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).
This bright, open laundry room features sleek Miele appliances, a glass backsplash, and a shelf to showcase
decorative objects that personalize the space. A counter over the appliances provides ample room for folding.
Don’t skimp on lighting in a space where you’re looking to remove stains and wrinkles. “Task lighting is very important,” says Pryor. “If you have cabinets you can place lighting underneath, but you can also install can lights, track lighting, or ceiling-mount fixtures.” But feel free to get creative: How about a funky glass globe pendant fixture (West Elm sells a cool one for $99) or a vintage chandelier? There’s no reason lighting in this space has to be strictly utilitarian.
As far as washers and dryers are concerned, technological advances have made laundry day more eco-smart—front-loading, Energy Star appliances allow you to use less water and dry your clothes in half the time. And bold colors make the machines a lot more fun. Whirlpool’s rich cranberry and a dreamy chardonnay color from LG are among the more interesting hues now available. Wirth has planned renovations around the color of her clients’ laundry appliances (“To go with a silver washer and dryer, we used patinaed silver ceramic tiles from Tile Outlet,” she says).
Asko’s drying cabinets are a luxurious laundry room addition—a way to gently dry sweaters, mittens, jackets, scarves, and boots. They run $1,249 to $1,299.
Another nice splurge is an electric drying cabinet, which dries items with gentle heat. It’s also great for snowy climes. “People are installing these systems as a way to gently dry damp mittens, boots, jackets, and sweaters,” says Don Prevette, vice president of marketing for Asko Appliances (askousa.com), which makes a few models.
Finally, feel free to make the laundry room a pleasant place to hang out while waiting for your clothes to dry. How about a comfy chair? A reading lamp? A TV or music system? Give yourself nice things to look at. “Apply a fresh, soft paint color on the walls and hang fun artwork,” Luthringshausen suggests. For a recent project, Wirth created a modern white laundry room and filled it with the clients’ children’s brightly colored artwork. “The space was anything but mundane,” she says. “It became a happy place.”
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