{organizing with style} Turning a Laundry Closet Into a Laundry Room

UPDATE: This red laundry room was my FIRST ever blog post. Since that time, I've completely revamped this laundry closet to create a lighter and brighter space, with temporary wallpaper, a hanging light fixture, cabinets and lots more storage. I'd love for you to check out the upated laundry room makeover.

When we moved into our house four years ago, the laundry space was the first project that I tackled, and so it seems fitting that it be the topic of my first official blog post.

But first, a little background... The downtown condo that we previously lived in had a laundry closet just big enough for a stackable washer and dryer. Let me tell you, having that little laundry closet was a major step up in the world for me, and I was thrilled to no longer drag all my clothes down to a dark and scary basement as I had in my college and law school apartments. But that small laundry closet made storage a problem - especially for someone short like me. I first tried to store my detergent on the top of the dryer, but not only did I get tired of dragging over the step ladder every time I needed to reach it, I also learned the hard way that the shaking of the washer and dryer would often cause the detergent to come crashing down.

The washer, on the bottom half of the stackable unit, took up the entire depth of the closet, and the dryer was only about five inches shallower - leaving no usable wall space in the closet. 

This meant the inside of the closet door was the only available real estate. So I headed to one of my happy places - The Container Store - in search of a solution. Elfa to the rescue!

Sadly, it never occurred to me to take any photos of the finished organized laundry closet while I lived in that condo, but let me illustrate. Since the bottom half of the door was unusable, due to the depth of the washer, I mounted a 37 3/4” Elfa strip to the upper half of the door.

To take advantage of the inset between the washer and dryer, I used one Elfa deep basket, which was the perfect size to hold bottles of detergent and my iron. Then I selected two Elfa shallow baskets to use the available space between the door and the dryer. The shallow baskets held all of my other laundry incidentals, including jars of buttons, needles and thread, stain stick, lint brushes, and the like.

While this was a great solution for a small laundry closet, I dreamed of the day when I would have an entire laundry room. When Scott and I started looking for a larger home, a laundry room was definitely on the “must have” list. I even started planning how I would decorate my future laundry room and bought some cute Emily Adams decorative hat boxes and coordinating items on clearance.

Ironically, the house we ended up purchasing had almost everything on our wish list except for a laundry room. And while I ended up settling again for a laundry closet, the upside was that this closet was big enough for a side by side washer and dryer, leaving more room to work with.

Ok, so another laundry closet... Challenge accepted! And this time I decided to not only organize, but also decorate the space. 

Yes, Scott did think I was crazy when I told him of my plans to decorate the closet, and he thought I was even crazier when I told him that I needed to paint the closet on the very day that we closed on the house (but really, I was doing him a favor because the washer and dryer were being delivered the next day and I knew he wouldn’t want to move them for me to paint later). After deliberating on colors, I settled on Glidden's Rapture Red to bring out the red in the decor items that I had been collecting.

I originally had wanted to install a countertop across the washer and dryer and hang cabinetry above, but we already had so many expenses with the new house that I revamped my plan for a more cost effective solution. 

Instead of a countertop, we purchased a large white melamine shelf board from Home Depot and had it cut to the right length (they will cut it for you for a small fee).

When we got it home, Scott used his jigsaw to cut out a notch for the hoses.

Because the laundry and linen closets are side by side, without an internal dividing wall, I used iron-on melamine edging to finish the raw edge at the end of the board that was visible from the linen closet side.

To prevent our melamine “countertop” from moving around with the shaking of the washer and dryer, we first put down a layer of non-slip grip liner and then placed the melamine shelf board on top.

We strategically placed the washer and dryer such that when the countertop was in place, we would have a couple of nooks and crannies perfect for storing key items. We left a gap between the left wall and the washer the perfect size for sliding in my folding drying rack.

And I found some great collapsible laundry baskets that take up virtually no space and also slide right in beside the washer when not in use. Then I can pull them out when clothes come out of the dryer and use them to carry folded clothes to the right rooms.

We also were left with an open space between the washer/dryer and the shelves in the adjacent linen closet that was sized just right for sliding in my ironing board.

The next challenge was to create the appearance of custom shelving without the expense. We went with two narrow, white Closetmaid stackable units from Target (less than $15 each).

The underside of the shelves were unfinished particleboard, so I painted them white before stacking them up. Two sets of shelves stacked together were too tall to fit the space, so Scott cut down the bottom of the lower shelf unit to customize the height.

We then used the hardware that came with the shelf units to secure them to the wall. This was an important step, as the shelves would otherwise have been very unstable when the washer and dryer were running.

Once the shelves were in place, we installed an adjustable length clothing rod between the shelves and the left wall. This gives me a perfect place to hang clothes to dry or as they come out of the dryer.

WIth all the installation complete, this is what we ended up with:

I also found an inexpensive hanger stacker to keep extra hangers on-hand right below the clothing rod.

Finally it was time to make it pretty! I unpacked the decorative storage containers that I had been collecting, and began to sort out all of my laundry supplies. I determined that I needed a few smaller storage containers, so it was off to the Container Store where I found some red Cargo brand boxes in the office supply section. The red boxes now house my Tide Pens and bleach pens, as well as my lint rollers, sewing kit, and other smaller accessories.

I also found a document box at the Container Store that houses the instruction manuals for the washer and dryer as well as laundry tips that I’ve torn out of magazines, etc. The document box fits perfectly in the shallow bottom shelf space.

I repurposed a couple of bathroom canisters to house all my extra buttons and small spools of thread.

Once all of the small storage boxes and decorative items were up on the shelves, it was time to find a use for the large hat boxes. I used two of the boxes to house larger laundry accessories, such as the mesh bags that I use for washing delicates.  Then I stacked up those boxes to hide the faucets and hoses.

The largest of the hat boxes was the perfect size to corral my laundry detergent, bleach, stain treaters, iron, and the like. I lined the bottom of the box to protect it from drips, and then filled it up. I love having all of these items within easy reach.

With the organization pieces taken care of, it was time for the finishing touches - hanging the art. I had purchased three Emily Adams posters that matched the decorative boxes, and then assembled my own frames using inexpensive silver frame kits from Michaels. The finished product is a fully decorated laundry space that feels more like a room than a closet!

I convinced my husband all of this effort was worthwhile by assuring him that if the laundry space looked pretty, I would be inclined to do the laundry more often. I wish I could say that I now love doing laundry...but that would be a lie. However, it does make me smile everytime I open the closet doors!

Linked up to A Bowl Full of Lemons and the Be Bold Challenge at Designer Trapped In a Lawyer's Body

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