Quick and Easy(ish) Laundry Room Makeover!

Here’s a thing about me, because the real problem with this blog is that there just isn’t enough about me: I sometimes have a difficult time differentiating between all the things that should, in a perfect world, be done to a given space and what’s practical and reasonable to do to a given space. If I can’t do it all, I often don’t want to do anything at all. This is why my bathroom still looks exactly as horrible—nay, worse—than the day I moved in. I could scrape the peeling walls and throw up a coat of paint. I could patch the big hole I made when trying to install an electrical outlet but kept finding studs and then the cast iron vent pipe. I could do something—anything—to the vinyl tile floor, much of which has lifted from the subfloor and some of which has broken away. Hey, I could even get really crazy and spend an hour or two re-caulking the bathtub. But I’d rather live in squalor than do any of these things, because I’m disgusting and I know the majority of it will all get ripped out eventually. Someday.

I think part of it is that I don’t want to get complacent with an improved-but-still-kinda-bad space, which is stupid because I’m not like that. I WISH I was like that. It’d free up a ton of time. Another part of it is that sometimes half-assed renovation efforts can actually make the restoration effort down the line more challenging, and I don’t want that. More than anything, though? I LIKE THE DRAMA. I like going from “yuck!” to “beautiful!” not “yuck!” to “acceptable!” and I will put up with all sorts of bullshit in the interim as a result.

I think because of this personal shortcoming, sometimes the makeovers that I’m most attracted to are the ones that effectively make use of simple, low-impact solutions. The ones that actually favor the coat of paint over the huge demolition and replacement. When I was confronted with a non-original, unwanted doorway, I removed the whole thing, framed in the opening, patched it with drywall, skim-coated the whole wall, and still have to get my molding replicated to finish the baseboard. My friend, in a similar situation, put a large armoire in front of the offending doorway and called it a day. Is my solution actually better? Maybe, maybe not, but I do know his was much faster and easier and had the same effect.

I think I was slightly better at executing stuff like this as a renter—although I was still kinda nuts, let’s be honest—but being a homeowner has made me feel like every project has to address all the problems at once or it’s not even worth undertaking. I’m working on it.

All of this to say, I’m actually proud of this laundry room makeover I did recently. I started it on a Saturday night (hell yeah, my life is wild AF) and was completely finished with it by Sunday night, with a good night’s sleep in between!

This was the laundry space at my boo thang’s house, and you can see there’s not a lot of pretty (or function) going on here. I hesitate to call it a laundry room, because it’s also a guest bedroom, storage space, and general pit of despair. The whole house is a huge renovation project, which will hopefully one day see this room almost completely demo’d, the laundry relocated to a dedicated space on the second floor with the bedrooms, and this room and the adjacent bathroom turning into a big kitchen. All of that is a long ways away and a huge undertaking, though, and this situation was so sad. Enter Angie’s List, who offered 500 bucks to refresh and reorganize the space. I couldn’t really make it worse, so I figured I’d gladly take their money and give it my best shot.

What you can’t see in these pictures is that there’s actually a small built-in closet to the right of the dryer, but at some point somebody decided to build a whole additional closet in front of the original closet, meaning there’s a an opening (though, strangely, not a doorway) into the new closet, at the back of which is a doorway for the original closet. It’s so stupid. And THEN, they extended the wall that separates the original/new closet from the laundry space out into the room another foot or so, and then built another wall in front of the machines with those faux-wood accordion doors. Talk about chopped up!

There’s some electrical cable running through those dumb newer walls, though, and having it re-routed would have been too large of an expense and taken too much time. I was able to easily just tear out the wall with the dumb accordion doors, though, and that made a bigger difference than I expected!

But back to being chill and smart instead of crazy and over-ambitious! The wall-to-wall carpeting in this room is lousy but not in bad condition, and the hardwood underneath is pretty severely damaged. In a perfect world the hardwood would have been treated better and the room never would have been carpeted, and in a less-perfect-but-still-preferable world I would have been able to rip up the carpeting and found easily rejuvenated hardwood underneath. Absent those options, though, I made the courageous and somewhat out-of-character decision to just leave it alone.

