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Give your laundry room a new, squeaky-clean look

When I was a child, laundry rooms belonged to the scary world of basements. Dank and dark, almost certainly populated by creepy things – not the kind of place you wanted to spend time. And so the act of doing laundry, no cinch itself, was made insufferable by its environment.

I was no stranger to doing laundry, growing up. This is why every home we design at KDD has a beautiful space for scrubbing, washing and folding.

It takes some convincing to get clients to invest money in such spaces. My thought is this: the laundry room is second only to the kitchen as a site for interior work. Give it a bit of love. It should be beautiful and work well.

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With this in mind we recently undertook the design of a second-floor laundry room in a waterfront home in West Vancouver. The goal was to transform an awkwardly triangular room, accessed from a narrow hallway, into an inviting laundry room. Here's what we did.

The big idea

Looking at the floor plan, we knew we needed to do two things: build in as much cabinetry and counter space as possible, and create the inviting focal point you'd see on entering the room. The latter point – controlling the gaze – is a crucial design consideration in difficult spaces.

It's no mean feat with a triangular room. The acute angles of the walls tightened two of the three corners and limited the design space to two walls. One had a window; the other, shorter one, backed onto a bathroom.

We didn't want the washer and dryer as the focal point. Their 38 inches of depth prevented us from putting them under the window. (It could have crowded the floor space.) Instead, we tucked them side by side on the shortest arm of the room and enclosed them within a hanging cabinet.

Placing the appliances on the short wall allowed us to draw attention to the space beneath the window. For it, we designed a long run of cabinetry around a sink. It makes a romantic focal point, dressed in pretty tile and light.

To open the room up, we put double French doors at the entry. The glass panes allow light from the hallway windows to spill into the laundry room, which goes some length to relieving the claustrophobia of the narrow access hallway.

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The two big spends

In any utility room – kitchen, mudroom, or laundry – it's the cabinetry that costs you. And in this one, everything was custom built. We designed a hanging cabinet over the washing machines, a bank of drawers for crafting items and tools, upper cabinets that go to the ceiling, and a tall cabinet for storing mops, brooms and buckets.

The total millwork bill was north of $14,000. We could have used a modular system or lower-grade cabinetry, it's true, but the shape of the room and the need to capture attention argued for custom cabinetry. It was the best fit (literally) and the best choice for longevity and resale.

At around $5,000, the countertops were also a splurge. Many people save money in a laundry by using laminate, but we decided early to go with engineered stone. It's beautiful and durable, and it allowed us to install an under-mount sink with a deck-mounted faucet. The effect is one of polish and elegance.

The big save

Tile can get into your wallet if you're not careful – it's easy to overspend. The market's many exquisite porcelains and glass mosaics have undeniable charm. But I'd rather use luxurious finishes in areas where the luxury will have greater impact – the public areas of the home, say, or the master bath. The laundry doesn't need it. We kept the floor tiles and backsplash to under $5 a square foot.

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On the floor, it was a large-format (12- by 24-inches) porcelain tile in soft grey. The size means fewer grout lines, and the texture of the tile hides dust. On the backsplash we laid a simple 4- by 4-inch glazed ceramic tile, the kind often seen in pools and public bathrooms, where it looks bland. But here, in a brick pattern in soft green, the inexpensive tiles appear fresh and charming.

The special touches

We couldn't resist adding a pretty light fixture into the mix. In truth, there was no need for it as we could have put a simple pot light over the sink, but the contrast of its embellished form and crystal sparkle was worth the effort. It draws your eye, making the room inviting.

One fixture we've been including in all laundry and mudrooms lately is a pull-down-style faucet. It's a miniature version of a professional kitchen unit. The sprayer is perfect for scrubbing out stains, cleaning plant pots, or a hundred other things. Our clients love them.

In the end, it's not escaping work that gives us relief. After all, that's impossible. It's making the work bearable. When you renovate your laundry room, consider fully its look, feel, and function.


Paint: Walls; Spray River CLW1048w; General Paint, ; cabinets; OC-17 "White Dove", Benjamin Moore; ; countertops, Snow White (quartzite), Dupont,

Tiles: Backsplash, Spear Mint 4.25" x 4.25", Daltile, ; floor tiles: Centura,

Faucet: Wizard pulldown, Aquabrass,

Sink: Latitude Vikrel, Sterling Plumbing,

Light Fixture: RT-128, Bethel International,

Washer Dryer: Frigidaire,

Artwork: Gollybard,

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