All posts tagged: Laundry Room

Bluestone Basement Laundry: The Big Reveal!

This post is a paid partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

WELL BOY OH BOY, it’s been a busy month of work on the Bluestone Cottage basement renovation, and now I have stuff to show you! The very first finished space in this house! Which may have been the most challenging one, although I may eat those words later, and certainly the most grim “before” I’ve ever encountered. If you haven’t checked out the earlier posts about resurfacing the concrete floor and adding insulation and finishes, go read those! We’ve got a lot of ground to get through in this one!

SHALL WE?! Let’s go.

Even though this old basement access is now covered over in favor of new wooden steps stacked under the main staircase, let’s just think wayyyyyyy back for a moment to when I first walked through this house and located the basement access. I walked down with just my iPhone flashlight, and then NOPE’D my butt right out of there. It was dark, dank, smelly, cramped, and littered with trash. And carpeting!! The kind of space where you might come upon a corpse and kinda feel like you asked for it.

Later on, once I got some lights set up down there, I took a total of two photos. They are above. I do this to myself sometimes: if I don’t really foresee something undergoing a big transformation, I neglect to take nearly enough “before” pictures and then I’m grumpy about it later. But anyway: can’t you just see a washer and dryer tucked into that little nook? No?

How about now?

NOT TOO SHABBY, AM I RIGHT?! I kind of surprised myself in here: I started work on this a month ago without any real design plan, and then inspiration struck hard in the form of Port Lockroy, a 1940s British research station on Antarctica. I tried to really let that space guide me with more than just a color scheme—the modesty, the simplicity and handmade quality of it were just as informative! I tend to overcomplicate things for myself sometimes, so I found myself mulling a lot over how to deal with certain things efficiently and frugally and without a lot of fuss. Some of those solutions ended up being my favorite things in the room!

This is shortly after I started work about a month ago, after I spent a few days cleaning up! Edwin and I had previously framed the walls, and electric and plumbing rough-ins had to be completed before any of this finish work could take place. The propane tank, by the way, is connected to this Craftsman portable propane heater—I have no idea how I lived for so long without one of these for winter projects.

S’cute right? I really wanted the space to feel super casual and practical because it’s a basement! In an old house! Practical is its entire job! So it’s not precious—throw up a hook wherever you need it, add a shelf, staple a cable, cut a hole and patch it with something else, provided you paint it—it’s all good.

Bear in mind that almost every single thing in this space is brand new and from Lowe’s!, but I still wanted it to feel like a vintage space. Finishing it like the rest of the house would have felt too formal and unnatural, though, so I tried to do things throughout to get that nice fresh WWII vibe all the kids are talking about (if I say it, does that make it true?). I basically asked myself “what would grandpa do?” a lot. Not either of my actual grandpas—to be honest, I have no idea how they would have finished a basement in 1945—more like some generic old guy in my brain who putters around. He’s always been old and he doesn’t have time for your shenanigans. Grandpa paints right over the outlets and switches and utilities, so I DID TOO. Grandpa ain’t about that painter’s tape life either. It felt so naughty and liberating. But like, I think it works.

Behind that door is the old basement access. Aside from the floor, I haven’t really dealt with that space yet, but it’ll house the boiler and some additional storage. I love that there’s a separate space for that! Because the ceiling height is so low (about 6-6’4″ depending on where you’re standing), it’s also really nice to have all the plumbing tucked into the ceiling so it could be finished without exposed Pex. Copper pipe can look great but Pex isn’t as nice to look at.

Putting all the hooks and hangers and tools on the pegboard was so much funnnnnn. I’ve never actually had a pegboard, and now I want one for myself! I kind of want this whole room for myself, but that’s a different story.

OK, now that we’ve kind of given it the once-over, let’s break it down!

Last time, we discussed the Azek composite baseboards, Dow Froth-Pak spray foam insulation, and 1/4″ thick beadboard plywood that I used for the walls. As a precaution, I painted the backside of the plywood with Rust-Oleum’s Mold Killing Primer. I attached the panels to the studs with 1 1/4″ exterior screws, and strips of scrap wood cover all the seams! The intention here is that should parts of a wall/ceiling ever need to be removed for any reason (like to access a pipe or a cable or something), one could do so fairly easily by just prying off the seam trim and locating the screw heads, and everything could likely be reused for the repair.

Since I ripped the panel widths down for the walls, I had some large off-cuts to use on the ceiling! The joists are all over the place and the thin plywood is definitely wavy as a result, but it’s ok! It looked so bad before I put up the seams to cover the strips and painted it, but now it’s great. The strips on the seams, by the way, are just the same plywood ripped to 2″ and flipped over to the smooth side. The “chair rail” piece is scraps of that same Azek composite board I used for the baseboard, ripped down to 2″ and only 1/2″ thick. I made a LOT of sawdust during this project, but didn’t buy any lumber (composite or real!) aside from 15 sheets of the plywood.

Itty bitty window! I’m pretty sure it had only been painted when it was new and had never been reglazed—which left it in probably the most restorable condition of any window in the house!

The old hardware didn’t work anymore with the new framing/trim, so I had to improvise a little but it works!

I couldn’t dress up this room without a few little nods to my Antarctic inspiration. That little print is by Charley Harper—I’ve been carrying around a stack of prints like this that I ripped out of a day planner like a decade ago.

This vintage print is one of the only things left in my own house from a previous owner, and I thought it’d be cute just hanging there tacked to the wall all casual. I used my super special supply of vintage carpet tacks for the occasion.

The door to the boiler room actually came out of my own house, too! It was a 1930s closet addition and the style isn’t appropriate for my house, but it’s perfect for this space! And it was already so small that I only had to cut about an inch off the bottom to make it work. Like it was meant to be!

So the grandpa part of me wanted to paint the door hardware right along with the door, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Ha! So I restored it instead. The backplate was original to this door, but the knob itself came from this house (the original knob is glass—I may use it upstairs?). I like when I can use excess from my house in other projects—it makes them all feel linked in a weird way.

Can we just take a hard right for a second and talk about HOW GLORIOUS IS THIS PAINT?! Now, you guys know me by now, right? I tend to be a black-white-neutral kinda guy when it comes to paint. I’m not typically using two really strong greens in combination, plus a color that resembles warm mayonnaise. BUT I LOVE IT. I love it so much that I wish we could all hang out down here in person, because the colors don’t translate precisely into photos shot in artificial light on an iPhone, but I did my best. It feels cheery and clean and vintage and modern and British and nautical and like a morgue all at the same time. The morgue part, especially, pleases me greatly.