Same goes for the ceiling. It’s a drop ceiling with acoustic tiles, like you might find in a corporate office, which obviously would not be my preference. Sometimes drop ceilings can be removed with relative ease, but in this case it’s masking a profusion of electrical wiring and plumbing for the bathroom upstairs. Instead of burying this stuff in the actual ceiling, it was much easier for the previous owners to do it all below the ceiling and then install the drop ceiling two feet to conceal it. BOO. Don’t do that. Luckily the real ceilings are 10′, so even with the ceilings dropped to 8′ the room feels OK.

Oh yeah, and the wood paneling! The plaster wall behind it appears to be in pretty solid condition, but the paneling is held up with both panel nails and adhesive so any way I cut it, removing the paneling would necessitate some potentially serious plaster repair. Even the little pieces of trim used to cover corners and seams were so bad that I wanted to pry it all off and try again, but I totally held myself back, made liberal use of caulk, and you know what? It looks fine. 

And look! Not half bad for some minimal demo, a little paint, a good storage cabinet above the machines, a few accessories and little functional things (like that cheap little drying rack from Target, which I love!), and a semi-relaxing weekend of DIY, amiright? I can tell you it’s made both of our lives immediately better, and has me giving my own horrendous bathroom some serious side-eye.

You can read more detail and see more pictures over at Angie’s List! 9 other blog people took on this laundry room challenge too, and there’s a contest with a $2,000(!) prize if you want to vote. The contest ends on Friday! Currently it looks like I’m in 4th place. I’d appreciate a vote for me, but, ya know, vote your conscience.

Also vote for me.

Byeeeee!


93 Comments

  1. Really love the clean look of the space. You added a plant. Yay!

  2. Voted for you.

  3. Drop ceilings in a residential settings make me so very uncomfortable…. but the Daniel Kanter™ touch made this lifeless laundry room glimmer nonetheless!

    Voted.

    • Ugh, I know, drop ceilings are definitely at the top of my most-hated home “improvement” list! And this house is filled with them! The day I get to rip them out will be so exciting, like I’m literally getting worked up thinking about it.

      Thank you for the vote! (and the kindness, always!)

      • As someone who generally doesn’t do much home improvement, what is the actual purpose of drop ceilings?

      • Whoops that whole thing should have read, “As someone who doesn’t do much home improvement, I have to ask: what is the purpose of drop ceilings?

      • There are a few reasons! Sometimes they’re installed, as they are here, to conceal things like electrical and/or plumbing work that were added to a house—in this case, the previous owners added a bathroom above part of this room, and I’m sure it was easier/cheaper to run the new plumbing work below the surface of the finished ceiling in this room, instead of pocketing it all into the space between the downstairs ceiling and upstairs floor. Often you’ll see ceilings like this in finished basements for a similar reason, because it’s easy to lift up the tiles to access plumbing, electrical, and heat systems for maintenance and repair and stuff. Other times a plaster ceiling has been damaged or fallen into disrepair, and installing acoustic tiles was easier/cheaper/less messy than replacing the failing plaster. I think the last major reason is to contain heat—heating a room with a 10′ ceiling costs more than a room with an 8′ ceiling, so oftentimes you see drop ceilings in old houses for that reason alone. I’d rather just be cold! :)

  4. There’s a term in French for what the previous owners/occupants did here: cache-misère: literally, hide the misery. I saw so much of it when shopping for property: “renovations” that just covered what you knew would be thousands and thousands of dollars/euros of repair. You start scratching the surface, and before you know it, you have not an upgrade but a do-over.
    Good for you for keeping the brakes on this–for now. You are doing it in the full knowledge that there’s no time or money for the full fix right now. Such is life.
    As for your bathroom, you did do SOMETHING, didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU??? I remember a murder, or was it just a death, and massive demo. What happened next? My mind is blanking.

    • I’m pretty sure the downstairs bathroom (with the death tub) got the big demo, and the upstairs bathroom was crappy but functional. I’m assuming he’s talking about that one!

      • LOL at “death tub,” but that’s my impression as well.

        Trying to figure out how to pronounce “cache-misère,” which is my new favorite phrase. Guessing it’s “cesh-misAIR”? High school French was a looooong time ago!

