Airing Your Dirty Laundry………Room

Interior make-over for the laundry room.  What a concept.

If you’re over 40, your childhood memory of laundry is probably similar to mine. Does dank, dark basement ring a bell?

Having grown up in a house built in the 1920’s, a trip to the washing machine meant traveling through scary terrain. I remember the basement smelling one part musty and two parts Downy.  I recall navigating a steep stairway with very little clearance overhead.  At the base of the stairs there was an open area to one side of the landing, where all the firewood was kept, and I believe that some form of monster lived there too.  My pace always picked up as I got closer, hoping to make it into the basement safely.  Miraculously, I always did.   And I am lucky to be alive to tell about it.

Doing laundry meant schlepping baskets up and down two flights of stairs. It meant escaping the monster that lived under the stairs.  It meant getting freaked out by the roar of the furnace next to the washing machine.  The furnace was absolutely enormous, and probably broke every current safety code there is. It had a door in front that opened with a metal tool, and you could see the fire inside.

The washer and dryer were white. They weren’t Persimmon or Slate. They didn’t have shiny chrome grills, with promises of washing and drying a load in 14 minutes. They were white. WHITE.

Going “down cella” was always an adventure. There were boxes and piles of stuff that came from goodness-knows-where.  I used to think that “goodness-knows-where” was actually a place, like in the Hamptons or something.  My mother decided to turn part of the basement into a playroom. The floor was a dark, brown linoleum with specks of color all over it, over which we put a shag rug. We had inherited sleeper chairs from my grandmother, a muted green I think, and they were the ugliest things I’d ever seen.  I wonder now if I would still feel that way, or if they’d be kind of cool.

We never really used the playroom and it turned into another dumping ground.  40 years later I think it is still set up exactly as we left it, underneath layers and piles of goodness-knows-what (from the land of goodness-knows-where.)  I would like to excavate, given the likelihood of uncovering treasures that could be historically significant: like old MAD magazines, boxes of cancelled checks, ketchup packets, and newspapers with ads for Owen Moore.laundryBA

Fast-forward to my laundry room, pictured above, on the second floor of my house (which makes way more sense than in the basement.) It has a window, a tiled floor and a place to hang my unmentionables. But I’ll mention them. Because instead of lingerie and sweaters hanging over the shower rod, on chair backs, and scattered all over the place, there is actually a place for all these things to dry properly. Our laundry room is nothing like some I’ve seen. It’s fairly ordinary by today’s standards. I decided to spruce it up a little, when I realized it too, had become a dumping ground. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I guess.  It had never been painted in 15 years, and valuable space was being wasted.  There was no surface other than the top of the dryer for folding laundry.  Clean laundry ended up in our bedroom, piling up for days……not a great aphrodisiac if you know what I mean.

fasttrackWe took the laundry room apart, Joe and I, scrubbed and re-used all the existing wire shelving (15 years old and in perfect condition.) We discarded the support brackets because they take up valuable space beneath the shelf.  We ordered more shelving cut to size, and installed everything with a rail and track system.  We painted the boring white walls “Pebble” by Valspar. We added more shelving to organize and store household supplies, and created a place to fold laundry.



I added art to the walls, window blinds, accessories and voila! I heart my laundry room now!

I don’t have special appliances with superpowers and runway-model looks. But I do have a room that, considering the amount of time I spend in it, is more pleasant to be in now.  And that’s key. Our surroundings are very important and really play a big role in productivity.  Good design and organization, tools that work, and an esthetically pleasing color, create the right atmosphere to improve functionality. That, and no monsters.

I visit my childhood home plenty, and I can tell you the basement hasn’t changed much.  The scary furnace died a slow and painful death. The replacement furnace looks more like a hi-tech something-or-other (from goodness-knows-where) than it does a furnace.  My mother still lugs the laundry basket up and down the stairs, and in typical Maine stoic fashion, she claims it’s good for her.  At 81 I guess it must be.

I am pleased with how my laundry room came out.  Now if only my family would learn to unroll their socks before putting them in the hamper …….


Kate Lowry is an interior redesigner located in Portland, Maine.    207-776-9558



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