As published in the Napa Valley Register.
A laundry room is more than a place to wash, dry and fold clothes. It’s a place where you can cut loose with color and style and decorate to your heart’s desire. Love a lime green and pink duo? How about a purple, magenta and orange trio? Want to surround yourself with murals of the Taj Mahal, Machu Pichu or the Champs-Elysees? No problem, a laundry room welcomes all such creativity.
In my experience, clients worry about making design mistakes in their home. “Does this color make the room too small?” “Will this tile become dated?” “Does a sofa skirt have to match a chair skirt?” “What’s the most efficient configuration in a kitchen?” The questions go on and on. However, there’s no need for such fret in a laundry room. If you haven’t already transformed this utility space into a happy place, what are you waiting for?
Whether your laundry room has a designated space of its own, is a tiny niche off a hallway or even part of your garage, it can still have off-the-charts personality. So instead of dreading the inevitable task of laundering, why not enjoy the experience? Why not delight in colors and images that you are too timid to use elsewhere? I repeat, “Why not?”
While creating this little wonderland, there are a few guidelines to follow. If the idea of wallpaper floats your boat, make sure to choose washable paper. The description of each wallpaper will literally say, “washable.” You’d be surprised how many options will fill this requirement. And no, they don’t all look shiny or cheesy. Paintable wallpaper is a great choice because you can change colors on a whim. You can hire a professional paper hanger or do it yourself. Peel-and-stick papers are particularly easy. Take a look at tempaper.com.
The best flooring for a laundry room is porcelain tile. It’s virtually bullet-proof as far as scratching and staining. And because porcelain is non-porous, heat and water will not cause it harm. Currently, there are several decorative and patterned porcelain tiles on the market that would doll up the floor – and walls, for that matter.
Whether papering or painting the walls, don’t forget the ceiling. Why not (seems to be my question of the day) paint it a different color? I still remember an orange lacquered ceiling in 2017’s San Francisco Designer Showhouse and continue to love it.
Good lighting is crucial. Besides making it brighter and more cheerful, you want to be able to see spots and stains on your fabrics. And if using bleach, you want to easily distinguish whites from pastels. Fixtures using LED bulbs are the way to go. But, of course, not just any fixtures. No matter what décor you’ve chosen, make sure to enhance it with at least one striking light fixture. It will support, if not define, the style of your room.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention storage. Use a combination of cabinets, shelves, baskets, and bins. If you have a front-loading washing machine next to a dryer, add a horizontal work surface right above them. A wall-mounted drying rack can come in handy or mount a rod between two cabinets or shelves or wherever possible. Make room for cubby holes to store a hamper and a trash bin. Buy in sets, that is, all blue baskets and all white shelves, for instance. This uniformity will not only keep you organized but will make your laundry room look orderly and intentionally designed. All of these items can be found in Bed, Bath and Beyond, World Market, Pottery Barn, Ballard Design and big box stores.
Storage and other contents of a laundry room should be easily accessible and have designated locations. I’m going to suggest an exercise that will bring simplicity and structure to your daily life. I did it, myself, and can now find exactly what I need lickety-split. I can also readily see the status of my supplies.
First, clear a big surface such as a kitchen counter top. Second, search all cupboards in your kitchen, bathrooms, garage, and current laundry and mud rooms and grab any product related to cleaning. All kinds of cleaning. Put them on the counter top and start grouping similar items according to their use. In my case, I had a group of clothes detergents, stain removers, bleach, spot eraser bars, and Woolzies Laundry Essential Oils (I like to add aromatics to my clothes.) I also had a group of products for hardwood floors, marble, tub and tile, and glass as well as soft products like sponges, Brillo, vacuum cleaner bags, microfiber clothes, and pads for my steam mop and Swiffer. And there was a group of bar soap, dish soap, dishwasher gels, Clorox wipes, Spic and Span, and Mr. Clean.
Once you see your own inventory, you may want to categorize differently such as separate groups for separate rooms. Nonetheless, did you notice that I had an overlap of products? Do I really need both Spic and Span and Mr. Clean? No, but now that I can clearly see what I have, I won’t buy anything else until I’m completely out of this or that.
After organizing your groups, you may want to set aside anything that you use regularly and put in a more convenient place – such as one bottle of dish soap and dishwasher gel in the kitchen. But hopefully, you have enough room in your laundry room to accommodate everything else. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have space to store an ironing board, mop, broom, and a vacuum cleaner.
I promise you that once you have created this little gem of a workroom, pretty and organized, drab chores won’t be drab anymore. If I didn’t inspire you, maybe Baton Rouge designer, Rachel Cannon, will. Take a look at the two laundry rooms she designed for Designer Showhouses in Palm Springs and Baton Rouge. She went all out on color, pattern, style, and organization. She applied the same design integrity and detailed attention she would have applied to any other room.
Go ahead, cut loose and create a wonderland of your own. Why not?
When you can’t decide on your favorite door style or color, why not use them all? Baton Rouge designer, Rachel Canon, proves that such an approach results in a cheery and vibrant laundry room. A color-coordinated rug, white tile floors, and simple but graphic wallpaper tie the room together in this 2017 Palm Springs Showhouse. Photo: Rachel Canon Interiors, Ltd
Designer Rachel Canon went all out on lush and luxe in Baton Rouge’s 2020 Adelia Showhouse. She proves that a glamorous crystal chandelier can show-stop more than a formal dining room. Photo: Andrea Kinnear
An attractive set of baskets can motivate one to stay organized. Designer Rachel Canon chose Ballard Design’s Honeycomb Woven Baskets for such a deed. Photo: Andrea Kinnear.