Over time I’ve learned to appreciate sheens as much as colors—how glossy or matte a paint is can be a total game-changer! The Valspar High Gloss Enamel paint is fantastic to work with—thick, great coverage, and excellent self-leveling ability. The high gloss feels SO nice down here—it really gives off a vintage oil-based paint vibe, but with all the convenience and relative environmental friendliness and accelerated dry time of modern latex paint. Every surface feels scrubbable and smooth, and the sheen reflects a lot of light and makes the whole space just feel fresh. Love.

The actual painting was a bit labor-intensive, but totally worth it. I ended up finding that rolling with a regular nap 9″ roller and back-brushing everything with a 3″ angled brush was a good method for getting thorough coverage—all those grooves in the beaded ply suck up a lot of paint! You want to use kind of a heavy hand to get that thick oil-based paint look, you know? I did a minimum of two coats and three in some areas, and it would just look better and better with more coats. That plywood goes from looking a little hokey and cheap to downright luxurious with the right paint and caulk.

By the way, I’m a huge fan of these Whizz Microlon roller covers. They don’t shed like other roller covers do, and they wash really well—I threw some in my washing machine after giving them a good rinse, and they came out looking and feeling brand new! They’re awesome.

The upper walls and ceiling are Valspar’s “Ginger Sugar,” the minty color is called “Kelp,” and the dark green accent is “Palace Green.” For maybe the first time ever, I got three sample colors and ended up using exactly those three sample colors!

By the way—it took me a while to figure out how exactly to deal with these stairs. They were built speedily but not well, which ended up making a bunch of extra work for me later to reinforce all the treads and figure out how to finish them in a way that felt decent-looking and easy to clean. On the upside, I’m pretty sure I’ve figured it out. On the downside, I haven’t actually done it yet. But the stringer looks not bad for nailing some literal trash to it and painting it green! Let’s also not forget that I still have to renovate the entire house, so those basement stairs might take a beating before all is said and done—it might be better to just wait.

ANYWAY. Let’s discuss this region of the room. Pegboard? Love it. I just used a regular roller to paint it (be careful with brushing—paint can pool in the holes and drip out as it dries). It’s furred out 1″ from the studs behind, which creates the space for the pegs to be inserted into place. I started with this large assortment of pegboard accessories by Blue Hawkand then purchased a few extra bits like those little black mesh baskets and little yellow containers. I think organizing the pegboard is my new favorite game.

The big wooden trunk is an antique I picked up a while ago that I never especially had a space for in my house, but it adds a lot of charm here! It’s currently empty, but it could store a million different things. At my house it held a sewing machine and a bunch of fabric and associated supplies, but I decided those things would feel more at home spread across my dining room table because I needed to poach that trunk for my big boy art project.

The hanging clothes dryer is from one of my favorite stores in Brooklyn (now closed, like everything else I used to like in Brooklyn), and is no longer in production, so I cannot help you there. It hung in my first laundry room in my own house, and I would have reused it in my second one but there just wasn’t a good spot for it. I know this arrangement looks a little funny, but it’s hung far enough from the pegboard that I don’t think it’s an issue.

Speaking of drying! I’m not yet in a position to report back on the performance of the Bosch 500-series washer and matching electric ventless dryer I got for this space (read more about that decision-making here!) because they aren’t tottttalllllly hooked up yet, but I still feel good about them! You guys gave me a lot of good feedback on ventless dryers—which are definitely not all created equal—including how to optimize performance and what to reasonably expect. Some of you even have experience with these very models, which was encouraging! So anyway, I’m hoping that between the actual dryer, the hanging dryer, and the clothesline, there are enough ways to dry stuff down here.

OH YEAH GIRL, THERE’S A RETRACTABLE CLOTHESLINE. Did you think this was a JOKE? It stretches from one side of the room to the other and it took about 5 minutes to put up but somehow feels like huge fancy luxury and height of modern convenience.

My machine nook ended up being weirdly challenging! The hookups are way up by the ceiling (remember, really low ceilings), and I hate looking at that stuff but it needs to be easily accessible. I also wanted a big surface on top to fold or sort or put down a towel and iron or whatever, and a place to throw stuff away, while still leaving space around the machines (evidently crowding the dryer can really affect its performance), and then there’s that big 3″ waste line above and other plumbing just cutting across all ugly like that.

For the work surface, I mounted old 2×4 scraps as cleats to the side walls and back (I ended up cutting off the ends of that back piece later for the hoses and cords to fit up through), being sure to hit the studs. Then I used this Baltic Birch butcherblock counter, which was almost the perfect size! A few measurements and a pass with the circular saw later, I had a SUPER nice, solid worktop! To finish it, I used this Watco butcher block oil and finish, which is excellent stuff—it doesn’t need to be refreshed nearly as often as mineral oil does.

The overhead waste line situation was a little more iffy. I thought originally that I’d just build out a little soffit and box it in like a regular person, but after putting up a small section just to get a sense of how it would look and feel, I couldn’t! It looked AWFUL and it was a real head-banger—worse than the pipe alone since it protruded out further and lower. Just so awkward and terrible. I moved on to other stuff until I could think of a better solution. What would grandpa do?

Well, I’m not sure what grandpa would do but I know what I did which was so easy and I’m a little too smug about. I attached the framing lumber—one nailer up on the ceiling and one below on the wall. Obviously the framing is level and the pipe is pitched down, so I wanted to keep my “soffit” as high as possible while still maintaining a level line.


One occasionally advantageous quality of the Azek composite boards is that they’re SUPER bendy. After ripping 3/4″ thick boards down to 1/2″ thick for the chair rail, I had a lot of 1/8″ thick off-cuts that can bend almost in half before breaking. A-ha! I attached strips like this in several places along the length of the soffit to create a super-simple frame/shape.

Then, I attached 14″ flashing to the framing along the ceiling, and pulled it over my rounded composite board skeleton so it’d maintain a nice curve! I went into Lowe’s for aluminum flashing but opted for this vinyl flashing instead, since I thought it would be more forgiving as I inevitably bent and creased it by accident during install. This definitely would have been better as a two person job but I managed.

Anyway—a little caulk and paint and now it’s one of my favorite things in the room! It definitely looks like painted sheet metal, not vinyl flashing, and I feel like it’s one of those things your brain just kind of accepts as serving some function and moves on without thinking about more. I felt really crafty with that one, you guys.

