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Good Clean Fun

Q: My laundry room is a downer. How can I make it look less like an afterthought and more like a beautiful, functional space?

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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Canvas and steel cart from Restoration Hardware (three sizes, $129-$229). The steel Brallis hanger from Ikea ($4) holds five pairs of pants. This wire coop tower can hold laundry soap and supplies ($179 at CB2). Globe steel and glass pendants at West Elm ($99). Store dry detergent in glass jars from Crate & Barrel ($10-$20).
 

A: In recent years laundry rooms have emerged from obscurity to become a new frontier in home design. Architects, designers, and manufacturers are all getting into the act, designing workspaces and products that really perform—and even dazzle.

One trend has to do with location. Increasingly stylish laundry appliances have been migrating from basements to other parts of the house. “In some older homes, you find laundry rooms near transition areas like the mudroom or entryway,” says Kiki Luthringshausen of K-Haus Interior Design. “In newer homes, laundry rooms have moved upstairs by the bedrooms.” It makes sense when you think of where the dirty clothes are coming from and where the clean ones are headed.

The functional design of the space has also been getting more attention. Janice Pryor, co-owner with her husband, Pete, of Pryor Construction, has tackled many laundry-room remodels in her 20 years in business, and gives serious thought to how the area will be used. “Countertop space and a deep stainless steel sink are very important,” she says. Base cabinetry can provide handy storage beneath the counter and sink and doesn’t have to be expensive; the Pryors often install upper cabinetry or open shelving, too. Flooring needs to handle frequent spills and splashes; they prefer ceramic tile. Counter space for a built-in folding station is an essential alternative to hovering over your washer and dryer. If you lack the square footage for such a thing, Joe Galow of Closet Creator (800-678-1924) suggests a drop-down table for sorting and folding clothes. “Attach it to the wall with brackets so when you’re done with the laundry, it can fold down and away,” he says. Galow also suggests shelving, cabinets, drying racks, and valet rods above washbasins for drip-drying.

If a drastic renovation isn’t in the cards, you can still upgrade wash-day accessories. Try looking at the laundry room as a space to be styled, Luthringshausen suggests. The first step? Ditch dingy bags and dilapidated baskets for rugged canvas and steel carts on casters for easy transport (Restoration Hardware has great options), sturdy linen laundry totes (check out French Laundry’s version, available at Neiman Marcus), or large wicker baskets. Stephanie Wirth of Leo Designs agrees that attractive hampers, storage, and laundry accessories are a must. “Find fun containers to consolidate important items,” she says. “Cute storage options are everywhere.”
Transfer clothespins, dryer sheets, and dry laundry detergent from their original packaging to glass jars or other nice-looking containers. Keep freshly ironed items organized with wall hooks, nice hangers, and well-designed clothing racks. The curved steel Brallis hanger ($4) from Ikea  is a great space saver and can hold up to five pairs of pants. A wire coop tower or old wooden milk crates add instant, unexpectedly chic storage, and pretty hooks and knobs are worth the investment (check out Pottery Barn’s new Statement row of hooks, $199, at potterybarn.com).
 

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