Narrow utility room ideas – design tips to maximise compact utility spaces

Nathan Law

We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article. Utility rooms are often small in size, yet we demand big things from the space. If all that’s available to build your utility room is a narrow area of kitchen or cramped cupboard, fear not […]

  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.

  • Utility rooms are often small in size, yet we demand big things from the space. If all that’s available to build your utility room is a narrow area of kitchen or cramped cupboard, fear not because with the right narrow utility room ideas it can still be highly functional and stylish.

    So how do you make a challenging layout work harder? The key to unlocking the potential of a compact, corridor-style space is thoughtful planning. We speak to the experts in kitchen and utility room design to uncover the solutions for maximising the functionality of a limited space.

    Find further design advice with all our utility room ideas

    Narrow utility room ideas

    From stacked shelving solutions, providing adequate space for washing machines and tumble dryers, to modular shelving to elevate all your cleaning products and kit we reveal the design tricks to turn even the most awkward of layouts into a highly functional space for all your utility needs.

    1. Stack appliances to save space

    Image credit: LochAnna Kitchens

    ‘Narrow utility areas are a perfect solution for those wanting to hide away their washing machine and dryer’ explains Sinead Trainor, Kitchen Category Manager, LochAnna Kitchens. ‘We recommend storing washing machines and dryers on top of one another to make the most of your available space – bespoke cabinetry can be created to permit this.’ Stacking one on top of the other helps to compact the presence of bulky appliances. Hiding them behind closed doors helps to minimise the impact further.

    Clever pull-out storage solutions will help you make the most of narrow spaces, such as this retractable shelf.

    2. Maximise vertical storage

    utility room shelving

    Image credit: String Furniture

    Use every inch of wall space available, because no matter how narrow the space a utility still requires a mass of  laundry lotions and cleaning accessories. Lining the walls with multifunctional shelves maximises the storage potential by elevating items off work surfaces. A clear work surface not only helps to make the space feel less cluttered, it also makes doing chores a breeze.

    Choose shelving that offers a smart solution. ‘A simple wall mounted storage unit can solve all your problems’ says a spokesperson for String Furniture. ‘Placed above the sink or by the washing machine, a modular shelving system maximises your space’. With the option of both open and closed cabinets, hooks and shelving units of various heights, the possibilities are endless.

    3. Add depth with patterned flooring

    white utility room with patterned vinyl flooring

    Image credit: Carpetright, Tarkett Starfloor Retro Luxury Vinyl, £34.99 per Sq M

    Use the floor space to add interest to the small space. A patterned floor in a narrow room can help to create a sense of space, by giving it more of a presence. In doing so you’re creating the illusion of there being more floor to focus on, thus making it feel bigger. This idea works best in a narrow room too because in larger rooms a heavily patterned floor may feel overwhelming, which can result in making it feel smaller in fact.

    The joy of pattern is also that it’s very forgiving as a floor choice in a busy room, such as the utility. The pattern helps to accommodate the laundry baskets and other items frequently cluttering the floor – a pretty pattern helps to act as a decoy.

    4. Dedicate a narrow closet to utility storage

    narrow utility room cabinet

    Image credit: LochAnna Kitchens

    ‘Not everyone has the space for a separate utility room which is why it’s so important to make the most of the space you have available’ says Sinead Trainor, at LochAnna Kitchens. ‘Narrow closets or larders are a great option for those looking for a dedicated space to store their utility items such as vacuum cleaners, ironing boards and cleaning products!’

    ‘Our 600mm lifestyle larders are available in different design layouts and sizes to accommodate different households based on their needs.’

    5. Line the walls with smart storage

    Utility light idea with down lighters

    Image credit: Higham Furniture

    ‘Hiding away utility items in cupboards is a great way to make the space feel less overwhelming and less cluttered’ explains Sinead. Utility rooms tend to be small, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be streamlined and efficient. This tiny space is filled with practical features that make use of every inch. Fitted units have been added wherever possible for maximum storage capacity. A traditional pulley-powered airer keeps washing out of the way up high while, below, a wall-hung tabletop can be pressed into service when needed.