For the whole hook-up situation, I tried not to overthink it (there were whole schemes with shelves and cabinets with false backs and other nonsense) and just made myself a little modesty skirt! And I really like it! I used a regular canvas drop cloth from Lowe’s, sewed a couple straight lines and boom, curtain! I hung it off of a metal clothing rod cut to size, which is easy to remove when the curtain needs to be washed. I like that there’s a lot of space to stash stuff behind it, too! There are a couple enamel trays back there to corral bottles of cleaners and stuff.

There’s about a foot and a half of dead space behind the machines, plus about 14″ to the side. I’m hoping that air circulation helps the dryer do its thing! I picked up this nice and affordable Style Selections trash can to sit in that space.

OK, should we talk about that huge work bench?! I love it and I’m jealous of it! It’s a full 8′ long by 2′ deep, which is such a wonderful and huge work surface to have anywhere in this little house! If I were doing this room for myself I’d probably want more of a proper tool bench with lots of drawers, but this feels more versatile if you just wanted it for general storage.

I started with a classic Edsal shelving unit, but modified it a little. I cut about 2″ off the vertical supports to lower the whole thing—especially with adding the butcherblock top, it was just too high for the space. Before assembly, I laid out all the pieces and coated them with this Krylon bonding primer spray paint, which dries quickly and leaves a nice matte finish to accept the topcoat!

Then I broke out my little Wagner spray gun (I love that thing for little projects like this!) and painted the parts to match the walls, of course!

I really like how it turned out! I’m sure the paint will chip here and there over time with use, but I feel like that’ll make it better in this case. I had to do a little…engineering to get the really nice baltic butcherblock top to work (not as easy as my plan of just plopping it on there), so there’s some added wood support at the ends to hold the top up and L-brackets to keep it in place. I also cut 1/2″ birch plywood for the shelves and layered it on top of the particleboard shelves that come with these units, which will hopefully keep the shelves from bowing and warping over time. I have these set up as shelving in my basement, and the particleboard is, unfortunately, a bendy mess after a few years.

By the way, I picked up an assortment of these Hefty storage containers to keep things more organized (the cottage has its own painting bin! how quaint!), and they’re great for this kind of thing! Most of the storage containers in my own basement are flimsy and tend to break a lot, but these seem really sturdy and up to the task of dealing with tools and heavy odd-shaped stuff. It’s nice to be able to just pull out a bin of everything you need (or at least everything you have, so you know what you need!) for a specific task.

Oh right—finally, the floor! It’s been a journey with this floor, which started with a cleaning marathon, followed by patching, priming, pouring Sakrete Self-Leveling Resurfacer, having to stop, priming again, and pouring more self-leveling resurfacer, tinted this time. Read that whole process here! I neither loved nor hated the final color of the concrete (I should have made myself some samples before mixing and pouring 700 pounds of concrete—my bad), but knew it would darken with a sealer and I wasn’t sure how it would play once the rest of the space was coming together.

Turns out—not into it! It wasn’t horrible but not really what I wanted. I spent about an hour sanding it with an orbital sander connected to my shopvac with 40 grit paper, which took off any paint drips, smoothed and buffed it out a little, and kind of softened the splatter-y stuff I did at the end of my concrete pour.

OK, so: people paint concrete. People stain concrete. People seal concrete. People epoxy concrete, and resurface concrete, and lay other flooring on top of concrete, and stencil it, and pour acid all over it. Within all of these categories of Things People Do to Concrete, we have subcategories. Finally we have products, and reviews for those products, and limitations of those products like the surface temperature and how long the concrete has cured, and these things are complicated by the fact that this has all been done in sub-optimal too-cold conditions in spite of my best efforts and I don’t know if any of it is a good idea. I tossed around my options for…weeks. My primary concern was that I’d do something that would wind up peeling, and then I’d hate myself forever? I’m not sure why this floor felt so high stakes.

While sanding the floor, I realized that my light, quick sanding wasn’t all that quick! The paint drips proved a lot harder to get out than I thought they’d be when I was cavalierly just painting without drop cloths, which I did because I knew I wanted to sand the floor down a little anyway, and I wanted to see the colors together.

Sometimes in situations like this, I’ll come up with a solution and somehow convince myself it’s the best one and I can’t really justify it later but it worked out so who cares? This is that. I bought a quart of dark brown latex paint. I thinned it to a ratio of about 4 parts water to 1 part paint. Then, because it was sitting there, I grabbed some of the powdered orange concrete tint and threw that in there too, because why not. Then I mixed it all up in a 5 gallon bucket.

I cut in around the room with a brush and then wiped up any excess, which was very little. That was the point! If it really soaks into the concrete instead of sitting on top of it…I mean, that’s logically what you want, right?

Anyway. I rolled out about 4’x4′ sections, and then buffed out the excess with a towel. I kept working that way across the floor, blending edges. What was kind of cool was that the powdered concrete tint didn’t really incorporate into the paint-water mix, so some spots got more pigment than others and I could blend those areas out to create some nice variation.

I don’t know, I’m into it.

The next day when the “stain” was totally dry, I added one coat of this Valspar Protective Sealer in the “wet look” (there’s also a “natural look,” which really is invisible when it’s dry). This deepens the color and dries with a glossy sheen—which I like in an instance like this, where it’s still a concrete floor but you want to be able to mop it, ya know? It soaks in really nicely—the reviews for this stuff are a mixed bag, but I’ve used it several times now for different things (brick, natural stone, now concrete) and it’s been great every time and very forgiving. Ideally I would have done at least one additional coat, but I was antsy to put this floor project to bed and it looked good with one, so I figured I could always add another later on down the line.

SO. ANYWAY. WHAT ELSE. I’ve reached a point where I think I have a mirror for any occasion? This one isn’t as old as I usually like ’em, but it’s so sweet for this house. Evidently I bought it at an auction, and since I don’t remember doing so, that means it was very very cheap. Unless I bought it at a yard sale from somebody who bought it at an auction and just left the lot sticker on. This is not important. I’m not worried about it, you’re worried about it!

That vintage ball lamp has been with me for years! I threw a bunch of these little brass Gatehouse coat hooks around the room, just because. Hooks are so handy. Never enough hooks. And I feel like these $3 basic hooks are perfect for this kind of space. I wish a little bit I’d hung them earlier so I could have painted over them—you know that’s what grandpa would have done!

