The Multi-Purpose Room

Published: September 10, 2018

By Rosemarie Rossetti

The Universal Design Living Laboratory, located in Columbus, Ohio, is the top-rated universal design home in North America with three national universal design certifications. It is also very green, having earned the Silver LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and it is Gold certified on the National Green Building Standard program.

This is also the home of my husband, Mark Leder, and me.

I use a wheelchair for mobility because of a spinal cord injury, so accessibility was a prime design consideration for our home. A spacious 14-ft. by 20-ft. room serves as our master closet and our laundry room, which is conveniently located next to our master bathroom. My husband and I hired kitchen and bath designer, Mary Jo Peterson, CKD, CBD, to design what we like to call the “wardrobe.” We give tours of our home, and this is the room that gets the most comments regarding how much sense it made to put the washer and dryer in the closet.

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Having clothing stored in one room saves time when selecting what to wear and what to pack into luggage. Since all our clothing for the current season is in the wardrobe, we do not need to go into the bedroom when selecting an outfit to wear or to pack. Every article of clothing is either hanging on rods, folded on shelves or in the center island drawers in the wardrobe. There is a full-length mirror on the wall that makes it easy for everyone to use.

Storage Solutions
Mark is 6-ft., 4 in.-tall, while I am 4-ft., 2-in.-tall seated in my wheelchair, and the design of the closet accommodates both of our needs. My hanging clothing is easy to reach on the lower rods 43 inches from the floor, and Mark’s is on the higher rods that are 86 inches from the floor. His slacks and my dresses are on two rods that are 68 inches from the floor, and for hanging items I can’t reach, I use a long pole with a hook on one end to access those. There are also two valet rods that slide out from the closet organizer to make it easy to choose and remove clothing.

The most prominent feature of this room is the 51-in. -wide by 69-in.-long center island, which is equipped with 12 drawers for underwear and sock storage. It also houses two removable laundry hampers and two pullout shelves at the end facing the washer and dryer. The drawer and door hardware are long rods, making them easy to grip, and the doors feature soft-close hinges. A deep toe-kick at the base of the island gives me space for my feet and wheelchair footrest, and there is ample room around the center island for me to maneuver.

The 33-in.-high counter surface is made of a highly sustainable 75 percent recycled materials including mirror, glass, porcelain, earthenware and vitrified ash. This counter serves us well for folding clothes and packing/unpacking luggage. When packing a large, deep piece of luggage, I position the luggage on the floor, and Mark prefers to pack luggage on the countertop of the center island.

Washer & Dryer Attributes
To the right of the sink are a front-loading Energy Star washer and dryer placed on 16-in.-high storage pedestals, which works well for both seated and standing positions. The controls on the washer, dryer and washer soap dispenser are reachable from a seated position, and the door is hinged on the left side of the washer and right side of the dryer for easy access.

An automatic washing machine shutoff valve protects against catastrophic water damage, should a water inlet hose burst while the machine is not in use and unattended. This electronic control device senses the washing machine electrical current flow. When the washing machine is turned on, the controls detect the current flow to the washer, opening both hot- and cold-water inlet valves to allow water to flow to the washing machine. When the washing machine completes the full cycle and self-powers off, the device senses the lack of current and closes the water inlet valves.

Laundry Accessibility
To the right of the dryer is a 1-ft.-wide by 3-ft.-high laundry tower with two deep drawers that provide convenient storage for large items such as detergent bottles. It has a retractable hanging rod that is used to hang damp clothing. Next to the laundry tower is a built-in, 3-ft.-wide wood storage unit with a 41-in.-high rod that makes it convenient to hang clothing right out of the dryer. There are two shelves above this rod.

A built-in ironing center mounted on the adjacent wall contains an adjustable-height folding ironing board that is convenient for a person to use while sitting or standing. The electric outlet and light switch are reachable from a seated position. On one wall is a sink with knee space underneath that facilitates hand-washing clothing. Luggage and empty laundry baskets are stored under this sink and are easy for both of us to reach.

Lighting & Ventilation
A humidity-controlled exhaust fan is in the wardrobe ceiling. Natural light and fresh air are provided by an electric skylight with a rain sensor that will automatically close the skylight when it is raining. When entering the room, three ceiling-recessed LED can lights turn on automatically, thanks to a motion sensor. For a much greater amount of illumination, eight additional recessed can lights can be turned on with a switch.

When all 11 lights are on at the same time, it is the equivalent to using the energy of two 75-watt incandescent lamps, and all lighting turns off automatically a few minutes after someone leaves the room. The volume and quality of artificial light (3500K), as well as natural lighting from the three windows and skylight, help distinguish clothing colors when selecting what to wear.

Accessible, convenient and time-saving are words that best describe our wardrobe. By having the laundry appliances, clothing and luggage in one room, we find that we can multi-task much easier. We also can identify clothing to wear and pack more efficiently.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D., is an internationally known speaker, consultant and author of the Universal Design Toolkit. To get a free chapter, take a virtual tour and learn more about her national demonstration home and garden, the Universal Design Living Laboratory, go to: To contact Rosemarie and learn about her speaking services, go to:

Source List

Designer: Mary Jo Peterson, CKD, CBD

Automatic Washing Machine Shutoff Valve: Watts Water Technologies Built-In Ironing Center: Iron-a-Way Inc. Center Island Cabinet: KraftMaid Center Island Countertop: Cosentino Electric Skylight: Velux Exhaust Fan: Panasonic Faucets & Sink: KOHLER Flooring: Mannington Flooring Laundry Tower, Dryer, Storage Pedestals & Washer: Whirlpool Windows: Marvin Windows and Doors Wood Closet Organizer: ClosetMaid

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