Some people are blessed with entire rooms for laundry, and other people are blessed with small closets they have to cram a washer and dryer into. Other people are not blessed at all* and have to go to the garage, the basement, or the laundromat to do laundry. We have spent a lot of time in the un-blessed* category, a teensy bit of time in the very-blessed category, and now that we have bought our forever home, we are in the semi-blessed category of having a washer and dryer crammed into a closet.
When we bought our forever-home last summer, our laundry room came equipped with sickly-colored wall cabinets, skewered by the dryer duct that decided to go straight through them to get to the attic. Once in the attic, the rigid duct connected to a flexible one that was stuffed full of dryer lint, just waiting to kindle a toasty fire and put the whole thing out of its misery. This laundry closet had space for a washer and dryer to sit next to each other, with room for that vertical duct in the middle and a good foot of space on each side of the appliances in case I ever wanted to store multiple ironing boards.
But that way yesterday’s news. Knowing we’d never be able to get the cabinets out, we offered them to ReStore, who was coming to rip out our kitchen and bathrooms that day. They agreed to take them and somehow got them out. We threaded the duct back into the ceiling and made a countertop for the washer and dryer from a vintage door we had in the garage.
With no cabinets anymore, all the ugly plastic bottles of laundry detergent and piles of sheets (did I mention our house doesn’t have any linen closets?) graced the cool vintage countertop. We also took off the huge louvered doors, exposing the massive mess to anyone who walked by in the hallway.
I would put this kind of upgrade in the not-an-improvement category. Now, instead of looking like it came from 1990, it looked like we are a family or slobs and hoarders who leave a trail of potato chips when we walk around. We needed a plan.
Plan A: Don’t Have Anyone Over
This plan worked while our kitchen was under construction. Anyone who wanted to see our house received a “I’d love to have you see it as soon as it’s not dangerous” response. It was true, and it kept curious people at bay for awhile. But eventually people found out that we no longer required shoes in the house and wanted to see it anyway.
Plan B: Tidy it Up and Make it Pretty and Useful
The plan: stack the washer and dryer, add a big sink, put some storage on the walls, and make it all look pretty. As usual, our budget was zero and the items that would make the cut would have to be high quality, cost very little money, and make it look good enough that we wouldn’t want to rip it out immediately upon completion.
If you’re redesigning and redoing your space like most people, you would normally have a budget. Then, you divide up your budget like a pie according to how much things tend to cost, and you choose your materials according to what you have allotted to each particular category. That works well if you are trying to plan a redo and have decided on some amount of money that you can spend on it.
For us, you’ll notice our budget is usually zero. That’s because we are never planning to redo anything until we happen to run across some kind of amazing and expensive materials for cheaper than cheap ones. The second reason is that we aren’t motivated enough to renovate the laundry room to allot money toward it. So as we were going about other renovations, we also looked for anything we liked that wasn’t expensive to eventually use in the laundry room.
At first we found two Shaker-style cabinets painted a warm grey (very contemporary). I loved them and they were cheap, so we bought them. Then we found a cream-colored enameled cast-iron sink but had trouble finding a good-quality cabinet to put it in that wasn’t expensive. Eventually we found something, but the door style didn’t go with the modern style of the upper cabinets. Instead, we decided to relocate the Shaker-style cabinets to the garage for wall storage there, and use vintage pine stair treads for open shelving in the laundry room. Open shelving in the laundry is a little tricky because of the not-so-pretty plastic jugs of liquid detergent, but those can be stored in the cabinet under the sink.
We decided to tile the back wall of the laundry room in order to make the room a little more substantial. I have always loved subway tile but it has become so trendy that I’m a bit deterred from using it. We had it in our first house (our 1925 bungalow), put it in our second house, and used an almond-color of it in our third house. Now I am ready for something else but I still love the look.
While we were thinking about this, we happened to find five boxes of cream-colored 4″ by 5″ handcrafted tiles from Mexico at ReStore, which was just barely enough for the back wall of the laundry room. (Regular subway tiles are 3″ by 6″.) We decided to use a running bond pattern (the way subway tiles are usually laid), so they are kind of a nod to subway tile but with an updated take on the shape. I also love that they have a thicker, handmade look to them, which made them harder to lay but has a more custom look. They cost about $8 more per box than the cheap subway tile at Home Depot but tons less than handmade tiles normally cost.
We used them floor to ceiling on the back wall, and finished with taupe grout that pulled in the warm gray we painted the walls (Dovetail by Sherwin Williams). Here’s an in-progress look of the whole thing:
The cabinet is being painted white to match the washer and dryer. For the floor, our first thought was tile but it looked cold. We didn’t want to use rectangle wood-look tiles for the same reason as the subway tiles (too trendy), so we decided to use a similar wood to our kitchen. The samples above are the test colors. We ended up going with the second on the right– the espresso stain.
Wood in the laundry room would normally not be my first choice, but since we have a front-loading washer that doesn’t need a washer pan, we are willing to take the risk. If the washer leaks, we are already in for a disaster because it’s on the second floor. So we’re willing to take our chances. Worst case we have to replace about 12 square feet of flooring along with the typical damage we would have anyway if we have a laundry room problem. I’ll let you know how it goes.
*Disclaimer: I am kidding and talking about 1st world problems. Please do not email me and tell me that 99% of the world does not have clothes, laundry rooms, ugly plastic laundry detergent bottles, etc.