An Ultra-Useful Laundry Room: 4 Foundational Tips

January 2021 | by carolee mccall smith | photos by nathan satran

Ahhhh, the humble laundry room. On the one hand, it can be a simple, utilitarian space. On the other, it can be a huge, multi-purpose space and the home for every type of craft known to man. But most of us could agree on one thing in our laundry rooms: function. 

As a kid, every house I’d ever been to had the laundry room in an unfinished basement. Doing the laundry meant hauling baskets of the entire household’s clothing up and down the stairs. Did it serve its purpose? Yes. Clothes went down the stairs dirty and came back up clean. Yet, could it be improved? Definitely. 

In today’s world, how can we design a laundry room to best suit our needs? To me, four things stand out as the foundation for creating the best space possible for a task that I hate so much: location, utility, storage, and (of course) decor. 

Location 

First things first, let’s get the washer and dryer out of that dirty ol’ basement and put it where it makes the most sense, where your clothes are. No one wants to haul laundry baskets from the second floor down to the basement and back again. Obviously, changing locations is not an option for everyone, but in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend [it].”  

Utility 

Secondly, what can we do to make the space the most functional for you and your family? In most cases, a laundry room will be one of the smallest rooms in the house (although I admit, those gigantic ones with all the crafts do look like fun). We need to start by figuring out the arrangement that best suits you and your space.  

You may be noticing some similarities between these two rooms. It’s because it’s my old laundry room and my current one and I kept some of the same features in the new house. What can I say? I like my own cooking (that’s a metaphor, though, because my actual cooking is terrible, and no one likes it). Also, I happen to have pictures of both spaces. 

In the first example, the washer and dryer are stacked. Stacking the washer and dryer is a great option for a smaller space. It provides room on the side for storage or a laundry sink. Assuming you’d use it for more than dumping everything from the dryer into because you don’t feel like folding. (I’m not allowed to have a laundry sink for that very reason.) I’ve often heard comments about not wanting to use a step stool to get things out of the dryer. I can assure you, after nearly a decade of having them stacked, no step stool is necessary, even for a vertically challenged person like me. 

My space was a little larger in my current home, so I decided to try out the washer and dryer next to each other. I added a countertop over the two to serve as a folding area. My husband wanted to add a hanging rod over the countertop. I’ll be honest, I tried to nix it because it isn’t the prettiest option, but as I said at the beginning, this room is about function. And being able to take your clothes out of the dryer and hang them up directly before they’re moved to the correct closet is pretty functional. So what I’m trying to say here is, you win, babe. It was a good idea. 

Storage 

My favorite feature in both of these rooms is the under-counter storage for the laundry carts. It keeps them out of the way when you’re trying to get through the awful task that laundry is. And even though this isn’t a huge craft/laundry room, I have the option to wheel the carts out and pull a stool up to the counter when I’m working on a project. For instance, that’s where I do all my gift wrapping. So it’s multi-purpose, and that is always a win in my book. 

Speaking of storage, I’m a fan. While organization is not my strong suit, hiding all my junk is. And hiding junk requires cabinetry. Beware when opening any of these cabinets because something is likely to fall out. But at least I can’t see it, and that is the most important part as far as I’m concerned. A big orange laundry soap dispenser in plain view will throw off the whole vibe of the room. 

Décor 

By now, you may have figured out that doing laundry is not my favorite task. Of course, I have to wash my daughter’s Elsa pajamas daily, so avoiding laundry isn’t an option. The final step in creating a functional laundry room is adding some décor, so it’s a place that pulls you in. It’s a trick you’ve played on yourself, but it works. If this room is about function, getting someone to go into it is key to that end.  

My current laundry room didn’t have the option to add a window into it for natural light, so I brought in a little painting of a farm to brighten it up. I also brought some greenery in to soften the hard surfaces. And because clutter is my arch-nemesis, I have a few baskets sitting on the counter to collect all the things you find in pockets when doing laundry, as well as a place to hide all those single socks while you wait to see if the other will ever miraculously appear. Finally, a small countertop garbage keeps lint clumps where they belong and gives you a place to put those single socks when you’ve given up on ever finding the other one. 

We’re all different and use our laundry rooms in different ways. I know many people who feel a laundry sink is a non-negotiable must-have. For me, it’s an expensive hamper. When designing your space, reflect on what would make it the most functional for you and your family. Keep location, utility, storage, and decor forefront in your mind, and you’ll be able to create a space you’ll want to be in, even for the tedium of laundry.  

Originally printed in the January 2021 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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