    6. Incorporate a utility room into a narrow kitchen

    narrow utility room with sink washing machine and tumble dryer

    Image credit: David Still

    Dedicated a narrow section of the kitchen to create a slim utility area. Housing all your appliances in the space will free the main kitchen from any mess when it comes to chores on laundry day. Use the partition wall to house the appliances, because you’ll require the cold water supply to have them plumbed in – using the pipework that is already there will save you having to have more work done. Here full-height, floor and wall units create a bank of storage on a single wall that matches the kitchen worktop.

    A narrow space that adjoins an outside space is ideal for taking the laundry directly out to hang on the line, meaning you don’t need to walk through a busy kitchen area.

    7. Lighten with neutral tones

    small country utility room

    Image credit: Neptune

    A winning idea for making a small or narrow space feel bigger is choosing a neutral colour palette. ‘One way to add a little more style to your utility room could be to consider colour,’ advises Amber Greenman, Home Designer at Neptune. ‘As it is often a smaller space, the more light the better. Our Chichester cabinets in Snow for example. Paired with the Somerton laundry baskets, it creates a stylish and homely space for cleaning up, and also provides plenty of storage space for keeping organised.’

    As well as adding more light, whether it be natural or otherwise, you can enhance the small space is by choosing cabinets in a light colour which bounce light around to make the room feel more airy – a great small utility room idea.

    8. Illuminate a path

    narrow utility room painted grey and a row of pendant lights

    Image credit: Future Publishing Plc/ Jody Stewart

    Create a central point of focus in a narrow space using lighting. Shine a light path into the centre of the narrow space with statement overhead lights, such as they stylish pendants. The oversized pendants offer an ideal solution to brighting the narrow space. Keeping the colour palette neutral helps in maintaining a sense of space, creating a brighter and therefore less cramped feel.

    9. Utilise wall space

    Image credit: Garden Trading

    Use every inch of wall space available in a narrow utility room, because this room requires a lot of ‘stuff’. Due to the amount of cleaning products and kit in a laundry-cum-utility room it pays to make storage solutions work harder. Lining the walls with shelves to the ceiling allows for maximum storage potential. It keeps everything off the countertop too, meaning a clearer work space when you need to get chores done.

    How do you make the most of a narrow utility room?

    The best way to make the most of a narrow utility room is with thoughtful planning. Plan your cupboards to use the space above and below the worktops, to maximise every inch of wall space available. Create a streamlined look to avoid the space from feel overwhelmed and cluttered. Cupboards helps to keep things tidy, while open shelves are easily accessible and can look stylish be aware of the impact the items on show will have on the narrow space. Cabinets are idea for hiding appliances behind doors, helping to make the bulky items from feeling less imposing. Balance usability and ease of access with aesthetics to decide what works best for narrow layout.

    What about storage cupboards: freestanding or fitted; shelves or drawers? Work out what you need to store first and then decide which form of storage works best and what you have space for. Plan wall storage, too.

    Look for floor-standing collapsible clothes airers or versions that you can fit on a wall to free up valuable floor space. Consider installing a ceiling-hung airer to hoist the washing up, out of the way so the space feels free from piles of laundry.

    Don’t underestimate the usefulness of hooks and peg rails to use valuable vertical storage space, elevating items off the floor and worktops. Less obstructions within the eye-line helps to make a compact space feel bigger than it really is.

    What’s the minimum size for a utility room

    ‘It really does depend on what you are hoping to accommodate within the area, what the objective of the space is and what space you actually have to work with’ explains Rhian Williams, Harvey Jones Senior Kitchen Designer. ‘An average-sized ‘utility room’ typically varies from 2.5-5sqm in most properties.’

    ‘Being space savvy is key, so measure every item on the ‘utility space shortlist’ for precise planning’ Rhian advises. ‘Utilising any available height that you have is also really important, as it will allow you to stack your appliances.’ This means you think of space as more than square footage on a  floor plan, you’re also incorporating vertical space into measurements too.

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