At some point in the past couple of years, I got a little…stuck with my own house. I know for a lot of people this feeling might not be especially out of the ordinary, but to me it was novel. The house itself was going through a decidedly “rough patch” in the course of this whole renovation/restoration madness, and to some extent my mental health followed suit. My ability to make decisions and actionable plans seemed to evaporate, which of course made everything feel worse. I’m not sure if I was looking for answers, or trying to remind myself that beautiful things do, in fact, still exist, or just to try to un-block something in my brain, but I found myself looking more and more to visual inspiration.
I’ve had the inkling for a very long time that too much “inspiration” can actually produce the opposite result. I’ve seen this with various clients over the years—they’ll send me a Pinterest board they’ve assembled over some time for a given project, hoping that each image might in some way be represented in the final product. The trouble is that most people aren’t only attracted to one particular aesthetic: they’re attracted to lots of them. It’s much easier to recognize what we think is beautiful than it is to create it. So then, armed with too much inspiration, we try to devise a way to incorporate all these things into a given space, which is usually not possible. Or at least not possible if the goal is to produce a beautiful result. So then we have to start making sacrifices, but now we’ve fallen in love with all of these disjointed elements, all generally done by other people who are really good at this and have lots of money, and we don’t feel confident in making those calls, or even know which calls we have to make, and then we’re paralyzed.
Then, seeking clarity, we bury ourselves in more “inspiration,” as though the image that will make all of this come together could be just the next click away. This, of course, is not especially productive, but it feels like it is.
Being somewhat aware of this, I’ve never used Pinterest except when a client gig required me to. This seemed like a good way to avoid this issue for myself, but I think I failed to appreciate the extent to which the Pinterest mentality has really permeated so many other spaces. The Inspiration Overload is everywhere—Instagram, Facebook, other blogs—and this crept up on me a bit. Soon all of my own work felt so small and shitty and lame, and making simple decisions became an extended exercise in self-doubt and insecurity. Each project in my house became an opportunity to create something amazinggggg but then only if I could remove the very real limitations of time and budget. When it came to my laundry room, I got so caught up in all these things I could see doing: beautiful and spacious custom built-in storage, a sink-to-end-all-sinks, a gorgeous tiled floor, and of course something more interesting for the walls than just painted plaster. Right? I wanted it to look fresh and original and like nothing I’d seen before, while at the same time wanting it to look just like a thousand things I’d seen and bookmarked or screen-capped or otherwise “pinned” without the benefit of organization that I suppose Pinterest provides.
Naturally, once these ideas entered my brain, it became impossible to dispense with them. The floor tile would have cost about $1,000 I didn’t have, but felt so essential to the very premise of renovating the laundry room that I couldn’t see a way around it. Since about half the room would be taken up by the machines, the sink, and storage, I thought maybe I’d compromise and save the expensive tile for the visible part of the floor, but then I’d need the sink and attending cabinetry to be installed first, which of course would mean buying or making those, which I also didn’t have the time/money for. I also really wanted to get the laundry done before being completely occupied with the much more involved kitchen renovation, but in order to do that I’d have to actually start working on it, which would mean finalizing these decisions, which of course I couldn’t do. This all rolled around in my mind for months while my washer and dryer sat useless in the spare room.
I guess when I started this whole renovation “journey,” I felt like the only logical path forward was escalation. Bigger projects. More advanced DIYs. An ever-expanding collection of tools and technical skills that I’d use to create the most amazing spaces I could dream of, because otherwise what’s the point? Putting this much time and effort and money into something should not yield mediocrity.
And then it hit me. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last, but I’m really trying to actively keep it in mind: Not. Everything. Has. To. Be. The. Very. Best. It. Can. Be. IT REALLY IS OK. A lot of things can be improved and changed down the line, when the time and money materializes. It doesn’t all have to happen in one take. At the end of the day, this laundry room has to accomplish one thing: wash my dirty clothes. Everything else is bonus. Also, it’s JUST A LAUNDRY ROOM.
And then something happened: I FELT SO LIBERATED. Without realizing it, and largely out of necessity, I took away the pressure of perfection and replaced it with the momentum of just GETTING IT DONE. Added to this was the challenge of doing it as inexpensively as possible, because the goal was no longer incredible beauty but instead just getting to a place of very basic functionality—and still being able to afford a kitchen stove.
