By Sandi Schwartz | Published Nov 28, 2022 5:36 PM
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Having sufficient space to take care of chores like food preparation and laundry is a priority. Yet some homes built in the 1980s and 1990s have oddly shaped long rooms designated for both the pantry and laundry. They tend to have a wall of shelves for pantry items with washer and dryer units on the facing wall, leaving lots of wasted space and a real lack of style.
A well-designed walk-in pantry/laundry combo located next to the kitchen can help save time and space, making everyday household chores more convenient and efficient.
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Cabinets are key to keeping a pantry/laundry combo room organized. Built-in cabinets are not only attractive, but they do a great job of hiding any mess. Stacked washer and dryer units can be easily hidden behind beautiful cabinet doors, and food and other items typically stored in a pantry can be neatly organized in drawers and on shelves. It is helpful to designate separate cabinetry areas for different items—one area for pantry items and another for laundry storage, such as detergent, sponges, and cleaning products. According to Stefan Bucur, founder and owner of Rhythm of the Home, the best way to design a pantry/laundry combo is to use custom cabinets that mold to the shape of the walls to make use of every inch possible.
Since laundry is being done in this room, it’s important to have a workspace area to fold clothes and take care of other related tasks. On the other side, pantry items require prep, and counter space is helpful for measuring, pouring, and sorting. If space is a major concern, a countertop can be installed right above front-loading washer and dryer units to provide an area to fold laundry and store laundry-related items like detergent. With a larger area, installing a narrow countertop around the room can provide additional surface area for pantry space without taking up too much walking room. Besides being a workspace, the counter can be used to place grocery bags before unloading them and to store small appliances that aren’t used daily.
Photo: Jack Gardner via geoffchick.com
To make the best of this dual-purpose room, the shelving system should be a main feature. Install wrap-around shelving—a mix of pull-out shelves, open shelves, drawers, and cubbies—to make the laundry and pantry organization as user-friendly as possible. Opt for adjustable shelving to ensure flexibility. Each pantry and laundry item should have its place, whether it be on a shelf, in a drawer, in a basket, or hanging on a hook. Be sure to install lower-level shelving for laundry baskets and heavy pantry items. Florida architect Geoff Chick says it’s also important to take advantage of vertical space; one way to do that is to install high cabinets in which to store seasonal items along with a rolling ladder to reach those higher shelves. If your laundry room has windows, these elevated storage areas will help you keep the window wall clear and uncluttered.
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The heart of every laundry room are the appliances, but the bulky workhorses can overwhelm an area that might be needed for pantry storage. So that you have plenty of room for groceries, opt for a stackable washer and dryer—they’ll take up about half the space of side-by-side units. Consider building side walls for the stackable appliances, along with a cabinet above for extra storage. Another way to save space is to eliminate a second appliance altogether and purchase an all-in-one high-efficiency laundry machine, like this GE high-efficiency electric washer-dryer combo. These unique machines are especially convenient since they automatically switch to a dryer cycle when washing is complete.
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Given the multipurpose nature of a laundry/pantry combo, it may be helpful to separate some of the areas based on the task at hand. Creative room dividers can help turn a general room into design-specific spaces. Dividing a room can be as simple as hanging a curtain, but a divider that also adds storage to the room (like this Rose Home Fashion four-panel wood divider with shelves) can be a real benefit. Those looking to DIY a divider might consider repurposing a wood pallet, devising a hanging system out of pegboard, or building a wall of modular square shelving.
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Pull-out laundry baskets or bins are super convenient and often tucked away behind built-in cabinetry to hide the mess. Consider installing multiple bins—one for whites, one for darks, one for delicates—to make sorting laundry a breeze. You could also opt for a wheeled bin that slides between the washer and dryer to keep it out of sight. We like Simple Houseware’s three bin laundry sorter with wheels, a top pick in our list of best laundry baskets for the home.
If you’re using your pantry as an extension of your kitchen to do food prep while cooking, the space needs to be functional, not just organized. With countertops on at least one portion of the wall, you can chop, peel, and measure using a cutting board that doubles as a storage container lid, like these wire baskets with bamboo tops. Storage with labels and even expiration dates can come in handy when keeping the pantry neat and up-to-date. If your dual-purpose pantry and laundry room opens to the garage, you might want to designate shelves on the pantry side for mudroom use. A bench and set of hooks under the shelves will give family members a place to drop items on the way inside.
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For clothing that is not recommended for the dryer or requires ironing, you’ll need extra accommodation. The problem is that drying racks and ironing boards take up a lot of space in any laundry area. Look for hidden drying racks and ironing boards that compress down and can fold out from a cabinet. They can also be stored between the washer and dryer. If you have cabinets on either side of the washer and dryer, hang a clothing rod between them for drying, but be sure to choose one that screws into the wall as opposed to a tension rod to make sure it is stable. You can also find ironing boards that fold in half and mount on the wall or slide out of a drawer. To save even more room, look for a model without legs, like Nisporpa’s retractable fold-up ironing board.
When you’re tight on space, it helps to look for hidden opportunities. The back of a door can provide ample room for hanging items like aprons, laundry bags, grocery bags, and clothes. Mounting a collapsible drying rack, like this over-the-door drying rack from Greenco, provides space to dry clothes without disrupting the flow of the room. Another way to put your door to good use is to install a shallow, back-of-the-door rack to add much-needed storage for pantry items like spices and snacks. If you don’t need extra storage but could do with a more organized space, hang a chalkboard on the door for grocery lists or reminders.
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