three main types of lighting – ambient, accent, and task. In practical spaces like utilities, you can afford to forgo accent lighting which is often more decorative or used to highlight certain features. 

But task lighting and ambient lighting are key – opt for recessed spotlights that are going to effectively light the entire room. And add extra task lighting over worktops by installing more spotlights under the bottom of any wall cabinets. You also might want to add some softer lighting, or lighting that's going to add some style to the room so consider a simple pendant that doesn't hang too low it becomes inpractical.

9. Opt for tiles that will add pattern and texture

Black utility room with rustic style

(Image credit: Thomas Kuoh)

Tiles are such a lovely way to add character, pattern, and color to a room while still keeping a space practical. We love the traditional floor tiles used in this utility room designed by Kriste Michelini, they perfectly balance the dramatic dark cabinetry, making the room feel both contemporary and country rustic. Kriste says 'The design intent was to embrace the black and white Tabarka tile and create a dramatic laundry room.'

And don't be afraid to mix prints either – opt for different patterns on the splashback and the flooring to make a statement. We'd recommend keeping it slightly cohesive by choosing a similar color palette for both but go for a big pattern on the floor and something smaller and busier on the splashback. 

10. Soften the space with on trend fabric skirts

utility room with fabric skirts

(Image credit: Vanrenen GW Designs)

There's a clear interior design trend at the minute that's all about prettiness and softness, making practical space feel warmer and more inviting. And this utility room designed by Vanrenen GW Designs is the perfect example of how to embrace this trend in a laundry area.

As co-founder Louisa Greville Williams, explains 'rather like bathrooms it is nice to make utility rooms pretty as well as useful so it is nicer to work in them. Obviously, storage and practicality is key particularly if space is limited.' 

So we say be inspired by this space and ditch the cabinet doors and replace them with fabric skirts. Or alternatively, if you just want to add a slightly more country vibe to a modern space, just add a skirt under the sink. 

What should be in a utility room?

The essentials are the washing machine and dryer of course. A sink is always a useful addition for pre-rinsing or if you intend for the space to double up as mudroom. A pull-down drying rack is also useful for anything that won't survive the dryer. Then it's just all about storage, ensure your cabinets can handle everything you want to hide away, but include smaller storage accessories like laundry baskets, boxes, caddies and hang a few shelves too for things you want to keep close to hand.

Do utility rooms add value to a house?

With utility rooms becoming more of an essential to prospective buyers, yes, a utility room is highly likely to add value to your home, especially if you extend to fit one in. If you really splurge on the space, you might not see much return on your investment, but if you plan and budget smart you could see over a 50% ROI for this addition. 

Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.