And then another thing happened: in spite of my best efforts, the room actually turned out kinda cute, if you’ll permit me just a little bit of self-congratulation. Because I actually do like my stuff. I actually am generally happy with the decisions I make about my own living space. I actually am capable of making those decisions if I just lighten the fuck up a little and stop freaking out about having the coolest laundry room that my brain can conjure, and creating it in one shot.
Because only a monster would post an after image without a before, here’s the now-laundry room way back when I bought the house! It was one of the first rooms I really tackled, trying to get my renovation sea legs, and I turned it into this office:
I loved that little office, but for various reasons it eventually made way more sense to make this little space into the laundry room. It was sad for a while. Out came the desk, down came the obsolete chimney, in went new electric and plumbing, and up went new drywall and a couple fresh coats of paint annnndddddd…
Laundry room! With a utility sink! And a pink floor! I ain’t mad about it!
By the way, YES. It feels very weird/kinda embarrassing to now have “after” photos of the “after” photos from 4 years ago. I’m also 100% positive that there are those among us who will view this as a downgrade rather than an improvement, but in the context of the whole house I SWEAR this is so much better. Second floor laundry with all this natural light is such an insane luxury. My clothes are literally cleaner because I can see stains and stuff so much more easily, so my pre-treatment game is now ON POINT. I feel very on top of my laundry situation generally and it’s a great feeling.
ALSO, due to my chronic condition of over-sharing—here is the room like a day or two before I snapped the “after” photos. And honestly this is more of what I had in mind when I was all “I HAVE NO NEED FOR CUTE I ONLY NEED CLEAN UNDIES,” but then I sort of liked the additional challenge (/let’s be honest, procrastination) of trying to dress her up a little and add some storage without spending a dime. So I spent the next day just puttering around the house and hanging things up and messing around and it got kind of nice while I wasn’t looking!
Anyway. Point being, that little bit of extra effort was totally worth it and made me feel like I don’t have to really mess with this room for a long time. It also got some of my shit out of indefinite storage and put to good use!
The single biggest new purchase in this room was this cheap plastic utility sink. Various commenters were gravely concerned about this sink choice when I first mentioned it, encouraging me to go with something higher-quality/prettier/ceramic/stone/fireclay/stainless/vintage/antique BUT honestly even trolling Craigslist for some amazing $100 antique soapstone sink STILL involves trolling Craigslist, going to pick up the thing, overcoming the lurking fear of getting Craigslist-murdered, getting it home, cleaning/restoring it, getting it upstairs, probably special-ordering various parts to hook it up, maybe needing to enlist a plumber who wouldn’t show up anyway…SO WHILE I APPRECIATE ALL THE SUGGESTIONS, I am also so very happy that all I had to do was give $95 to Lowe’s and it wasn’t some whole production. When the perfect sink shows up, all the plumbing is there waiting for it.
I still spray-painted the legs black, because I can’t help myself.
Regarding the sink, it is exactly as mediocre as you might expect. It is decidedly un-fancy. It’s very lightweight and therefore doesn’t feel solid or substantial, although I did screw it right into the wall to keep it stable. It stains REALLY easily and stubbornly. It’s also HUGE and was so cheap and I LOVE IT SO MUCH, UNAPOLOGETICALLY. But like, get something nicer if you can swing it. Tell me all about it.
The plumbing under the sink isn’t so great looking either, so I spent 10 minutes making it a little modesty skirt. It’s just a tea towel folded in half with some velcro pinned to it, so it’s all easily removable and the tea towel is intact whenever I want it to be a tea towel again.
Maybe I’ll make a bunch of them so I can change the sink’s outfits seasonally. Hawt lewks for my stained plastic tub sink.
I hung up an old mirror just behind the sink to provide a little backsplash. Problem solved! I kinda love those little plastic clips that hold it up—they were a couple bucks at the hardware store but feel so 60s kitschy. Like not something you should be able to still go buy.
I put up a shelf! My pal Anna gave me like six of those IKEA brackets when she moved and they’ve just been cluttering my basement since. They were white and I spray painted them black and hung them up with some brass screws. Cute! I don’t think IKEA still makes these exact ones, but these are really similar.
The wood came off of the house at some point over the course of renovation, but I’m really struggling to remember what it did in its former life. I guess it doesn’t matter. I gave it a quick sand and a few coats of shellac and BOOM, shelf.