    • OMG, I loveeee knowing “cache-misére.” I’m gonna start using it constantly/get it tattooed on my body. Lori, I’m with you gurl.

      And Sarah L is correct, that’s the (now defunct) downstairs bathroom! Death, not murder, AS FAR AS WE KNOW (I’ve been listening to wayyyyyy too much true crime lately, and it’s taught me that really, who can say?!). The upstairs bathroom that I use is far less corpse-y but also really awful. It’s my excuse for showering only when necessary. The downstairs bathroom is currently gutted, awaiting its moment. :)

      • LOL, I too watch way more true crime than is good for me, but I’m addicted to those forensic shows so can’t help but wonder what would happen if you waved one of those CSI blue lights over the death tub room :)
        I wonder if there were any newspaper reports about the death in the local paper at the time.
        I have voted on all my devices so good luck!

      • I shoulda ordered some Luminall off amazon!

        I’ve looked into it a bit, but there don’t seem to be many details at all. Obituary but not much else. I don’t think it was ever treated as a crime scene (which of course makes me wonder if it was a crime scene and it just LOOKED like natural causes and omg I live in murder house). I dunno!

      • Cash MisAIR indeed Lorie ;-)

  5. Voted! Didn’t even have to look at the other entries :)

  6. fabulous! I have always been a bit half arsed with projects, so I need to move a little in the other direction – Laundry looks soooo much better. Yay for you! Voted :)

    • Ha! I’m convinced the true heroes are the ones that find that sweet spot in between. The rest of us just do our best. :)

  7. BTW, you can VOTE, once a day EVERY DAY, like taking your vitamins.

    • Daniel’s Mom, I just wanted to let you know that you’re my fave. And yes, I am taking my vitamins & voting after I have my coffee every morning. ;)

    • I just want to publicly note that this woman’s birthday was on Monday—called her, she hasn’t called me back, but she has been harassing me about this laundry room on the internet since last week. I’m not sure what that says about our relationship, but I wouldn’t trade it. Love you, Mom! Call me back someday!

      • Happy Birthday Daniel Mom!
        You know you have a big fan base in your son fan base!!! Thanks for making such a sweet kid and for all your comments on his posts….we can all see where he got his talent with words and humor!! xx

    • HAPPY CAKE DAY!

  8. I voted for you! Bringing in more natural light really made your project stand out :)

    Not to be THAT COMMENTER but…can you link to the drying rack? I can’t find it on the Target website, and we just moved and need a drying rack!

    • Argh, I tried to find the link when I was writing the post and I couldn’t find it!! It’s from Target, cost $14.99, and I think it was a “Room Essentials” item. It’s designed to hang over the back of a doorway, and it’s so simple and functional! I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

      • No sweat! Thanks for looking…I will see what I can find in store :)

  9. Man. Relating so much to the second paragraph!

    Also, yeah, I’m with Taste of France. What happened after the old man goo was wiped off the bathroom walls? Surely something!?

    Third, congrats on the boo thang, I must have missed that if you have mentioned him before. I like love!

    • Gruesome…!

    • The old man goo was torn off the bathroom walls, not wiped! I may be disgusting, but I still say there ain’t enough Lysol in the world to cleanse decomposed human corpse off your tiles. The bathroom is gutted—not very exciting, but I’ll be tackling it soon!

  10. Voted … for you obviously!

  11. Nice reno!
    You have a boo thang!!!

  12. This is a very slippery slope, Mr. Kanter…

  13. Voted! It’s amazing what a few smallish changes can do for a room and as always your writing is top notch. I will endeavor to vote every day but I’m terrible at taking vitamins so no promises.

  14. Voted for you! No-brainer! (But I did look at the other entries, of course. One must be fair.)

  15. Loved your entry! And your writing that went with it! It was like Christmas morning, with two DK posts to read. That cabinet is fantastic, and I am sad to hear it is discontinued, because it looks like the perfect thing for over a washer/dryer. Great job!

  16. You have a new boo! Yay, so happy for you :) Thank you for the reminder to vote. I love what you did, and I also love Kristine from The Painted Hive! You are both so talented!

