BY DANIELLE POPE
Welcome to the new age of laundry: where washing machines are, literally, placed on pedestals, ironing boards are statement items, luxury wallpaper adorns the space, stone counters and marble backsplashes decorate working surfaces, and chandeliers illuminate the task at hand.
Karen Staats, operations manager for Victoria’s WestCoast Appliance Gallery, remembers how, not so long ago, the laundry room was something to keep hidden behind closed doors. It was a place, deep in the basement, where a rogue washer and dryer would thump erratically against the curling linoleum floor. An old stained sink with rusty taps would echo a permanent drip, and pieces of clothing sprouted, like weeds, from every cranny.
This is no longer a room to keep hidden away. Today’s stations are spacious and economical, functional and fun, luxurious and practical. It’s a place to play with kids and fold clothes, to wash the dog or wrap presents, and it can also be a place to hang fine art and show off your colourful side.
“People used to use this room as a dumping ground for everything that should be dealt with later,” Staats says. “Now, people use their laundry rooms for every purpose because the atmosphere is nice.”
As the command centre of the house, today’s laundry room requires designers and homeowners to rethink the stylistic approach taken in this heavily used area.
Colour has made a big comeback — both on the walls and through the appliances. Staats says brands like Whirlpool and Samsung have developed chic new shades to make their washers and dryers centrepieces of the room. Colours range from shimmering white and black, to “chrome shadow,” “diamond steel” and “cranberry red.”
Neutrals, greys and whites are still the most popular room colours, according to Jenn Lepinski, colour consultant with Pacific Paint, yet navy and other blue tones are big this year for laundry areas. Lepinski’s own room is outfitted in a soft, spa blue, accented with white trim.
“It’s easier to spend time in a room when you love the colour and, let’s be honest, who really wants to do the laundry?” Lepinski says with a laugh. “Make the room as fresh as possible, and it can be a lovely retreat space.”
Azucena Saavedra, interior designer with MAC Renovations, says bringing in accent colours — through ironing boards, trim and tile — is another great opportunity. She sees the laundry room as the signature spot in the home to have a little fun.
“This is a place where you’re going to spend a lot of time,” Saavedra says. “It’s a space that lets you get things done and it’s important to surround yourself with what speaks to you.”
Playing with personality
Wallpaper is gaining ground again, bringing playful patterns and a dash of personality to the laundry area.
Saavedra turned one dark laundry renovation into a glamour suite with the help of a little play. Her team removed a wall, turning the space into a transition zone to the outdoors, then accented an off-white colour scheme with fish wallpaper, and added pops of orange through matching stools and an accent door.
Saavedra advises that, though the laundry room can stand on its own, it should tie into the rest of the house in some way. “This is a room to play with all the material you love but couldn’t make work in your bathroom or kitchen,” she says. “Pick hardware that feels good to touch and will connect to the rest of your home.”
If a little glam is on your wish list, Saavedra suggests outfitting this room with pendant lamps, chandeliers or a fine-art feature wall. Quartz and natural stone countertops also increase the feeling of luxury, but Saavedra warns against softer stones, like marble and soapstone, which don’t handle detergent well. Tile backsplashes offer another chance to add colour and texture. And don’t forget comfort items, like heated stone flooring, to make folding even easier.
More than a place to fold
Even the most stylish solutions need functional storage. “Laundry rooms are a lot fussier than they used to be,” says Jason Good, principal of Jason Good Custom Cabinets. “We see a lot of complex cabinetry in this space — drying drawers are popular, as are pull-out hampers, retractable ironing boards and cabinets made to fit specific appliances.”
Good says today’s laundry room factors in generous space and design-driven storage. In fact, this room is now given as much weight as the kitchen or bathroom.
“You’re going to do more than just fold clothes here,” says Good. “You need to be able to move around, to set the kids up with crafts, to get messy, and work and create.”
Good tells clients to consider what they want the room to accomplish, then allow the storage to fit that. Considerations should be made around whether a front-loading, stacked or all-in-one washing unit is best, whether the room will lead outdoors, or whether a dog shower is needed.
While new builds can accommodate larger spaces, renovations call for creativity. Saavedra worked on one heritage restoration that transformed the cliché basement laundry nook into an open, spacious suite. The washing units were brought under a stairwell landing, with cabinetry and a floating shelf added for convenience. A white colour scheme with pot lighting brightened the space, and quartz countertops and marble flooring warmed the room.
The essential equipment
A few choice items will make your laundry room indispensable. Pedestals are popular for modern washing units, and raise these machines over a foot off the ground — providing extra storage and bending support.
Luxury appliances, like the LG Styler, turn your home into an instant dry cleaner, without the chemicals. This care system can be built into a tall cabinet to save your treasured items.
According to Staats, steam assist laundry machines are worth the bump in price, as are units that offer special features (read more on the next page). Yet, Staats’ ultimate essential item is a classic: the iron.
While Staats confesses laundry isn’t her favourite chore (her socks never match), today’s conveniences have turned the experience into one she enjoys.
“The laundry room is a space to find a little organization and a little zen,” she says. “It’s worth investing in, even just to put a smile on your face when you’re folding socks.”
Find your dream machine
Washers and dryers have come a long way since their introduction in 1937, but picking
the perfect set can be a battle of options. Luckily, Spruce has turned to the experts to separate the load. WestCoast Appliance Gallery’s Karen Staats suggests focusing on your most crucial need, then prioritizing accordingly.
I need it to look incredible: Whirlpool and Samsung both score high in esthetics, and their washers and dryers are as attractive as they are hard working. With a panel of sophisticated colours and styles to choose from, these units are made to be the centrepiece of your laundry room.
I need it to save space: The all-in-one is a saviour to those budgeting room. At only 24 inches and 2.6 cubic feet, LG’s All-in-One Front Load Washer / Dryer takes up as little space as possible for the work it delivers. Its sister unit, with added steamer and pedestal storage, is only slightly larger. These units retail around $3,000, but they’ll pay you back in square footage.
I need it as durable as they come: Maytag has earned its reputation as the hero for rough-and-tumble families, with washers that ace the durability exam. For extra-large loads, LG’s Mega Capacity line is a good bet, and Samsung offers even larger units, with 7.5 cubic feet of washing power in some high-end models.
I need the best in the business: Staats says quality models start around $1,500 and will work hard for the money spent. People looking for higher-end machines can plan to spend over $5,000 per piece. Most premium lines offer luxury models, like Samsung’s FlexWash unit.
I need special features: If you can spring for the extra whistles, Staats says it’s worth it. Many units offer a steam option, which refreshes clothes without breaking down the fibres. A step further is the Samsung FlexWash/FlexDry, with micro washer and dryer on top of the set, designed to care for special items — from workout wear to teddy bears. The unit also lets you monitor the laundry from your smartphone, so you don’t have to be home to get the chores done.