Saturday 21 September 2019

The secret of minimalist living? Storage, storage...

Bootility storage units from
Bootility storage units from


Q: We are a young family about to build a new home on family land. We work a lot outdoors and take part in GAA and can't decide between a boot room and a utility room as storage is a big issue. Can you advise?

A: Planning a new home is exciting but can also be very daunting as you want to get things right. The short answer to your question is in all likelihood you will need both a boot room and a utility room and, if space permits, also a small pantry.

Bootroom storage solutions from Wicklow-based
Bootroom storage solutions from Wicklow-based

Storage, storage and more storage

With the trend towards open-plan living in most homes, the key to making the living/ dining areas work is a properly designed utility and storage area. The one area in a home that I find can never be big enough is the utility area and its most important element is storage. When planning your home, keep your living spaces clutter-free by maximising the use of the utility areas. Another key to good design is to plan the spaces to fit your needs with some built-in flexibility.

The Boot Room

Most households take part in some outdoor activities and with our weather there is always a need for accommodating rain gear. Ideally, it should be located at the rear or side door. The door needs to be robust, and a recessed mat well should be incorporated. If possible, incorporate underfloor heating as it quickly tackles the problem of damp footwear and also helps in having a form of vent lobby effect. A low bench should be included with some form of storage for footwear. Consider putting some hanging devices over the bench for coats and jackets that you use every day.

Deep closed presses with lots of hanging options (customised to your uses) are ideal. My advice is to incorporate some form of vent/grill on the doors so that equipment or clothing that is a little damp won't smell. All the presses should be designed full height as a lot of items aren't used every day and can be stored at height - a small collapsible ladder is key.

No matter whether your interest is hurling, football, tennis, hockey or tiddlywinks, I recommend that you set all the adjustable shelves, dividers or hanging devices at intervals to suit your requirements. Measure your equipment and design accordingly.

Bootroom and utility room storage solutions from Wicklow-based
Bootroom and utility room storage solutions from Wicklow-based

On an aesthetic level, I recommend choosing a colour scheme that is similar to the units in the kitchen (cheaper versions are fine) as linking your colour schemes leads to a calmer feeling, in particular in smaller homes. But changing the type of flooring between rooms can be advisable as your needs may differ for a proper boot room. There are very inexpensive tiles on sale that are very forgiving in relation to dirt. If space allows, a small Belfast sink in a boot room is a boon.

The Utility Room

The utility room as we know it is frequently just the laundry room. If it serves only this purpose, it doesn't need to be on the ground floor. In a recent project I put it on the first floor and had a washing machine for sportswear on the ground floor. Most laundry relates to the upper floors of the house where sheets and clothes are stored.

If the house configuration allows, I suggest inserting a roof light and a 'Sheila Maid' beneath - this is a device for hanging clothes that previously hung over the Aga and will act as an overnight tumble-drier. A client suggested this on a project a few years ago where space was limited for a utility room and I've used it wherever possible ever since. Good lighting is key in a utility room and this is often forgotten in designs and budgets.

I recommend having doors on almost all units unless you are very fastidious. Having some of the cabinets deeper with adjustments is a good idea and incorporating some form of air infiltration is good. Try to incorporate space for ironing - and making the space somewhat pleasant and bright is important, especially if you end up spending a lot of time here. Lockable cabinets for medicines and detergents are important too, particularly if you have small children. You should also include a smoke detector linked to the electrics as a dryer can be the source of many a fire. Consider purchasing a more silent model of washer and drier if your utility room is located near noise-sensitive spaces such as bedrooms.

Maximising the space you have and separating its uses is important. Frequently, the utility room becomes a catch-all space. Perhaps it might make a better use of your space to have a small pantry in the kitchen, even if it's only a pantry press, so you keep all food out of the utility area. Your architect can advise you about this.

From top, bootroom and utility room storage solutions from Wicklow-based
From top, bootroom and utility room storage solutions from Wicklow-based

If your boot room/utility room is one space, try to segregate the spaces through design tricks to help stop the 'creep' of unrelated items. It will also contribute to family harmony if the inevitable mess is kept mainly in the boot room area.

  • If you are considering changes to your home, work with a registered architect. Check, the website of the registration body for architects in Ireland. Paula Murphy MRIAI is an architect working in Tipperary and Dublin;
  • Do you have a design dilemma we can help you with? Email Advice provided is for guidance only and readers are advised to seek professional assistance for any proposed project.

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