If the rooms of your home were characters on the Brady Bunch, the kitchen would be Marcia. She of long, honeyed hair, the prima donna, who luxuriates in attention and praise. And Jan – sigh – who struggles with feelings of ugliness and inadequacy, would obviously be the laundry room.
Good news, Jan. Your potential has been overlooked. Kitchens are great, but when they hog the spotlight, it means that other rooms must go without sufficient investment – of time or money – from Mom and Dad. With a bit of help, the laundry room too can be beautiful, useful and dignified. Here are nine suggestions for how to get there.
Take design chances
Laundry rooms are forever banished to dank basements or back rooms. But their low position can be an asset. Small and tucked away, they’re rooms whose design you can gamble on. My advice? Leave the white and neutrals in the kitchen. Instead choose coloured cabinets, modern wallpaper, and bright furnishings. Being lighthearted and fresh will help the room punch above its weight.
Don’t imitate a laundromat
Unless you’re managing a football team, you don’t need an industrial-sized washer and dryer. Far better is to slot in an average-sized set and make certain its dimensions fit the room. Skip the units stacked on drawers, too. You want yours installed, side by side, at the end of a run of custom countertop. This isolates their 36 or so inches of depth to the corner of a room, leaving lots of floor space.
Don’t skimp on storage
If a laundry room has lots of storage, the place can end up getting used for much more than folded clothing – a boon. In rooms we design, we always install floor-to-ceiling cabinetry. The upper cabinets are a natural place for sundries like toilet paper, light bulbs and cleaning rags. On the cabinets south of the countertop incorporate a long run of small drawers, they add a little extra cost, but you’ll never want for a place to store hand tools, flashlights, tape and glue. Below them, deep cabinets with swinging doors are perfect for large containers and small power tools.
If space permits, put in a full-height cabinet with racks for mops, brooms, buckets and a freestanding vacuum.
Establish broad planes
The more surface area you can put in a laundry room, the better. Over the washer and dryer, a deep counter is perfect for receiving loads of damp laundry or lined-up hampers waiting to return to their rooms. The counter over the washer will be over height – 39 inches, minimum – which makes it too high for ordinary work, but a great place for ungainly items like laundry baskets.
Laminate is the least expensive finish, and if you avoid the faux granite textures and stick with a uniform mottled colour, it will look good. If you’re willing to splurge, though, my favourite is composite stone. It’s nonporous (unlike natural stone) and will handle the wear of even the heaviest DIY projects. I prefer white or a light colour, so that I can see if it needs a wipe before I set anything a blouse down on it.
Invest in the water works
You’ll never regret spending money on a good, deep sink. Choose porcelain if you like the farmhouse look; otherwise it should be stainless steel. The key is that the sink be large enough for soaking clothes and washing the filth out of garden pots, children, and dogs. The sinks I like best have a minimum depth of 10”, and faucets with powerful sprayers. Lately we’ve been using a smaller version of the restaurant-style faucets in which the sprayer and faucet are one.
Tile the floor and heat it
The laundry room is a “wet room” so tile makes more sense than hardwood – there's less worry when accidents happen. Choose a large-format porcelain tile (12 by 24 inches or 18 by 18 inches) in a mid-tone neutral with matching grout. If your laundry is in the basement – that is, sitting on the concrete foundation – consider putting electric radiant heat under the tile. If you spend any amount of time there, the small expense repays itself in joy.
Skip the drying rack
I've yet to see a fold-down drying rack fit well in a laundry room. The units are difficult to reach if they’re above the counter and give you too little room to move around when they're down. What we do is instead is fit an open cabinet, full height, with two rods (as in a closet) and stock it with a selection of hangers appropriate for skirts, camisoles, and shirts. Simple.
Make there be light
There's nothing more frustrating than poor lighting in a room where you work, and a laundry room is certainly one of those. We usually forgo expensive pot lights for ceiling-mounted fixtures. White glass orbs that accommodate at least two 60-watt bulbs provide excellent general lighting. Then all you need is a few pucks under the upper cabinets to throw light down onto the counter.
Make space for crafts
If you have the space, the laundry room is a great spot for a crafting station. Here's where you'd sew a cushion cover, wrap a present, or make a scrap book. Some dimensions to keep in mind: You need at least 36 inches of length for the desktop, which should be 29 inches high and 24 deep (although, for the latter, 30-plus is better). Make some room on the wall for a pin-board and buy some decorative containers for ribbon, tape, and gel pens. You're all set.
If there's one thing Jan Brady reminds us, it's that, oh my God, it's annoying when it's “kitchen, kitchen, kitchen” all the time. Let's shine some light in the dark corners. I hope these tips help return some pride to your laundry room – and best of luck, as always, with your renovations.
Cabinets: IKEA, www.ikea.com
Countertops: Dupont-Zodiac; www.dupont.com
Tile backsplash and floor: Stone Tile; www.stone-tile.com
Lighting, faucet and : Robinson’s Lighting and Bath; www.rlrbc.com
Decorative Hardware: Bradford Hardware; www.bradfordhardware.com
Wall Paper: Kravet; www.kravetcanada.com
Paint: General Paint; www.generalpaint.com