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Fresh Laundry

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Nov 7, 2008

When I was growing up, our laundry room was bare-bones basic. It consisted of a washer and dryer pushed up against the wall, a small drying line, a shelf for detergent, and an old concrete laundry sink. The walls were painted brick and the floor was painted concrete.
Fresh Laundry

That was back in the old days when basements were strictly utility spaces (ours had a workroom, a cold cellar, storage room, laundry, and a makeshift fort that my brother created under the stairs). In my wildest dreams I could never have imagined what today's laundry rooms would look like.

I think our demand for design-savvy utility rooms stems from our need to make the best use of every square inch of house. We no longer look at the basement as a dark, damp space, but as part of the usable square footage of the house. There's no rule that dictates your laundry must be worthy of publication in a design mag, but it's worth spending a bit of effort to polish it up so you get the most out of it.

Since I was tight on space, my laundry couldn't be closed off in a room of its own. It serves as the hallway to access the second bathroom, so making sure its design credentials measured up was a necessity more than a luxury.

Make A Splash

Kitchens and laundry spaces never really look complete without a backsplash. It's a bit like a dress without jewellery for me; it doesn't look fully polished. But keep in mind that you don't have to run the splash all the way up to the underside of the wall cabinets.

I figured there's little or no splash in a laundry room, so I ran a single band of glass mosaic just above the counter. It's sold in 12- by 12-inch sheets, so the installation was easy and inexpensive, with little or no cutting required, yet the three-tone pattern adds an extra splash of colour to the room.

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Colour Me Cheery

I was starting to feel that there wasn't enough variety in the laundry rooms I'd seen in photographs. Everything seemed to tie in to the "Martha" aesthetic of pale, watery tones. But I wanted something bright and energizing, happy and inspiring. The image of the old Sunlight soap box kept popping into my head and seemed to capture the spirit of how I hoped the room would feel when complete. (The room has a window but it's not as though sunlight comes streaming in, so creating the illusion of dazzling light was key to my success.)

Finding just the right yellow was a challenge that resulted in numerous test quarts of wall paint. When I wasn't sold on any of the first five colours I tried, I simply dumped them into a bucket together, stirred them up and … voila! I had the perfect shade of sunlight.

When working with a powerful colour, it's important to remember that a little goes a long way. The bright white cabinets temper the intensity of the yellow walls and provide a crisp backdrop so that you see only a few bands of this dazzling bright.

A Mix Of Styles

I'm a wash-'n-wear girl at heart and have never had the time nor inclination for hand laundering, so a large laundry sink is a waste of space for me. It's important to have a utility sink available in case you need to let something soak, but I find a single, extra-deep bowl does the trick. In this case, I opted for a white ceramic drop-in model that saved me some money on the stone top since it didn't need to be polished and undermounted. Plus, the classic look of the shiny white glaze appealed to my nostalgic side, while the cool, brushed steel faucet with handy pull-down spray makes clean up a cinch.

Fresh Laundry

Front-Loader Lesson

I'm a big fan of front-loading laundry machines. I love the extra work space that is created by being able to run a continuous counter all around the room.

But you have to pay attention to the depth and height of the machines you select since they can vary quite a bit. I was trying to be thrifty and had selected an in-stock counter option to complement my off-the-rack cabinetry choice.

What I didn't realize until all the components were installed was that my machines stuck out too far for my standard-depth countertop — uh oh! My installers also pointed out that the seals between sections of my premade counters would be susceptible to water damage from the sink. So before I knew it, I was on the phone ordering a custom slab of marble.

Fortunately I'd chosen inexpensive Carrara marble for the floor, so it cost only about $1,500, but it makes all the difference to the finished space. Choosing to keep the 3/4-inch counters at a single thickness and avoiding fancy edge profiles also helped save me a few pennies.

Flip For It

If your laundry machines are extra tall (some are as high as 41 inches) you might be concerned about mounting wall cabinets and not having enough room between the counter and the cabinets for folding.

The easy solution is to mount the upper cabinets horizontally so the doors flip up to open, as this gives a shorter overall height. (If you have ample ceiling height, you can even stack them on top of each other.)

If you opt for doors with sandblasted glass fronts, you'll be able to see what's stashed inside as an added bonus.

Tune In

It may seem like a crazy concept to put a TV in the laundry room, but hear me out: Folding and ironing aren't exactly a ton of fun and can be very time-consuming, so I figured why not add a little entertainment to the experience? What you save in charges at the cleaners can be put toward multitasking while keeping up to date with your favourite talk show, soap opera or design show.