Your laundry area, whether it's a tiny closet or a corner of the basement, can actually be a happy place.
In a recent Washington project, Jessica Centella and Kiera Kushlan of Residents Understood designed a laundry space as part of a total basement renovation. Their client, who loves pink, wanted something fun with storage and a sink suitable for bathing dogs. The designers decided a patterned tile would add some spice to the tight space. "White tile was definitely not happening," Centella says. "We wanted a unique color combination that you don't see everywhere."
At Home Depot, they discovered Merola Egeo Quios encaustic porcelain tiles with an orange, green, black and pink Moroccan-style motif. They installed them on the floor and halfway up the walls, painted the rest of the room with Benjamin Moore's Super White in eggshell finish, added shelving and installed a farmhouse-style Randolph Morris cast-iron sink. "I would encourage people to think about laundry spaces like they do the rest of the rooms in the house," Centella says.
Like powder rooms, laundry rooms are often small spaces where you can express your personality with a bit of bold wallpaper and some unexpected flooring. While designers and organizers are coming up with new ways to make the most of these spaces, appliance manufacturers are rolling out new features to make washers and dryers more efficient and better-looking.
"Our lives are so busy, but we still have to do our mundane household tasks," says Glenna Stone, a Philadelphia interior designer. "People have started to realize that even some of the areas that are more utilitarian in a home can actually have some beauty to them."
Here are some ways to refresh, energize and bring joy to the place where you wash your socks.
- Tile the floors
"Tile is the best pick for a high-moisture environment like a laundry room," Centella says, "especially a laundry room in a basement where flooding is a more likely scenario. Porcelain in particular is extremely water-durable."
Patterned floor tile is definitely having a moment. Stone likes porcelain and ceramic tile for floors because they offer a lot of color and pattern options.
Cement tile is another option, she says, but beware, because cement might have to be re-sealed frequently in high-traffic areas.
Stuart Nordin, a Richmond, Virginia, designer, says you can never go wrong with classic white subway tile, even if it's just for a backsplash: "It elevates the overall look of a room and adds another layer of dimension and interest."
Washington designer Josh Hildreth says old concrete floors in basement laundry rooms can be made less dungeon-like by stenciling them, if you're DIY-inclined. If not, just giving them a coat of fresh paint can be life-changing. Hildreth recalls painting the basement laundry room floor of one of his first places after college in red, and taking the red paint up the wall about 28 inches.
- Have fun with the walls
Don't just paint the walls white. Wallpaper can turn a tiny room into pure eye candy. If you worry about the humidity in your laundry space, Nordin recommends Chasing Paper. "They make really cute removable wallpapers that I've been using in some laundry rooms and bathrooms," she says. "They are budget-friendly and easy to take down. Even if you only have one small strip of wall between cabinetry, a great paper with personality will make it feel fresh and fun."
New York designer Sheila Bridges is a big fan of using wallpaper for impact. "One of my favorite things to do in a small laundry room is to install a bright and cheery wipeable wallpaper," she says. "No reason to make doing laundry a chore, even if your laundry room is in a basement." In her own Harlem apartment laundry station, she used a Harlem Toile de Jouy wallpaper of her own design in robin's-egg blue.
Hildreth sometimes takes a hint from old British manor houses when designing laundry spaces. "Give it a Downton Abbey look," he says. Such details would include adding traditional beadboard or wainscotting to dress up and protect walls. And look for big wicker baskets, he says, as opposed to using plastic laundry bins.
- Accessorize with storage
Speaking of laundry baskets, could yours use replacing? Take a good look at the baskets and bins around your washer and dryer.
Bridges likes baskets for detergent and laundry made of various materials including seagrass from West Elm, recycled plastic from Serena & Lily and water hyacinth from the Container Store. She's also fond of using indoor/outdoor rugs that are washable or wipeable and won't get damaged if they get wet.
"Go for anything that makes laundry less of a chore," says Meg Wittman, a Neat Method professional organizer. Wittman says some of her go-to laundry products are the Container Store's iDesign Linus clear plastic bins, Steele Canvas rolling laundry hampers and West Elm's Bamboo Butterfly double hamper. Supplies look better in large jars such as the Salt clear acrylic canisters from Bed Bath & Beyond.
Centella loves using trays to help corral supplies. "Even a bunch of ugly soap bottles can look more contained and pretty on a nice tray," she says. She often uses a flip-down wall hook (the Stainless Steel Lanca Valet Flip-Down Wall Hook from the Container Store, $29.99), which folds down to provide a spot to dry delicates or hang clothes and can be folded up when not in use.
- Upgrade your appliances
Some of the latest machines are targeted toward millennials looking for efficient internet-connected products and condominium dwellers looking for space-saving solutions. According to Joshua Stumacher, Samsung product marketing director, Samsung's 6300 Smart Front Load Washer has WiFi connectivity that tells you when a cycle is complete, and it has faster speeds so you can do a full load in 30 minutes. To go with some of the warmer wood tones showing up in laundry room design, Samsung recently added a champagne finish option to some of its models.
Most space-strapped consumers still prefer the larger-capacity 27-inch-wide models vs. 24-inch models, says Brendan Bosch, Whirlpool's marketing director for laundry appliances. So, Whirlpool designed a shallower "closet-depth" 27-inch washer and dryer to fit into more compact places. Some have a "load and go" feature that allows you to put 40 loads worth of detergent in a machine, alleviating the need to store big containers of detergent.
- Create a folding area
If you have a side-by-side washer and dryer, consider putting a counter on top. If you're doing a lot of renovating, you might use the same counter material as you have in your kitchen.
For those with stacking units and no extra counter space, Nordin says to try a wall-mounted collapsible table, such Isasar's Wall-Mounted Folding Table ($179.99 on Amazon). "Put a painting or photo on the bottom so it masquerades as a framed piece of art when not in use as a folding station," she says.
Make an effort to make your folding area attractive. "Even in an old, dark basement, there are things you can do without spending a lot of money," Hildreth says. For a nice folding surface, he suggests finding an old farm table at a yard sale or flea market, or painting an old dining table. It's nice to also upgrade the lighting (especially in a basement): A new fixture, Hildreth adds, such as the retro-looking Rejuvenation Carson or Abigail flush-mount lights, would make the area brighter and cheerier.
- Make it multitask
When square footage is at a premium, laundry rooms can be multipurpose, combined with an entryway, utility room, home office, gift-wrapping station or pet-care area. Build in room for bulk supply storage or places for household basics such as light bulbs or tools. Consider how you can use the space most efficiently.
New York interior designer Kevin Dumais gave clients in a Brooklyn apartment a combination laundry/mudroom/plant-care area using practical, stylish finishes such as a floor of black honed marble, a countertop of Paper Stone, a solid surface material created from recycled paper and a non-petroleum resin; and anodized aluminum backsplash and drawer fronts. The materials are industrial and sturdy and, combined with the white oak cabinets, give the space a modern, clean-lined look. "These rooms are like workhorses, and take a lot of wear and tear," Dumais says. He is working on a laundry space on the Upper West Side that has a drawer unit designed as an eating station for the clients' two English bulldogs.