Full height cabinetry allows for easy concealment of brooms/mops/vacuum cleaner. Having the washer and dryer separated creates more benchspace in an already tight area. Perhaps framing the dryer with cabinetry would create a more streamlined look.
DIY built ins with bases-great project turning dining room into library. tv in Gathering space, add shelving - like the idea of the bottom cabinets with wood top. something along these lines for the gathering room