  17. Happy birthday, Daniel’s Mom! Thanks for getting him to post on this. Why I like it: it’s the design, not the materials and appliances that make it. Good work, Daniel.

  18. so confused… i thought when you first moved in you did the laundry room right off the kitchen… which is now demoed… so maybe thats what happened to that FIRST laundry room… am i mad?

    anyway the DK touch makes it ZING!
    sometimes good enough is better than best.
    and congrats.

  19. I too am learning the fine line between perfection and improvement. My partner and I are currently renovating but we both know this house is just a stepping stone. We keep having to remind ourselves we won’t live here forever and the goal is to make the house sellable not customise it to suit our very specific needs. Consequently we have to make design choices that will have mass appeal and won’t max out our budget. It seriously goes against the grain.
    There has to be more people in the same situation as us and I found this post incredibly reassuring and helpful. I know it irks you, but keep them coming. Sometimes good enough IS the perfect solution!

    • That’s nice to hear Natalie, thank you! The house that this laundry room belongs to is kinda full of potential projects like this, so I might be able to do more! It’s one of those situations where the long-term plan is a lot of moving walls and really huge renovations, and the existing is functional and livable but really dated and not cute. Since the long-term stuff is a ways off, I think it makes sense to refresh the current spaces to at least improve things in the meantime! Also I have this deep anxiety that the long-term plan will never actually happen (who KNOWS, right?), in which case it would be a huge shame to try to sell this house as-is when there are so many ways we could improve it inexpensively even without undertaking the super serious work. Hey Angie’s List, wanna do a kitchen next?! :)

  20. Voted (with my conscience, of course!). ;-)

    Great job!
    And congratulations on controlling your urge to change everything.

  21. I had been voting for you for days, since your mom tipped us off, and today it jumped from like 700 to 3000. So I went to my feed reader to see if something else was going on.

    I get what you say on waiting to do it right. I have the same problem. I think it comes from seeing the “workarounds” people do when trying to do things fast. I want it done once and done well. I don’t really care if takes years.

  22. You’re in first place now!

  23. voted! Good luck!

  24. Great little project. I must admit that I went and found the death tub post. The neighbor who felt compelled to tell you about the smell? No. Just no. And the floor plan makes me swoon. Also, Thank you for a few minutes relief from thinking about current affairs. You are a gift.

  25. Love this makeover, voted for you and you’re WINNING! Yay! Love this … I’ve been toggling between “can’t get enough news” and “too disgusted to watch more news.” And extra much love that there’s a new boo thang.

  26. I don’t know if you know this yet, but they do make flat white (non-porous) acoustic tiles for those drop down ceilings. Due to budget, I had to install one in my basement and those flat white ones really make a difference. You can still tell, of course, but they look less office-y. I believe I even got them at your home-away-from-home, Lowe’s.

    • Yeah, I noticed there are some nice options now that look WAYYYYY better! Obviously here it doesn’t make a ton of sense here to upgrade what we’d eventually like to just tear out (the bathroom I mentioned with the offending plumbing will eventually be gone, too), but I’m so glad there are better options nowadays for situations where drop ceilings (like a basement!) make sense!

  27. Daniel Kanter….. are you a Murderino?

  28. You are super talented. I LOVE how all your projects turn out, including this one. But most of all you are seriously HILARIOUS. I laugh out loud at all your posts. I still laugh any time I think about the squirrel who damaged the Olivebridge Cottage. And strangely, I do think about it from time to time. “Honestly, at this point? TOTALLY understand where that squirrel was coming from. Big up, my brother. You did your best.” Kills me. Thanks for being awesome. Love your blog!

    • Aw, thank you Kristen! I appreciate that! xoxo

    • I died reading that one too!!! I guess Daniel is so talented that he might as well start building McGiver-style vacuum cleaners from a matchbox and venture into pet food recipes and his blog would still be both inspiring and hilarious! And I would still be a loyal reader anticipating each and every post!

  29. So glad you posted this – I was confused at the laundry room that was on Angie’s List – couldn’t figure out which house it could possibly be. Hope you win – a few extra $$ in your pocket means more fodder for the blog, right? ;)

    • Hey, it would pay for the plumbing rough-in of my downstairs bathroom and kitchen! It’d be great! I thought I didn’t have a chance what with my wall-to-wall carpeting and mis-matched “vintage” machines, but now I’m like…MAYBE I DO?! It’d be pretty great!