That plaid throw laid SO VERY CASUALLY across the worktop is the official tartan of Antarctica, purchased at the continent’s only gift shop at Port Lockroy—the historic site that inspired this room for me. And I feel sort of stupid saying it, but creating this space felt on some level like being able to go back there, just a little bit. Or maybe access the feelings, somehow, of being there. Because “there” was a physical space, of course, but it was also a headspace that was more impactful than I think I realized at the time. It was a time of shifting perspective; of evaluating my life and thinking critically about such topics as priorities and goals and what are you doing?—a question often quickly followed by with that poor house down the street? 

Welp. I did this with that poor house down the street. From the design to the sponsorship to the basement-ness of it, it’s all been outside of my comfort zone in a way that’s been challenging and stimulating and hard and highly productive. I’m not going to pretend every day down in that room was fun and exciting, but it also felt like exactly where I needed to be. Like I was keeping some important promises I’d made to myself down at the bottom of the globe. Following through. Getting it done. Doing the work. Sucking it up. Getting back on track—maybe not the same track, but a track. Tracks are nice.

So anyway. I love this room, and I love you guys for being on this weird funny ride with me—even when the waters get a little choppy. And a huge thank you to Lowe’s for allowing me to take this on! I know for certain that this room is vastly better for the opportunity to do this with them.

Tired but happy human, for scale.

Bluestone Basement Laundry: Moldings! Walls! Storage!

This post is a paid partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

A little over a year ago, you may recall that I got back from the most insane once-in-a-lifetime expedition to Antarctica. Antarctica! I still have a hard time grasping that it was real, but I went with my family and they’ll back me up on this. It was decidedly more of a vacation than an expedition, but the tour company insisted on calling it an expedition and that felt so much more adventurous and exciting. Whatever it was, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

An unexpected side-effect of going on this trip didn’t hit until a couple of months ago, though. I began having some variation on the same dream every single night—that due to some clerical error, or a last-minute cancellation, we were all headed back to Antarctica to do it all over again. Another Christmas celebrated at the bottom of the globe with penguins and icebergs. It was news I could not have been more excited about as I’d quickly clear my schedule and pack up all of last year’s gear and get ready to depart. Then I’d wake up really disappointed that I’d imagined the whole thing and think about it a lot throughout the day.

I don’t usually dream like this, by the way. Or make a habit of talking about dreams, because it is objectively the most annoying thing ever. Like even more annoying than talking about your own vacation which I AM ALSO DOING RIGHT NOW. I guess you could say I’m on THIN ICE here!!! GET IT?And now I’m your dad.

What is happening. I promise this is going somewhere.

Obviously, Antarctica is mostly about the wonders of our natural world, but I found myself really compelled by the unnatural wonders, too—specifically, how human beings in all their perseverance and inventiveness figure out how to make the most inhospitable place on earth into home. For decades now, Antarctica has hosted researchers from all over the world. You have to get there by ship, and it’s not an easy or fast or inexpensive journey. Once you’re there, you’re there. You have only exactly the supplies you were given—to eat, drink, stay warm, stay clean, stay entertained, do your job, keep from going nuts. When it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, these researchers basically don’t see the sun for weeks. Close quarters. Strangers you very quickly have to get along with. Grueling conditions outdoors. No real recourse if something goes wrong. It’s not unlike working on a space station, except imagine if the spaceship had to be built IN SPACE by the astronauts on board. It’s basically that.

Here’s the point: when I first got the go-ahead from Lowe’s to renovate the basement laundry project for Bluestone Cottage, I leapt at the chance and then realized I had no idea what I actually wanted to do or how I actually wanted it to look. I’ve thought a lot more about the rest of the house than I’ve ever dwelled on the basement, and so I figured I’d take the whole figure-out-the-basic-strokes-and-feel-it-out-from-there approach that sometimes I am wont to do.

AND THEN, one bright morning, inspiration struck. I awoke with A VISION. OF A THING I’D SEEN. Grabbed my phone. Located the pics from Antarctica. Port Lockroy, circa 1944. It’s a British research station that’s now a historic site, and also hosts the continent’s only gift shop and post office. That’s the exterior, above, clad in black tar paper and that hot hot hot red/orange trim. So good.

Oh, hello! This is a direction I can get behind for a basement laundry room. And I imagine the construction of it looked something like how I’m currently spending my days—working in a confined space, in the cold except for my Craftsman propane heater (a TRUE revelation, omg), with whatever supplies I have available, trying to keep any waste to a minimum and just make it happen.

(I know, I know. Yes, Lowe’s is sponsoring and supplying most of the materials. But to provide some insight on that, that doesn’t make it a blank check! I still have to be scrappy and crafty to make this room work, considering it needs E V E R Y T H I N G. Also, actually procuring those materials isn’t as simple as regular shopping, so MUCH LIKE THOSE ANTARCTIC EXPLORERS (except not at all), I can’t just run out every time I need something. Except to my garage, which like, those guys had to keep their stuff somewhere. Right? Except they didn’t really have power tools. You know what, never mind. I actually can’t imagine the logistics of building something on Antarctica in the 1940s; I’m sorry, I gave it my best effort, and now we will move on.)

Am I crazy? I might have gone crazy. But I also really want to rip off THIS WHOLE LEWK because it just makes me so happy? I love how modest and simple and un-done these spaces are. It’s preserved from when it served as both living quarters and an active research station, and had to function well for both so nobody lost their damn minds—a legitimate risk with all that isolation! I love how homespun everything is. And I love the use of color—you have to imagine that between the harsh conditions and the long stretches without daylight, it was a smart, strategic decision to introduce bright colors into the space and paint everything including the utilities. It feels like kind of unintentionally great design at work, and very appropriate for that finished/un-finished old house basement vibe. It’s never going to feel like just another room in the house, so let’s…not make it like the rest of the house!

How much do you want to bet they mixed the dark green chair rail paint (which is really just a painted line, not molding) with the white to make that color on the lower half of the walls? I bet they did. And it’s pretty perfect. I’ve become a little fixated on it.

I even love the glossy glossy walls! This is certainly old oil paint, and it just feels very…British. They know how to slap on a perfectly-imperfect glossy coat of paint like nobody’s business. I think this is true but I could just have a weird bias expressing itself. 

Look at this simple ceiling-mounted drying rack! Looks like a fun afternoon project. I love that someone took the time to create that angled detail on the side instead of just using square boards all the way around.

OK, are we feeling this direction? If you are not, well, that is TOO BAD because I am. Sorrynotsorry. Let’s paint some stuff bright green and party in the basement.

Here’s a quick sketch of what I’m thinking space-wise! I want the room to function well as a laundry space but it’s also going to need to pack in a lot of storage and still house all the utility stuff that makes the house work.

