One of my favourite rooms in our house is the utility room. Mainly this is because Malachy couldn’t say ‘utility’ when we first moved in, and earnestly talked about the ‘yoo-tiddly woom,’ which was just so unbearably cute that we all started doing it. At which point Malachy defiantly corrected his pronunciation and demanded that we all stop teasing. Apart from this it really is the essence of stowed, my business, with some satisfyingly effective storage solutions and quirky decorating that I wouldn’t maybe have tried in the other more traditional, social spaces in the house.

The space is limited (roughly 270cm square, with a partial dividing wall that was structural), and I had an awful lot of things that I wanted to cram in. I wrote a list.

1. Downstairs loo

2, Washing machine and tumble drier

3. Utility sink

4, Drying rack

5. Coat hooks

6. Storage of football boots, sunglasses, hats, scarves, gloves, umbrellas, shin pads, roller boots, footballs…. I really could go on and on, but basically the easy-access essential kit of any small boy on his way outside

7. Cleaning supplies

8. Hoover

9. Ironing board and iron

10. Mop, dustpan and brush, broom, hey, even a feather duster!

11. Cat bed

12. Cat food and water bowls

13. Cat food supplies

In fact, pre-move, conversations between Tim and I about where things would be situated in the new home usually went something like this: “Where are we going to put the &%*”%&*?” “Oh, in the utility room….” “Not in the cellar?” “No-one will be bothered to go down there.” “OK.” In addition, as I mentioned in an earlier post, we didn’t want to fill up the hallway with too much clutter.

So we had high expectations and a little room to stash them all in.

First I had to house the immovables: the loo had its own space, with a door, and I’d already decided to pop the tumble drier on top of the washing machine, as it’s so space-efficient. I did look into some official stacking kit for them, but I still haven’t got around to it yet, and have to admit that at the moment they seem perfectly stable and unlikely to fall suddenly and dramatically on passers by. That said, please don’t you be irresponsible like this. You should definitely only stack washing machines with the proper attachments and not have them lurching over you after an energetic spin cycle.

Finally, a sink and as many storage units as I could cram in would fill the rest of the space.

We used the same sort of Ikea units as in the kitchen, Faktum units with the gloss white doors called Abstrakt. I also went for an incorporated stainless steel sink and drainage top which doubles as a work surface: superbly practical and Ikea-level cheap too.

Pile 'em high: squeezing in cupboards and machines along one wall

Pile ’em high: squeezing in cupboards and machines along one wall

Because it’s a small room and there’s not much by way of free wall space, I decided on a functional-feeling dark blue, grey and white scheme, and found these lovely tiles from Topps:

Patterned: Henley/Topps Tiles

Patterned: Henley/Topps Tiles

They provide a jaunty splashback for the sink area.

The flooring needed to be cheap and hardwearing too: buoyed up by the success of the metal-look flooring in our boys’ bathroom, I found another Carpetright vinyl sheet design which looks a bit like industrial mesh.

Metallic mesh: Carpetright vinyl flooring

Metallic mesh: vinyl flooring

I like metal-look patterns on vinyl flooring: it’s realistic and the repeating pattern suits the material. For the price of a vinyl sheet, pretty much the cheapest flooring solution you can get, there are some really interesting, stand-out designs to choose from.

For some emphasis, I had all the trim woodwork painted dark blue. It gives a nice framework to the little room, and seems neat and practical.

Navy frames

Navy frames

In the downstairs loo I found some dark blue and glittery tiles to complement the scheme.

Little loo space

Little loo space

I knew my lighting needed to be pretty strong as there were no windows in the room. I am not normally a fan of endless ceiling downlights, which I think can sometimes make a room soullessly bright and harsh, but in here we did need some illumination, so we have ceiling spots. But the single most successful light source has proven to be the door, where in a revelatory moment I realised that I had found a chance to have a window after all, and went for a fully glazed option. It’s incredibly bright in the room, and actually streams light right through to the hallway, so that you get a glimpse of the garden as soon as you come in the front door.

Keeping it bright: a glazed back door brings sunshine into the house

Keeping it bright: a glazed back door brings sunshine into the house

Having all doors glazed at the back of the house presented some new challenges with regard to cat access, but I’ll come to that next time, along with some of the storage and drying solutions that help the room live up to its name.

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