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July 01, 2008

The dirt on laundryrooms

Small spaces with a purpose needn’t be too clothes for comfort

Michelle Lindstrom

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The traditional laundry room, tucked away in a remote location of the home hiding from view all of your dirty laundry, can now be aired out and shown off. Condo dwellers rejoice!

Jeff James, design consultation manager at Wen-Di Interiors in Calgary says he specifies stackable washer and dryer units quite often for Jayman’s condos, but if the room permits he uses a side-by-side set of front-loading units with a countertop above and 13-inch manufacturers’ pedestals below. He notes the pedestals “actually provide a lot of extra storage.”

A third appliance option James offers is a two-in-one washer and dryer unit, which just as the name implies, washes and dries all in one unit occupying half the amount of space typically needed. He claims the appliances he has used take the wrinkle out of smaller laundry room spaces, but others give the dual appliances mixed reviews.

Sandee Wahl from Trail Appliances’ promotions and marketing says two-in-one units have never been popular for them, and Trail leans more towards the stackable variety when space is an issue. “You can stack almost anything now,” she says, explaining a stack kit can be added to most front-loading units, and the option is quite affordable and practical.      

Online customer ratings vary for two-in-one washer and dryers. Seemingly, the higher the price and quality of each brand people buy, the higher and better the review. Complaints include long dry cycles, intense wrinkling of clothes and small load sizes, while parts and service can be expensive and hard to find. Pros include their compact size, energy- and water-efficiency, ability to clean clothes gently yet effectively, and as non-venting units, homeowners can have them installed pretty much anywhere electricity and water are available in their living space.

With technology constantly improving, doing laundry is getting much quieter, Wahl says, allowing appliances to reside in kitchens or centrally-located closets instead of a hidden location. But, it’s not all about the appliances. You must accessorize, accessorize, accessorize!

“If space permits (install a) sorting station—laundry bins for colours, whites, darks, bedding, towels–folding station, laundry sink, hooks for extra storage or hanging (and) storage for unused seasonal clothing/shoes,” says Tanya Stewart, project manager at Platinum Properties Group Corp. for Sierra Gardens condos in Calgary. “Utilize as much vertical space as possible.” Floating shelves, radios mounted under shelves or cabinets, and fold-down Murphy-style ironing boards are a few ways she says homeowners can arrange things vertically. Up is also the way Clara Desmarteau of Aspire Condo Living in Edmonton says to go. “We are fortunate to have nine-foot ceilings, so it leaves us more room to store items not frequently used but still needed—luggage, tent, Christmas tree, sleeping bags etc.”

It’s hard to talk about small space organization without IKEA’s name coming up. The Swedish retailer’s latest on laundry rooms covers numerous clutter and space-consuming issues laundry conjures up. It offers such things as a folding, wall-mounted drying rack, perforated board to add magnets, hooks and boxes, rolling and folding drying racks, various laundry bins and an ironing board installed in an enclosed cabinet drawer. Arleta Nadbizezna, Calgary IKEA interior designer, says the company’s Antonius line gives people variety with its silver finished rails and white shelving, keeping the look “simple.” Even though new and bold appliance colours are now offered almost anywhere, Nadbizezna says, “People generally go with white and stainless steel (appliances),” adding these colours work perfectly with the Antonius line.

But, just like appliance preferences, decoration opinions vary. “A light paint colour will make the room seem larger and make the décor show up better on your walls,” says Calgary Quattro at the Lake sales and office manager, Jean Thiessen.

Stewart thinks along the same lines. “Paint the room a bright spring-time colour or white,” she says. But James takes an opposing stance, recommending rich paint colours to make a statement and contrast against the typically white washer and dryer. Nadbizezna grabs onto the middle road, suggesting any colours work as long as they’re monochromatic, noting too much contrast can visually break the room into chunks, causing the overall room to appear smaller than it actually is—defeating the whole design purpose.

The general consensus on lighting is to avoid fluorescent types, while still illuminating the space enough to appear airy and assist in the room’s functionality for stain removing, ironing or folding. Thiessen says, natural light from windows should be controlled with curtains matching the room’s decor while attempting to work with the rest of the living space too.

Flooring may not seem important in laundry rooms; you know the basics, put a hard surface in there, have a drain and—voila—floor done. But, it can be advantageous to upgrade what’s under your feet because the area is small and therefore the cost insignificant. Sarah Richardson, Canadian design guru, recounts on Sarah’s House website an opportunity she had to install a stone floor in the Sarah’s House laundry room because she was “thrifty” in counter and cabinet selections. “Instead of opting for a bargain-priced ceramic floor, I was able to splurge on a warm, ‘Lagos gold’ stone floor that makes my lowly laundry room look like a chic kitchen,” says Richardson.

Function can be pretty, so put up pictures, drapes, shelves or whatever works for the room. James prefers using chocolate-coloured wicker baskets to organize rather than Tupperware pieces for detergent and spray storage. He reasons that the softness of the baskets lends a consistent, yet warm feeling, rather than an “industrial” one. Thiessen says, “You may also use shelving to cover up any piping in your laundry room,” as a way to merge form and function.

The laundering process can also help make your small space feel and look pleasantly functional. Amyjoy Clow, of We-ll Organize It in Edmonton helps declutter people’s homes by purging items, creating storage, and space planning. She says if you don’t think you can finish six loads of laundry in one day, just do one. “Do it, wash it, fold it—all in one day.” That way, she claims, the mess won’t feel so overwhelming and the room won’t have an unending supply of dirty clothes strewn about.

Laundry is a fact of life whether you love it or hate it. By making the room more inviting and organized, you can make the task feel a little less tedious. Richardson sums up the importance of laundry room design: “If you are going to have a laundry obsession, might as well have a pretty place to spend all your time fluffing an folding!” 

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