  30. Voted! One of the best things I learned during the lengthy (and ongoing) home renovation process was “the perfect is the enemy of the good” — this nugget was passed along to me by another old home renovator in my neighborhood. It helped me to just git ‘er done and be happy with good enough!

    • Yes, I hear ya! I really want to do right by this house, of course, so I guess try to learn as much as I can about proper restoration work and then make decisions from there (sometimes, not always. sometimes I just don’t realize until after the fact that there’s a better way!), but the practical aspects of doing everything “right” would make it such a lengthy and incredibly expensive process that I’m just not equipped for. At the end of the day, you just gotta get it done!

  31. Voted! Yours was easily the best. I got some useful ideas from your laundry room. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to vote. I hope you win!

  32. Hello Daniel! I’m not a fan of half-assed renos myself, which is why I’ve been living in a house with no stove for close to 13 months now – God bless kettles and dry noodles!
    I think your new laundry is both pretty and functional, I guess we won’t have ours before, say, 2028, but then we’ll have the best laundry room in the whole world! #megalomaniacprocrastinatorsunite
    I like how the wood paneling turned out, I live in a modern condo so something like that would totally feel out of place in my case, so I’ve been thinking about adding some crazy bold wallpaper, like this:
    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/26/1b/51/261b5151b83dd9a73e28895fa8f5bfcc.jpg
    I don’t know, though, because money and my laundry is tiny – and I mean it, like European tiny – so I wonder how much time I would actually spend there… It’s basically like staring at the inside of a wardrobe – a regular, non-Narnia-style one – so I guess that money would be better invested somewhere else… We’ll see!
    Anyway, I don’t have a conscience so I’m trying to vote for you anyway, but the site won’t let me! I’m working on it, best of luck!

    • Yup, going on 6 months without a stove…I’m right there with ya. Luckily the house that this laundry room belongs to has a functional kitchen that I can use, but it sucks at home.

      I vote YES on the wallpaper! If it’s a very small room like you only need a roll or two, and it’ll make you happy, do it! I love when tiny spaces get a little extra-special treatment.

      Thank you for voting, or trying to!! <3

      • So be it! Wallpaper! By the way, I’m definitely trying to build something like that little rolling cabinet you made for your own – stunning – laundry room.
        Thank you for your reply and for all the wonderful ideas you share! :-)

  33. Hi Daniel,

    Voting my conscience is a vote for you ;) As someone who has never mastered, nor ever wishes to master, the art of keeping my laundry sink freshly stocked full of hydrangeas, your makeover really seemed to be the one that added the most functionality to the space, while the others seem either neutral in that regard or actually less functional than the before picture (even if prettier looking in a picture). To wildly misquote William Morris unless something is both beautiful and functional I’m not interested. Can’t wait to see what magic you work on this new (old) house!

  34. Great makeover, Daniel! What a challenge! Looks like you are number 2 at the moment, and I am sure you will pull ahead after this post. Best of luck, you deserve to win.

  35. A few things … OK …

    1. ‘boo thang’ is now one of my favourite new phrases – says what it says while refusing to be unnaturally specific – love it (and of course congrats)

    2. voted!

    3. perfect time of the year to be reminded not to try to fix everything, not to try to get it perfect, and just bite of what can be chewed on one sitting

    A deeply appreciative fan over here in the UK

    X

  36. Fantastic work. I voted my conscience and voted for you. There were some strong competitors, but your’s was the most striking improvement – a lot of the other decorators started out with much nicer spaces. I love the drying rack too and may copy you on that.

  37. This may sound weird- but can you get the toe-kicks of the washer and dryer to be the same tone? I.e. paint black, or add a dark panel to the toe-kick of the washer. Or add a write toe-kick panel to bottom of the dryer?

    They look uneven and more mismatched due to just those toe-kick areas I think!

    (And yay for you and your boo-thang!)

    • Maybe? I don’t know! The real solution here is a new matching set of machines, I think! These guys don’t work especially well or quickly. :)

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