That little boiler room in the back is where you used to enter the basement when I bought the house, but relocating the stairs saved precious square footage in the kitchen AND created that little closet in the basement perfect for a high-efficiency hot water heater/boiler combo (likely the same one I have in my own house!). The alcove seemed like the most natural place to put the washer and dryer, side-by side (you MIGHT be able to squeeze stacked units in here, depending on the size/brand, but it would be VERY tight. The ceiling height is only slightly over 6 feet) with a nice work surface on top and some kind of storage above—I’m still tossing around ideas for that! Opposite the machines, I think I’ll just mount pegboard over that whole wall, and a vintage ceiling-mounted drying rack in front of it, with enough clearance between the two so it’s not weird. I had considered pegboard over the long work bench and shelving on this other wall, but I didn’t think that worked with the drying rack, and there’s nowhere else for that, so. We’ll all find out together.

This is where we left off, with the walls framed, electric and plumbing roughed in, Sakrete Self-Leveling Resurfacer laid, and baseboards installed! While I obviously want this to feel like a finished space, it’s still an old house basement—in other words, I don’t totally trust it, haha! So I’m trying really hard to be smart about the materials and the way the room is assembled, so any potential issues down the line can be addressed without major upset or drama. Basically I want the whole room to be an access panel because you just never know.

To that end, I used scrap Azek boards for the baseboards—a PVC board that’s really for exterior work, and therefore won’t mold or rot in the case of any moisture intrusion issues. Once painted it looks like wood, and it’s felt SO GOOD putting those piles of scrap to productive use!

I took this hot n’ sexy selfie to commemorate my second encounter with DIY closed-cell spray foam insulation. I don’t think we need to go into that process again because WE JUST WENT OVER THIS, but I had a couple of leftover boxes of Dow Froth-Pak 210 from my guest room and decided to use them here. I’ll more than likely hire out the insulation of the rest of the house, but I needed this done now and it’s a reasonably small space to do it. Spraying over stone foundation walls feels…I don’t know, wrong? But it’s extremely common practice here for finished basement walls because it provides insulation, is unaffected by moisture, and creates a great vapor barrier—better than other materials because it doesn’t leave voids up against the uneven surface of the stone. In a newer basement with block walls or poured concrete, rigid foam insulation like this is more typical, and a big cost savings.

For the walls and ceiling, I opted to use this 1/4″ beaded birch plywood. Since I’m working almost entirely alone save for some help with the heaviest lifting, this material is lightweight and easy for me to manage on my own as I cut and install it. I think it’ll add some necessary texture and detail to the space, too! Covering the seams with simple trim and leaving screw heads exposed should make it pretty easy to remove the panels for whatever reason down the line, like if you needed to access a pipe or an electrical cable or just want to check on what’s happening behind the walls. And then easy to put back up!

As a precaution, I primed the back of each piece with this Rust-Oleum mold-killing primer, which seems to really be for safely painting over an already-moldy surface, but also should prevent mold from growing (or recurring) in the first place, if I’m understanding the can correctly. There’s an MDF version of this plywood, too, but MDF and moisture do NOT mix well, and…you know. I WORRY. ABOUT EVERYTHING.

Walls, going up! Getting to this stage is so nice. Something to look at!!

CAN WE KINDA SEE IT?! I still had scrap Azek boards, so I ripped them to 1/2″ thickness on the table saw and used them for the “chair rail” and the vertical seams. Those little trim pieces are just tacked up with a few brad nails—easy to pry off to access the screws holding the plywood up. I’m trying to squeeze every square inch out of each sheet of plywood, so you can see off-cuts from the walls beginning to make up the ceiling. It’s starting to feel like a room!

OK, so! In terms of some specific products that will make this MAGIC happen, I’m keeping it super simple and utilitarian, with a couple of upgrades!

THE MACHINES! Obviously the washer and dryer are going to be a pretty important part of creating a laundry room, and there are SO MANY options available now—I think back to buying my washer and dryer only 5-ish years ago and it’s like a different world out there! Washers that connect to Wifi! Dryers with built-in drying racks! Bright LED lights! The future is now, and it’s nuts. On top of that, there’s the age-old front-loader vs. top-loader debate, and now these incredibly snazzy machines like the Samsung FlexWash and FlexDry that have BOTH. Since I’m not honestly sure if this house will be sold or rented, and I didn’t want to blow my entire budget for the room on the machines, I was looking for something kind of mid-range and with good reviews. I’ve LOVED my LG machines in my own house, and I also love having a nice big worktop over a set of front-loaders—I prefer it to top-loaders or stacked units, personally, so that kind of eliminated the fancy Samsung FlexWash/FlexDry notion. Lowe’s tends to have a lot of appliance sales throughout the year, and I’ve noticed that last year’s models tend to go on clearance when the new ones come out, so that’s where I like to start my search!

THEN. And I’m embarrassed to admit this: I thought to check the measurements. Not of the nook where the machines are supposed to go—that’s definitely big enough—but the doorway down to the basement that machines need to fit through! OOPSIE. SOUND THE ALARM. WE HAVE A MAJOR SCREW-UP. Um. Do people still use…washboards? Because machines are not fitting down into this basement.

LUCKILY, because this is Lowe’s and solving conundrums such as these is kind of their thing, there were STILL a lot of options for me! Just different options—smaller options! It’s a small house, so I’m not going to sweat small machines. I actually think it makes a lot of sense. After lots of comparing reviews, prices, and features, I landed on this highly-reviewed Bosch 500-series washer and the matching electric dryer. There’s a slightly cheaper 300-series and a slightly more expensive 800-series—but I didn’t really see myself using the added features of the 800 series, so the 500 felt like a good bet. Other brands like Samsung, GE, Whirlpool, and LG all make their own version of machines this size, all available at Lowe’s, but the Bosch reviews put it over the edge for me.

One thing that’s highly intriguing (to me. just me?) is that the dryer is ventless—which some people love, some people hate, and most Americans don’t even realize is a thing. I guess in Europe it’s the norm if you have a dryer at all, so it’s gotta be OK right?! These small machines are also the norm across the pond, and often installed in kitchens like a dishwasher. From what I understand, the ventless dryer does take longer and clothes aren’t likely to come out bone dry like they do with a vented dryer, but the result is a more energy-efficient laundering experience that’s much gentler on your clothes and linens. So let’s embrace it. It also means I don’t have to figure out a way to vent a dryer here, which was MORE than welcome news—please don’t make me go into the crawlspace, for I may never return.

