Could you consider spending up to $30,000 on a laundry room?
That's pretty much what a lot of today's affluent buyers are willing to shell out for a room devoted to the art of doing the laundry. If you stop to think about that, it's rather astonishing, one expert suggests. Imagine telling your grandmother that all of your friends really rave about your $30,000 laundry room. And your grandmother replies: “You mean the place where you wash, dry and iron your clothes? That's the room you think is so fabulous?"
It's officially known as “The Family Studio,” what the observers of such trends call “the newest status symbol” among homebuyers.
Mara Villaneuva is a brand manager for Whirlpool, which unveiled the concept of the “family studio in January. She said the company's surveys found that laundry was a priority for its customers and that some of those surveyed “had already built multifunction rooms they called 'power laundry rooms' -- places in which they could combine their household chores with those of their families."
Since the typical U.S. family does eight to 10 loads of wash a week, according to Whirlpool's survey, and 20 million women and 10 million men spend hundreds of hours each year washing and drying clothes, also according to Whirlpool, why not "have a place for families to do crafts, pay bills, for kids to do homework, or surf the Internet -- not to mention a beautiful space to take care of the entire family's wardrobe?" Villaneuva asked.
Why not indeed?
If you think this is all a bit too much, let's turn again to the voices of experts. One, Joan McCloskey of Better Homes & Gardens magazine, oversees virtually endless surveys of her magazine's readers.
“It is a space where you corral all the messy chores, crafts, sewing, and even a gardening project in one space that you can close the door on," McCloskey said. "When you describe that space to a mother, you should see her face light up."
It is true, at least according to the National Association of Home Builders, that laundry rooms are a priority among homebuyers.
The Whirlpool Family Studio's laundry facilities are not limited to the manufacturer's Duet Fabric Care System - also known as a washer and dryer.
It also features a DryAire drying cabinet, which is designed for air-drying wool sweaters in a couple of hours rather than a couple of days. The cabinet provides a place for drying delicates or bulky items. There is also the SinkSpa jetted sink for delicates, which has water jets for hand-washables.
The Impress Ironing Station has an easy-access, adjustable board; a place to store a hot iron; and automatic shutoff controls.
The Personal Valet Clothes Care System, introduced two years ago, removes wrinkles and odors and gets clothes ready to wear in about 30 minutes.
All the appliances are designed to fit standard cabinets, which are provided by you or your builder.
While other major manufacturers aren't going whole hog on multipurpose laundry rooms, they are still tweaking their products to meet what they say is constant consumer demand for innovation.
For example, one new Maytag model has a finger faucet under the rim that you can use to wash laundry soap off your hands. It also has a "remind chime" that tells you when the wash is done, which is easier than putting your ear to the floor if the washer and dryer are in the basement.
For those among us who grow tired of technology or are confused by it, Maytag's new Atlantis has a less-complicated, easy-to-learn control panel. The complexity is restricted to the interior, with a HydroClean wash action to keep "whites white" and a HydroFlex agitator to increase the movement of clothes through the water.
A new Amana washer-dryer line was unveiled recently without a name or price.But it has a stainless-steel tub, "common-sense" fabric cycles, a QuickWash feature that lets you wash the shirt you need for a party in record time, and SteadySpin, which will let the washer continue spinning even if the load becomes unbalanced.
And then there is LG Electronics, which introduced the combined washer-dryer two years ago and a virtually noiseless direct-drive washing system.
The machine also has a delay-wash feature, which allows you to program the machine to complete washing up to 19 hours after you have loaded it.