Clothes Call

posted on May. 30, 2019, at 9:35 a.m.

NKBA Staff

Key tips for designing an easily accessible laundry and wardrobe room in the home. By Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D., CLIPP

Editor’s Note: After a 1998 spinal cord injury left Rosemarie Rossetti paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair, she and her husband, Mark Leder, needed to build a new home to accommodate her newly compromised mobility. They worked with the design team and were the general contractors, and founded the Universal Design Living Laboratory in Columbus, Ohio, where they’ve been living since 2012. It is the top-rated universal design home in North America with three national universal design certifications. This article is part of a series in which she describes the journey and employing universal design/Living in Place features in the house they built.

The Multi-Purpose Master Closet and Laundry Room

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-foot-by-20-foot room serves as our master closet andour 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.” Designers from ClosetMaid created the design of the wood closet organizers.

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 same room as our clothes. We save so much time doing laundry, having designed this multi-purpose room. There is no need to carry clothes from one room to another. When we undress, the dirty clothes go into built-in hampers under the center island.

Having our hanging and folded clothing stored in one room saves time when selecting what to wear or 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 outfits. Every article of clothing is either hanging on rods, folded on shelves or tucked into the center island drawers in the wardrobe. There is a full-length mirror on the wall, which is easy for everyone to use.

Storage Solutions
Mark is 6 feet, 4 inches tall, while I am 4 feet, 2 inches tall seated in my wheelchair, and the design of the closet accommodates both of our needs. My hanging clothes are easy to reach on the lower rods, 43 inches from the floor, while Mark’s are on the higher rods, which are 86 inches from the floor. His slacks and my dresses are on two rods that are 68 inches from the floor. I use a long pole with a hook on one end to access hanging items I

The center island features drawers for underwear and socks, laundry hampers and other storage while clothes and accessories are housed on perimeter shelving and hanging rods. Photo Credit: Universal Design Living Laboratory

can’t reach. 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 center island, which is 51 inches wide by 69 inches long. It’s equipped with 12 drawers for underwear and sock storage. It also houses two removable laundry hampers and two pullout shelves at the end; these face 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-inch-high counter surface is made of 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, while Mark prefers to pack luggage on the countertop of the center island.

The washer and dryer are positioned for easy access whether seated or standing. Photo Credit: Universal Design Living Laboratory

Washer & Dryer Attributes

To the right of the sink are a front-loading Energy Star washer and dryer placed on 16-inch-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. The door is hinged on the left side of the washer and right side of the dryer for easy access.

Laundry Accessibility
To the right of the dryer is a laundry tower, 1 foot wide-by-3 feet high, with two deep drawers that provide convenient storage for large items such as detergent bottles. It has a retractable hanging rod for damp clothing. Next to the laundry tower is a built-in, 3-foot-wide wood storage unit with a 41-inch-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 whether 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 of clothes. Luggage and empty laundry baskets are stored under this sink, and are easy for both of us to reach.

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D., CLIPP, is an internationally known speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of the Universal Design Toolkit. 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. To purchase the Universal Design Toolkit at a 50% discount go to: 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, training, and consulting services, go to

To apply for Certified Living In Place Professional (CLIPP) certification, click here. (NKBA members get a discount.)

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