SO. Having cleared that hurdle, the other stuff came pretty easily. Let’s run it down. Here’s the same mood board again for easier reference, in case you haven’t committed it to memory.

WALLS! Walls and ceilings are this beaded plywood! At my store, this is back with the moldings rather than up with the lumber where the rest of the plywood is, just head’s up! There’s a different beaded plywood in the lumber section, evidently suitable for interior or exterior use, but it was a lot rougher and I worried the prep would kill me. The panels I’m using are very smooth and nice—just like the MDF panels but real plywood! It would be great for backing cabinets or bookshelves or a million other things, too.

PAINT! I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to rip off that kitchen in Port Lockroy. I got samples of Ginger Sugar, Kelp (how appropriate!), and Palace Green, all from Valspar—eek! So bright! Greens are tricky. I hope this works but like, it might not. Ha! I also think I’m going to take the cue from my inspiration and bump it all the way up to high gloss—I’ve never used this Valspar High Gloss enamel, so I’ll let you know! SO MANY THINGS SO UNLIKE ME, I KNOW.

STORAGE! First up is regular old pegboard! Pegboard walls are just so functional for a small storage space like this one, so cheap to execute (63 cents a square foot!), and have that cute vintage vibe. For a bit more money, steel or polypropylene look-alikes are available too. I’ll probably just pick up a mixed bag of hooks and stuff for it. I’m hoping this room also comes in handy for ME as I renovate the rest of the house!

For the workbench, I picked up one of these inexpensive, old-faithful Edsal shelving units. I grew up with these in my basement! I have them in my current basement! I’ve never assembled one as a workbench, though, even though it’s designed to do both, and I’m weirdly excited. Unfortunately the particleboard shelves it comes with are basically trash (they’re thin and sag with any weight) so I’ll be swapping those for cabinet-grade ply. I’ll probably paint the metal frame with one of the accent colors.

For the top of the workbench AND for the worktop above the machines, I sprung for this nice Baltic Birch butcherblock counter rather than ply or particleboard, and I think it’s going to be VERY classy. It’s actually the exact same butcherblock I currently have in my kitchen, and it’s great stuff—solid Birch and good quality. There’s not a lot of fancy happening down here, so I felt OK about spending the $240 for an 8′ countertop that should last approximately forever if properly maintained. I also think that natural wood element will add some nice balance with all the painted surfaces and the concrete floor.

For shelving, I’m keeping it simple, simple, simple. I think I’ll even reuse the wide boards that used to live elsewhere in the basement as shelving when I bought the house, and just use a few inexpensive, sturdy brackets like these.

LIGHTING! I had the electricians rough in 4 recessed lights, plus a box over the machines that I’m not entirely sure what to do with yet. Normally I’m not into recessed lighting in an old house, but in a basement with 6′ ceilings, I’m not sure what else you’d do! Recessed lighting has come a long way from the cans I grew up with, though—all the LED options are much less conspicuous, and they last 30 years!—so I think they’re a really practical choice here. Good lighting in a basement is absolutely essential to it feeling like an OK place to be. I’m hoping I like the light quality of these GE 65-W equivalent dimmable lights, which will just screw into the housing that’s already there and sit flush with the ceiling.

STYLE! CHICNESS! I’m excited to dress this room up with a few accessories and things (even if it’s just for photos, it’s so much fun after you’ve done a bunch of hard renovation work!). Most of that stuff will probably be practical items like tools and vintage bits and bobs, but I think a simple warm indoor-outdoor rug will work well down here, and Lowe’s carries a great selection of them under the Allen + Roth label—which, by the way, has rescued me countless times when I need something good-looking and well-made and affordable (so good for lighting, especially!). A rug feels like something very faraway and distant, but I’m trying to have this done in like a week, so I guess nothing is really that far off—ha! WISH ME LUCK. It’s possible/probable I’ll need it.

The Laundry Room, 2018 Edition!

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.

Putting the Laundry Room Back Together!

Remember how I’m crazy and putting in my second laundry room in this house in the space of 5 years? Fun times with fickleness.

Step #1 was demolishing the chimney. We’ve discussed this. It was painful but worth it: otherwise my options were to have the machines side-by-side next to the chimney with no sink (where my floating desk was) or stack the machines and have a sink but no other work surface really, or demolish the chimney and have side-by-side machines and a sink. The last option won out, but left a big hole in the floor, the ceiling, and about a foot and a half of missing wall from floor to ceiling! Cute.

Step #2 was getting the electrical in place. Evidently I did not take pictures of this, but that doesn’t mean it just happened by magic! The room had two existing outlets, but a washing machine requires a dedicated 20-amp circuit and a dryer requires a dedicated 30-amp circuit, so both had to be brought up to the room. Luckily, this was very uncomplicated: my old laundry room was further away from my electrical panel than the new one, so it was just a matter of turning off the power to those circuits, pulling the wires back through part of the basement and up the new chase (where the chimney used to live!) and into that back wall. This kind of stuff is actually super simple to do yourself with the slightest amount of know-how, but of course if you have any concerns at all or even dead wires make you queasy, hire a qualified electrician. Duhzville.

Once that was done and my electrical boxes installed, it was on to Step #3: drywall!

Typically I would have tried to patch the missing section of plaster left by the chimney demolition, but in this case I had the depth on my baseboard to add another 5/8″ thickness to the wall, so I opted instead to just drywall over the whole wall. The biggest reason for this is noise: luckily my machines are pretty tame, but I’m still moving big laundry machines to the second floor, basically in the middle of the house, and on a wall that backs to my bedroom, so some additional sound-proofing seemed to be in order!

I wrote several months ago about the line of Purple XP drywalls, and National Gypsum was kind enough to supply the drywall for this project so I could test it out. This is the SoundBreak XP, which is essentially two high-density gypsum boards with a goop in between that blocks sound transmission that would otherwise occur through the wall. It’s also mold and mildew resistant, which is nice now that this room has plumbing! My thought was that leaving the remaining plaster behind it should provide additional sound insulation too, but otherwise you’d probably want to insulate the wall if things are all opened up.

Working with SoundBreak differs from more standard drywalls in a number of ways. First—both sides of the board look the same, but only one side (clearly marked) is supposed to face out. Second, SoundBreak should be installed vertically—not horizontally! Huh! I think it may be to keep seams contained only to where they’re backed completely by framing members. Third, SoundBreak—due to that layer of goop—cannot be scored and snapped like regular drywall can: you have to cut it with a saw! As you might imagine, this is very dusty and ideally should be done outdoors with a good respirator. A circular saw is best for straight cuts, but we were working in tight quarters and used my handy little oscillating saw to get the job done. Fourth, it is HEAVY. I can lift a sheet of 1/2″ lightweight drywall without too much effort, but I cannot lift a SoundBreak board—so be warned that hanging is likely a two person job unless you have Hulk-like strength.

