Putting a New Spin on
an Old Chore
Story by Meaghan Howard
Here's the dirt on laundry rooms: The hardest-working room in the house doesn't have to look like it is.
Once banished to dark basements or dusty garages, laundry rooms are moving upstairs and upscale. They're being revamped to include more than just a washer and dryer, with stylish and functional storage cabinets, counter spaces, laundry sinks and more.
When Dawn Lottsfeldt was remodeling her Turnagain home, she decided her new addition would be great with a brand new laundry room to match. Since most of her time was spent in the kitchen, she thought, "Wouldn't it be great to have the laundry upstairs next to the bedrooms and kitchen?"
Lottsfeldt's washer and dryer were in her unfinished basement. Now, she has a full laundry room upstairs with bright white cabinets, lots of workspace thanks to her new brown and white flecked Silestone counters, and a new set of front-loading appliances in orange to pop the space. She carried the pumpkin tones through the laundry, which corresponds with the decor of the rest of the house.
At left: Want to make hand-washing a thing of the past? MTI Whirlpool's Jentle Jet sink thoroughly launders fine hand-washables without harsh agitators. Available in 50 different colors, including today's latest washer and dryer colors.
Color can be a place to play, especially where laundry rooms are concerned. They can also be a place to experiment. Since visitors generally won't be seeing the room, trying out a dapper cherry red or a rich sepia brown can be fun. Toby Ventura, AKBD, of J & D Interiors in Anchorage, says she has seen some interesting color choices in the laundry. "People go a little wild with the colors," she says.
Beyond walls, the cabinetry chosen for the room can express the owner's personality as well. Louis Suarez of Alaska Premier Closets, who designed Lottsfeldt's laundry, is seeing homeowners move toward the darker side in cabinetry. "Darker wood grains are starting to reenter the design field," Suarez says. He also says more customers are choosing richer hardware to match. Oil-rubbed bronze pulls are gaining popularity, though stainless steel and brushed nickel hardware are still holding ground.
Suarez says that space is an issue that his customers are just beginning to reassess. Counter space is a valuable addition to a laundry room, if the area permits. An additional space saver, particularly if the area is small already, is a stacking washer and dryer. Stacking a full-capacity set of appliances can save 36 to 40 inches, which can be filled with cabinets or shelving for storage of laundry baskets, detergents or drying racks.
Boxy, neutral-colored washers have given way to highly stylized front-loading machines, according to Ventura. Color-wise, Ventura says many of her customers are coordinating the washer and dryer with the rest of the house. Available colors run the gamut from hot retro red to gunmetal gray, and virtually everything in between. Besides the fun colors, front load washers offer another distinct advantage over a top-loading machine: energy and water savings.
Ventura says that a true horizontal front load machine, like those from Frigidaire or Miele, will hold less laundry but use just five to eight gallons of water per load (meaning less water to heat as well). A tilted front load machine, like those from LG or Whirlpool, will hold more laundry than a true horizontal but does so with slightly more water: about 15 gallons per load. That's still a significant savings over a traditional top load washer, which Ventura says uses about 40 to 60 gallons of water per load. "That's a total waste of water and it fills up your septic system."
At right: LG Electronics' first stainless steel laundry pair includes the SteamWasher and SteamDryer and comes in a variety of colors. Steam can be incorporated into the wash cycle to help wash performance while increasing energy and water savings. The dryer's SteamFresh cycle reduces wrinkles and removes odors from clothing.
Remodeling that old laundry room can save time as well as money. New homes are often being built with laundry rooms upstairs, next to the bedrooms. Owners of older homes are saving trips up and down the stairs by moving their laundry rooms upstairs as well, as Lottsfeldt did.
Also, many homeowners are expanding the space to function as a multi-tasking area. Suarez says he is seeing a lot of laundry-and-mudroom combos right off of the garage. Organized right, the area can be a great place for kids to come in and put their things away. Ventura says families sometimes organize mudroom-laundry areas with a cubby for each child's hat and gloves and a bench to sit on and remove shoes or boots. "It becomes sort of a winter storage area," Ventura says. Thoughtful organization can also help on the laundry side, making laundry sorting a breeze for the whole family.
Besides an arctic entry, the laundry room can double as a project room. While waiting for the clothes to dry (often in as little as 30 minutes with new dryers), homeowners with lots of counter space in their laundry can work on their laptop, pot plants, or do homework or quilting. Lottsfeldt's laundry room, with its close proximity to her kitchen, also has a sink and dishwasher so it can double as a butler's pantry.
The laundry room sink has gone high tech as well. Ventura says some of her clients have ordered Jentle Jet laundry sinks by MTI Whirlpool that swish and clean delicate clothes without harsh agitators. Add pullout wire racks to air dry and a built-in ironing board complete with light and outlets, and hand washing just became much easier.
Making a laundry room work harder for you and making it beautiful aren't exclusive of each other. With clever organizing and high-efficiency appliances clad in beautiful color, the room can become somewhat of a delight to work in.