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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

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!


  1. Absolutely functional and pretty. Want to tackle our laundry room?

  2. Great laundry room, I love it!

  3. I just found your blog through your guest post on I Heart Organizing and I am already hooked. I absolutely love your laundry closet. My husband thought I was crazy when I wanted to paint and decorate our laundry room, but I had the same thought you did, that it would make me a little happier to do the laundry. And, like you, although I still don't "like" to do the laundry, I smile a little more when I go in there now. I am so happy that someone else thinks like I do :)

  4. can you tell me more about these lovely hat boxes, I have some and would like to know the workth of them, they are from 2003 and 2004. Thanks!!

    1. lola352, I am sorry but I don't know anything about the worth of the Emily Adams hat boxes. I bought them around the same time frame you did and saved them for my laundry closet project. I am sure there are people out there that would love to give them a good home, but I don't know how much they would be willing to pay. Sorry I couldn't help.

  5. Such a smart and organized space!!! Thanks for linking up at the "Get Your DIY On" link up party! Don't forget to come back on March 2nd with your trash to treasure projects! :)

  6. Love it...gave me inspiration for my small laundry room. So now that is complete and you have washed a few loads...do you notice your shelves, cabinets, rod withstand the shaking of the machine when in use. Great post as usual!!!!!

    1. Hi Tanisha! I'm glad my post was helpful to you!! I've been using the laundry with this set up since the end of 2008, and not a single problem with the countertop,, shelves or rod withstanding the shaking! The keys were putting the no-slip liner below the countertop, and using the brackets to attach the shelves to the wall (both explained in more detail above).

  7. I would never think to use red but, I am absolutely in love with this little space. We have a laundry closet and you have given me some great ideas to make it more appealing to do the laundry. Love it.

  8. Angela,Wow, I love your laundry room. I had a few questions. I retired last year and we are building a cabin half the size as our now house. So we were thinking about getting a stacked washer and dryer. They will be in a utility room that doesn't have a lot of room. Were you happy with yours? It will be just the two of us. Any suggestions? Also, I have never seen a hanger stacker before. What a great idea! Where do you find those?

    1. Thanks, Pattie! Actually, I just completed a makeover of this laundry room space about 2 weeks ago (here's the new space if you are interested: http://www.blueistyleblog.com/2015/11/LaundryLinenClosetReveal.html), and yesterday I shared a post with all of my best laundry room organizing tips, including considerations like whether to stack or not to stack (http://www.blueistyleblog.com/2015/11/LaundryClosetOrganizing.html). Even though we have room for the side by side, I did consider stacking ours because it's such an efficient use of space, and we were very happy with our stackable unit in our previous home - especially for just the two of us. In our newly updated space, I am again using a back of door storage system like I did in the prior home without stackable unit! Oh, and I can't find a hanger stacker online just like the one I have - but here's a very similar option from Bed Bath & Beyond (affiliate link): http://fave.co/1kLYsJ1

  9. Thank you so much for answering my questions. I'm so happy I found your blog. I like your new make over but I'm flat space challenged and that counter top would be piled high with clutter before the end of the month. That was another reason I was thinking stackables. I'll have to go check them out though because I'm only 5 feet tall and I need to make sure it has the controls where I can see them. Thank you for your servant heart. You are meeting the needs of many women. (and their husbands...lol)


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