And, since you asked: YES covering up that fabulous Hygge & West wallpaper was a sad moment. Don’t take it personally, wallpaper, I still love you so much! That being said, I still have an entire roll of it (first floor powder room, anyone??), and it’s still in production, and…ya know, there are worse sacrifices. There’s something I sort of like about hiding it behind the drywall, though, like a little time capsule! It’s gonna be OK.

Here you can see the part of the baseboard I had to patch. It’s behind the dryer so I’m not SUPER concerned about it being perfect, but…ya know, I want it perfect. In part because I do not trust myself and now that there’s no chimney in here, this room can actually fit a twin bed…QUIET DOWN, VOICES IN MY HEAD.

Also, that piece of plywood is covering the big hole in the floor where the chimney used to be! Without it, you could stand in the attic and look all the way down to the basement floor, which is just an odd new experience to have in your own house.

ANYWAY. Once the drywall was up, I patched the missing piece in the ceiling and then enlisted Edwin and his mudding and taping skills to get the walls and ceiling ready for paint. The finishing work here isn’t anything crazy, but he can do it so quickly and well that it usually feels worth it to save myself the headache. Normally you’d apply paper or mesh tape and 3 coats of joint compound to the seams and over screw holes, but I like to overcomplicate literally everything and skim-coat the entire wall as a final step, too. I find that this gives new drywall just enough irregularity once painted to match adjacent plaster walls, since those are never so perfectly smooth!

It’s getting there! It’s getting there! Luckily I had a scrap of baseboard that was large enough to patch in the missing section, and old pieces of subfloor to patch the floor. It’s nice when the house provides the material to fix itself! The patched floorboards are the same dimensions as the originals, but the joints are tighter so things don’t quite line up. Don’t care! It’ll be covered anyhow by the dryer, but I don’t really mind funny staggered patches like that in wood floors.

Speaking of wood floors, now is the part where I openly admit: I cannot have white painted floors. My god, they are not for me. Some people (Swedes, primarily) seem to have no problem keeping white painted floors looking great for years, and I admire them. But the combination of dogs and a house under construction and frequently using the window in this room a couple years ago as an entrance while Edwin and I tore down additions and worked on restoring the exterior of this side of the house left these floors pretty destroyed and terrible looking. Even before that, they drove me crazy. Never. Again.

But…remember how I mentioned that this renovation is really just about getting the major players in place without draining significant funds, time, or mental energy? I mean that very seriously. For a while I was so hung up on needing to install a tile floor or run the wood flooring from the adjacent room into this one that I would get overwhelmed by the whole project. It would cost a lot! It would take a while! And it’s such a COMMITMENT and I don’t even really have a fleshed out design plan for this space so I don’t even know what I want! And I refuse to let this become a big project so I don’t even really want to have to know what I want! WOE IS ME!

THEN I realized I could actually just re-paint my fucked up white floor and nobody was likely to die as a result! Isn’t that something!

Sometimes reigning it in is difficult for me. Like all the time.

So. I patched a bunch of the larger gauges with Bondo, caulked here and there, chose a color off a paint chip (seriously, why in the world I think I can do this but would never advise anybody else to is beyond me), thoroughly cleaned the floor, and painted it!

Immediate Uh-Oh I Hate This. The color is a color-matched version of Farrow & Ball’s “Setting Plaster” and it’s roughly the color that would result if dried Bondo and a Band-Aid procreated. As a frequent user of both, this was not exactly what I had in mind.

While I stewed on that, I painted the walls and ceiling. I did not exactly think this through—I actually intended to just paint the new wall and touch-up just where necessary in the rest of the room (because restraint!), but once I got into it I realized how much everything would really benefit from a fresh couple of coats (because perfectionism!) so I ended up repainting the whole thing! Had I decided this beforehand I probably would have gone with a different color, butttttttt whatcha gonna do! On the plus side, I still had enough leftover paint from the first time around to eek out two coats! The paint is Clark + Kensington flat finish, and the color was called Casa Blanca but I cannot find it on the internet for the life of me and I think maybe it’s no longer part of the color deck. I’ve had the can for 5 years; who knows.

Unexciting color choice notwithstanding, there’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint. Even at this stage the room felt kind of…pretty?

I repainted all the trim Benjamin Moore Simply White which I’ve used all over the house (and also had the paint already!) and then forged ahead with the floor, figuring worst case scenario I’d just call this the primer and do something else…and then a great miracle occurred! I LOVE it! Context, man. It changes things. By the way, that’s the little teeny closet door for the little teeny closet under the attic stairs. It’s one of the cutest things in the house and makes me happy. Also, the laundry room is going to have its very own little closet! For stuff and things!

So. My quick n’ easy just-make-it-function laundry room got a little more TLC and time than I was even intending to give it, which honestly at this point I was pissed at myself about. BUT! It really feels like a whole new space, and ultimately I think I’ll be happy I went the extra mile for it.

Or, ya know, at least like a few blocks.

But First, Real Quick: A(nother) Laundry Room.

In my last post, I talked about renovating the back wall of my house to bring my window and door locations (fenestration, if you wanna get fancy!) into alignment with the stupid kitchen I designed, which just requires a few simple changes to every possible thing imaginable about my house.

You may have thought that getting this essential work completed(ish) would mean that NOW, FINALLY, AT LONG LAST, we are ready to dive into all things kitchen! Particularly because you know I’m liable to change my mind again and throw my life into total chaos for an indeterminate amount of time at the smallest inkling of a better idea.

Just kidding, I’M NOT DOING THAT BAD THING ANYMORE. I’M JUST TRYING TO GET MY LIFE BACK TOGETHER NOW OK? Moratorium on all ideas, please.

Also, I literally posted those kitchen plans a year ago dear god what is my life.

The problem is one that I gestured toward in my last post, which now we will really dive into: to make way for The Kitchen, I’ve had to make some sacrifices. Namely, my first kitchen renovation, my pantry renovation, having a sink on the main level of my house, my sanity, the concept of “free time,” and last but not least…my laundry room. That last one stung, because back in 2014 I’d already turned it from this:

To this:

I’ll give you a moment to get over the absurdity of this. I’m still working my way through it.

