When a new year dawns, many of us are thinking about how to do things better, how to manage various aspects of our lives in a more efficient way that brings more pleasure or at least less stress. As many of us think about cleaning up our act a bit in 2019, my thoughts turn to laundry rooms.
Doing laundry isn’t everyone’s first choice of activities, but if the space where we do it is appealing, the work becomes less of a chore.
Let’s start with the room itself. First off, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a room. It might be a corner of your garage, a hall closet or an area within a bathroom, bedroom, mudroom, craft room or pantry. Ideally, though, you don’t want your laundry space located where other activities will intrude and it difficult to accomplish the work: sorting, washing, drying, hanging, ironing and folding. And, even though today’s machines are far quieter than in the past, there is some noise and it’s best if the hum and rumble doesn’t negatively impact adjacent spaces.
Be realistic about your limitations of space and other resources, as well as how the whole issue of laundry works in your home. You might love for family members to sort their laundry into bins in the laundry room, but your space may not be adequate. So be willing to do some work — and perhaps make some compromises — to ensure that your resources and laundry system mesh.
Depending on your space and budget, your machines might front load, top load or stack. If they front load, you can fold on top. Still, many homeowners prefer a counter surface over the top for seamless folding and storage of other items. Other homeowners prefer their machines on so-called pedestals, many with storage, for ease of putting clothes in and taking them out without a lot of bending. However, that raises the washer and dryer to a height that necessitates a separate folding surface.
Folks with top-loading washing machines often find that they still want and need space above for laundry supplies and even decorative items. A shallow half shelf fits this bill nicely. The capacity of stacking machines is smaller, but may be necessitated by floor space. Stacking machines work well in closets with folding and hanging space to the side. For tiny spaces, there are even machines that wash and dry in the same unit. These are perfect for small apartments or perhaps a second, upstairs laundry area. In the case of the most compact closets, some designers hang shelving on the side wall to hold laundry supplies, placing the least used items toward the back of each shelf.
The desire to reduce clutter and make our homes function more smoothly has created a demand for all manner of storage solutions on the market. Nowadays, homeowners can find wall-mounted pull-downs and slide-outs, including, in the case of laundry rooms, drying racks, folding tables and ironing boards. Think Murphy beds for the laundry facility. Decorative wall hooks may work better than other systems for drying items that you want to air dry . More utilitarian type hooks on a pegboard or slat system might be just the thing for an unused stretch of wall when floor space is at a premium. I have even seen wall-mounted receptacles for lint, socks without a mate and coins that fall out of pockets.
As with a bathroom or kitchen, there is every reason why your laundry room or niche should be as appealing as the rest of your home, consistent in style and feel, even if it is in the garage. Some homeowners like to inject a little more industrial feel into these hardworking spaces or a vintage feel for that sheets-drying-in-the-fresh-air-at-grandma’s association. Either way, the space should reflect your home’s style whether formal or casual.
In addition to determining an overall style direction, we need to think about whether we want the function of the room to be concealed behind handsome cabinetry, shown off or some of both. An all closed-cabinet laundry space can look, well, closed-off. Yet, too much accessibility can look cluttered without a plan. If you want your laundry items to be easily within reach, consider storing them in coordinating baskets, bins and jars for a look that is both handsome and practical. If you have a collection of vessels, consider using them to provide more storage and aesthetic appeal infused with your personality. Generally, the look should be cohesive, but it doesn’t need to necessarily match.
Depending on whether you want to conceal or draw attention to your laundry area, you have options for covering the opening. Frosted glass, perhaps even with a “laundry” decal call subtle attention and lend a vintage look. French doors show off your well-designed space, while rolling barn-style doors both draw attention and conceal. While a pocket door saves much-coveted floor space, if your arms are full, they can be difficult to open. Think about a swinging butler’s door instead. If a door isn’t practical for your space, curtains suspended from rings on a tension rod will conceal.
Lighting is important in a laundry space. It should be bright enough to illuminate the work space and not located where you consistently cast a shadow over what you are trying to see. Many homeowners are going for a touch of whimsy by hanging small chandeliers in their laundry rooms. Others choose stylish lighting consistent with the lighting in the rest of their home. And speaking of style, if at all possible, incorporate artwork or family photos into the space. One of my clients is a high school art teacher, and she hung small framed reproductions of two of her students’ paintings of clothing in her laundry room: jeans and a kimono.
Chris Ettel is founding partner of VB Homes. He serves on the Tidewater Builders Association board of directors, served as past chairman of the TBA Remodelers Council and is a longtime board member of the Virginia Beach Public Schools Education Foundation. For more information, contact Chris@vbhomesliving.com or go to www.vbhomesliving.com.