Cure the Laundry Room Blues
Design gurus offer ideas for turning a laundry room into a more colorful, useful and efficient space.
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I've lived in four houses since I got married, and the laundry rooms in all of them have had three consistent factors: Basements, cement and small, mud-spattered windows. This is pretty pathetic, considering how much of my life I spend in the laundry room.
On any given day, 28 million Americans are doing laundry-related chores, according to research done by Whirlpool Corp., which wants consumers to rethink the laundry room as a "family studio," a place with a hobby and craft center, TV and games "where your family values are nurtured," as one press release states. Since family values are seldom nurtured in my laundry room, where someone is usually complaining or arguing about the laundry, it may be time to rethink my laundry room's somewhat dungeon-like demeanor.
Laundry rooms are a key focus for many consumers now, with high-end washers and dryers (complete with colored finishes) leading the charge. Manufacturers shipped more than 14.3 million washers and dryers to stores in 2009, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
Lynne Stephenson, co-owner of HUB Design/Build in Villanova, Pa., says laundry rooms have been a part of 75 percent of the home remodeling projects they've drawn up recently. "Laundries have definitely been a focus," Stephenson says, who attributes the interest to the introduction of those tony washers and dryers several years ago. After all, who wants to put $2,000 worth of washer and dryer into a cinder-block basement?
An informal survey of members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry unearthed stories of recent laundry room projects that included dog-washing stations; craft tables; lockers for each family member; smart-house technology with video cameras, speakers and telephones; a butler's pantry; a workshop; and custom finishes, including marble counter tops, marble tile walls and custom cabinetry.
Designers and contractors also report that a majority of customers want the laundry room moved out of the basement and onto the second floor, where the dirty laundry is generated. "Clients don't want to walk to the basement to do laundry, period," says Kirk Moffitt, president of Moffitt Construction in Chicago, Ill. Although, he adds, "they must not have seen the Brady Bunch episode when Bobby flooded the kitchen with bubbles."
An unfinished basement is turned into a combination laundry room and crafts corner.