A nice laundry room had never been a priority to me. For the first 10 years of my post-college life, I lived in big cities and considered schlepping overstuffed bags of clothes to and from laundromats as my exercise for the week. But then my husband and I bought a house in North Carolina, where home mortgages are cheap and laundry rooms are abundant—but in an afterthought kind of way. The laundry “room” in our house was really a 3’ x 5’ closet concealed by a pathetic little curtain, with an old washer/dryer and a sagging upper shelf that could barely support a detergent bottle. Also, it sits right off of our open living/dining space, so you—as in anyone who visited our house, ever—can’t miss it.
It wasn't long before the sad room started to drive us crazy, so we decided to overhaul it—without spending a fortune. Our changes were simple, but they made the cramped corner feel more spacious than ever. Here’s how we pulled it off for about $400:
1. Stack Your Way to More Space. Apparently are a polarizing topic in online-review land. Front-loading washers have a reputation for building up mold, but wiping down the door and airing them out often makes all the difference. Buying a pair of front-loading machines allowed us to stack them, using vertical space that would be wasted otherwise. By opening up half of the closet to new possibilities, we instantly increased our square footage.
2. Create a Real Room Feeling with Wallpaper. Paint can clean up a wall and give it color, but wallpaper takes things to another level. Lucky for us all, companies are now rolling out beautiful patterns that can be easily removed when you move. The wallpaper we chose is a gold-speckled pattern that feels modern but not too trendy. It mimics metallic accents throughout our house, and because it’s naturally irregular, we didn’t have to be too exact in our installation (hallelujah!).
Devine Color Speckled Dot Peel & Stick Wallpaper, $29.99; Target
3. A Cabinet Keeps Crap Hidden. No one—including you—needs to see your detergent bottles, dryer sheets, and stain sticks. And decanting them all in pretty bottles isn’t practical either. To hide our household supplies in an easy-to-access place, we installed a single base cabinet from Ikea with kick plates to keep it looking clean. The top drawer holds detergents and such, while the bottom drawer contains dog food.
In place of a standard countertop, we cut down an old pine board (scored for $40 at a local salvage yard) into four parts. We stained them all, glued two together to form a countertop, and hung the other two as shelves. We love that you can still see old nail holes and the character of the wood. In a space full of new things, it adds a rich sense of history.
4. Shelves Help With Storage, Too. Just use containers to do your dirty work. I store toilet paper in a white woven basket; I put paper towels in a leather bin. And then a rounded vintage basket offers extra storage as needed. Also on the shelves: glass jars of baking soda and vinegar (my favorite natural odor-eating combo).
Square Base Tapered Basket, $11.69; Target
Faux Leather Storage Bin, $29.99; Target
5. Every Space Deserves Art. Even if it’s just one piece, and even if it’s small, art makes a space feel polished and pulled together. To save money and time, I filled an old frame I had on hand with an illustration by artist Laura Berger. It worked with the color palette and it's pretty to look at it, so I consider it frame-worthy.
6. A Little Greenery Goes a Long Way. Because this space has zero access to natural light, a small faux plant brings the outdoors in with zero maintenance required.
7. Nice Lighting is Always a Bright Idea. It’s one of my major pet peeves to see a beautiful space below a sad . A simple gold and glass fixture——illuminated the space with a clean, modern look.
Globe Light with Pull Chain Switch, $15; Amazon
8. Put Your Corners to Work. An overlooked corner is the perfect home for a vertical drying rack. The one we found features four bars that swing out when it’s time to dry out damp clothes, then swing back in between uses.
Swing Out Towel Bar, $28; Amazon
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