On the shelf is an assortment of things I have accumulated in my short but hoard-y lifetime. The yellowware bowls are antique—one holds detergent pods and the other holds those Affresh tablets that are supposed to rid the washing drum of that swamp smell in the summer. This is to prove once again that I will decant anything.
Tucked into the mirror frame are my two Laundry Idols, my mother below and my grandmother above. My grandma’s favorite task was laundry, and she passed much of her wisdom on to my mother, and I feel some grave sense of duty to, like, not ruin my clothes and bring shame on the family. So they watch over the goings-ons in this room.
I’m sorry I’m not sorry for loving that portrait but I can’t help myself. Her expression is SO GOOD. I bought her at an auction (I think I paid ten actual American greenbacks for that!), and then they told me the staining was because someone was storing her in a laundry room and she got bleach spilled on her. So it seemed right to carry on the grand tradition of this poor little old lady getting stuck in the laundry room, but maybe with a little more respect this time around.
I love my little hooks! These just came from various closets and stuff around the house, I don’t know. The long Turkish towel hides the supply lines which are hooked up under the sink.
Here we find a small sampling of my childhood collection of dog figurines. I’ve gotten rid of most of them, but some were actually kind of cool and maybe I’m pulling it off and maybe I’m not but I don’t care. It’s sort of fun seeing these guys again.
OH RIGHT, THAT HUGE SLAB OF MARBLE. So here’s the deal. Craigslist, $300. It’s a little over 5’x3′, and I bought it with the intention of it being my kitchen island (and therefore not considering it part of the money spent on this room). It’s 2″ thick and came out of this contractor’s garage, where he’d been storing it for the same purpose for the last 30 years. He got it out of another contractor’s garage who’d also been storing it for 30 years, also for that same purpose! The original contractor had pulled it out of a Victorian-era candy shop that was being demolished—can you imagine that?! So ANYWAY it’s huge and probably weighs 400 pounds and I needed to put it SOMEWHERE since custom-kitchen-island is still a ways away, so I just put it right on top of the machines.
I recognize that this sounds like a very bad idea, but I figured….hey. If the washer can stack on top of the dryer, SURELY it can handle a 400 pound slab of natural stone, right??? So I did it, and it’s been three months, and it hasn’t budged, and the machines didn’t collapse, so obviously there’s nothing to worry about here. Lol. If I ever need to call LG out for service, let’s keep this between us OK?
The marble is COVERED in 100 years worth of dings and scratches and pitting and I think that’s pretty perfect, personally. I’ll likely want to seal it with SOMETHING but I’m not super concerned about it continuing to age and patina.
I bought those two big hooks years ago, and it turned out they they make a good rack for the ironing board and iron! For the ~2 times per year that I use them.
There wasn’t really a great spot in this laundry room to hang the drying rack I had in my old laundry room, so instead I put up my Eames Hang-it-All! Anything that needs to dry flat can go on the marble, and anything that needs to be hung can go on a hanger off of this. I love my Hang-it-All and it’s so nice the be using it again after it collected dust for a few years!
It’s hard to get a good picture of, but that little tiny closet under the stairs is my new cleaning cupboard! Those stainless steel shelves used to hang in Anna’s kitchen in Newburgh—they were part of the GRUNDTAL series at IKEA but I’m not sure they still make them. The red bucket has all the cleaning basics so I can carry it around from room to room when I clean and it feels SO ADULT I can’t even stand myself. A cleaning caddy of my very own! Talk about peak experiences.
I mentioned this before, but I re-painted the floor from white (WHICH MADE ME INSANE) to this soft Farrow & Ball pink called “Setting Plaster.” I love it! Painted floors do show a lot of dirt and dust no matter what, I think, but shifting away from white makes it much more manageable. And the rug! I have a weird soft spot for old braided rugs—they just feel so homespun and sweet. I think this one was $10 a while ago and it happens to be the PERFECT size for this room.
OH! And this is neither here nor there, but I did want to circle back on the now-painted-white-but-originally-PURPLE XP drywall I used in this room! This is the Soundbreak XP, which is recommended for rooms you want to contain noise in (or keep it out of), and it’s GREAT. My bedroom is on the other side of this wall, and I really can’t hear the machines when they’re on at all. Cars just driving down the street are louder! I do get a bit of structural vibration during the spin cycles, but nothing dramatic. Everything I was worried about with moving the machines upstairs has thus far turned out to be completely fine. Better than fine! Because I have laundry again!
And it’s sorta cute, IMHO.