Laundry Rooms are the Home’s Hidden Hub

It’s the forgotten room of the house: the laundry room. At the bottom of creaky stairs in a spooky basement, part of the mudroom or tucked in a closet, it’s not a room that’s usually included in the guest tour. The best part of a laundry room is usually the door—so you can close it on the chaos.

Despite our best intentions, the room is often a train wreck—you can’t fold because the folding table has junk on it, the measuring cup has gooped-up the top of the washing machine, the drying rack is blocking access to the dryer. And we haven’t even mentioned the lint, or the mystery objects taking up residence in the utility sink. The laundry room is way down the list on popular rooms to remodel. When Jennifer Ryan of Jennifer Ryan Design in Bellingham helped a client move their appliances from a room under the stairs to a laundry/mudroom configuration, it was a vast improvement. One of the best parts was a dog-wash station with pull-out steps for the pooch’s easy ascent.

But improving your laundry room doesn’t have to mean a major remodel. Ryan said you can spend as little as $200 for shelves, simple flooring, storage and paint to make the space cheerier and more useful.

Some Tips From Ryan to Help Clean Up Your Laundry Space

Your Folding Counter or Shelf

It’s usually piled with clean clothes or baskets of them, right? Keep it clear by making space underneath for the baskets. For the other junk (tools, a cup of coins from the dryer, spare dogpoop bags that got washed by accident), make cubbyholes. If your laundry room is also a mudroom, install hooks for keys and clothes so stuff doesn’t get dumped on the counter.

Pull-Out Shelf for Ironing

Big space saver, plus lets you do a quick touchup without the hassle of setting up and taking down the cumbersome ironing board.

Cabinets and Shelving

Storage space helps in a big way. Stash soap, dryer sheets, fabric softener and all those pump bottles of spot- and stainremovers, said Ryan. A closet rod above the utility sink or appliances is efficient for hanging clothes.

Saving Space

One of the biggest mistakes, said Ryan, is people don’t put the washer and dryer in the best place. You can gain three feet of linear space by buying stackable appliances, now available in full size. “They don’t bounce around like the old days,” she said. Or get fancy and buy the revolutionary one-unit washerdryer, though they can be slow on drying and not cheap ($800 and up).

Location

If you can, Ryan recommends keeping your washer and dryer nearby. “The longer you have to walk to do laundry, the less you do it,” she said. “Usually I just see piles of laundry because no one wants to be down there” in the basement. “The closer it can be to the hub of the house, the better.”

Making it Comfortable

One client of Ryan’s has a TV to make for pleasant ironing. This isn’t the place for knickknacks, but colorful walls—paint, wallpaper, posters—will personalize the place. So will stuff like that tacky line drawing of the Seinfeld crew you just can’t toss, an old poster of the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom, or a copy of the Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune front page story on Custer’s Little Big Horn disaster. A benefit of forgotten-room status is that oddball stuff is welcome.

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"At the bottom of creaky stairs in a spooky basement, part of the mudroom or tucked in a closet, it's not a room that's usually included in the guest tour"