Here’s the thing, though, and I actually think it’s kind of normal: the longer you live in a house (and more secure you feel about staying there), plans change as new ideas emerge, potentials reveal themselves, and you develop a better handle on what it’s actually like to live there. I moved to this house from a 5th floor walk-up in Brooklyn where the closest laundry machines were 3 blocks away, so having a laundry facility in my house at all felt like an enormous luxury, and there was a whole little tiny room off the kitchen just for that very purpose! At the time, I don’t even remember considering relocating it to a different spot, so I renovated the laundry room.

I loved that laundry room. It was small but had almost everything I needed, and truth be told I did a really nice job on the moldings and the tile. The tiling job in the kitchen was passable, but the laundry room was perfect.

So naturally I destroyed it. More specifically, I enlisted Edwin and Edgar to handle the demo, because I couldn’t face it. Let’s try to justify what the fuck I just did with a few semi-valid points:

  1. Nice as the laundry room was, it was in the way of my kitchen plan and specifically in the way of my tiny bar sink plan and that just will not do.
  2. The laundry room was maxed out on space, for sure. A utility sink in the laundry room would be, like, next-level awesome, but there’d never be space for that or anything else, really. It woulda been nice to have a bit more room for other cleaning-related supplies as well.
  3. The laundry room was on the first floor at the very back of the house, meaning that 95% of laundry went from my bedroom on the second floor at the front of the house, down a narrow hall, down a flight of stairs, down another narrow hall, through the dining room, and finally through the kitchen and into the laundry room. HARDLY inconvenient, but not especially convenient, either. Not luxuriously convenient. I strive for LUXURY (clearly, as you can plainly see by my lifestyle of dumping dirty dishwasher into my backyard because I lack basic indoor plumbing).
  4. Back then, relocating laundry to the second floor would have sounded to me like an insane and low-key impossible feat of plumbing and ducting wizardry. I’ve learned through intervening experience that it’s not that bad.
  5. If all of this seems like a massive waste of money, let’s keep in mind a few things. First, that the most valuable thing about the laundry room was the machines themselves—the subway tile and moldings cost a few hundred dollars but mostly just a lot of my time. Second, that time wasn’t badly spent, because, after all, the room was in constant use (and looking snazzy!) for a few years and gave me lots of practice to do nice tile and moldings in the future, too.

If you remain unswayed, I simply cannot help you. I’ve done my best.

I decided, in order to make myself feel not-crazy, that the new laundry room couldn’t just be new but also had to be improved. Want a slop sink? Let’s get a slop sink in there. Want it on the same level as the bedrooms? Let’s make that happen. Want a little more space for other cleaning accoutrement? We got that too.

(I don’t know who “we” and “let’s” refers to, except it makes me feel less alone to phrase things this way.)

There was plenty of internal debate about the location of this new and improved laundry haven, but I’ll spare you the details. There aren’t that many options, let’s be real. And the best one was…my office. Which I had already renovated from this:

To this:

Take another moment to peel your palm off your face. I’ll do the same! We all ready? OK.

I had a wee little office upstairs that I stuck in a sweet bright room. It was nice and I enjoyed it.

Naturally, this too I destroyed. But less than the former-laundry-room—no reason to gut this space! As before, let’s dive into some of the reasoning that led me here:

  1. The office served as a nice “home base” for paperwork and mail and stuff, but rarely did I actually sit in there and do work. I tend to work at my laptop either on a chair or a sofa or the floor. When I do want to sit upright at a desk, I like a bigger work surface to spread out so I can make piles of papers and feel important and grown-up.
  2. When I renovated this room the first time, the goal was really the renovation itself: I thought that this was the room where I’d teach myself to scrape, stabilize, repair, and skim-coat plaster walls—a process I’d be repeating on almost every other wall of the house. This kind of came to pass, although this little room taught me that hiring out the final skim-coating is 100% worth it. In any case, I had to make the room into something, and it was too small to be a bedroom, so it became an office.
  3. I do remember, however, that the decision to make it an office was dictated partially by the fact that it was such a nice, bright little room and using it for something like a closet would have felt like a big shame! But remember, this was before so much other workmy bedroom still had three windows instead of four and felt perpetually off-balance. The den still had a crazy bump-out that felt like it might fall off the rest of the side of the house. The room above the kitchen still had an exterior door leading out to a 15-foot drop to the ground below. In context, the office was small but just seemed so nice in a way that the other rooms weren’t.

Guess what. It’s still a nice room, but now all the other rooms are nice, too! Or on their way. This is very exciting for me. So as much as dismantling another space I’d already “done” sucked, there’s a real victory in there…somewhere…of loosening up about this particular space because other rooms finally feel way nicer than this little glorified closet. It has a higher calling and that calling is washing my undies.

SO. It has been decided. Someday this will all be for the best. Now it has to happen. And it has to happen in a very specific way, because this cannot become a thing. NOT RIGHT NOW, I HAVE A KITCHEN TO ATTEND TO. This is what I need out of this laundry room renovation:

  1. Fast. Lightning fast.
  2. Very cheap. Do you know how much kitchens cost? Way too fucking much.
  3. Functional. I want/need all the major players (sink, washer, and dryer) in place, but I can worry some other time  about improving it further. I’ve considered all sorts of plans that involve tiling the floor and/or the walls, and putting in a really amazing cool sink, and building in cabinetry and other storage, and…and…and…but that’s how this becomes a thing which I have already said cannot happen right now. Stop pressuring me! Someday perhaps I will circle back and do this kind of stuff when I can dedicate the resources to it.
  4. Cute—enough. This is primarily because I do not trust myself around my own things that I do not consider attractive. If something looks nice and put-together, I’ll be less inclined to treat it badly. This is ridiculous, I recognize, but it’s also true and there’s no use in fighting it.

While the walls and floor were still in good shape (well, nothing a fresh coat of paint couldn’t fix) from my previous renovation work, there was a major obstacle: the chimney. This chimney seemed to be causing structural damage to my roof, so it was demolished below the roofline when the roof was redone back in 2013. Some time later, I demolished it further down to the attic floor. And now, I had a choice to make: leave it or demolish it all the way down to the basement floor—three stories of chimney.

For some reason, I wrestled with this decision FOR. EVER. The chimney is totally defunct. It protrudes into the room and sits where, ideally, the dryer goes. The only way to fit two machines and a utility sink into this room is for the chimney to go, and I really wanted that goddamn sink. AND YET…I hate ripping original stuff out (even if it sometimes seems like I do with wild abandon, I really try not to!), and what if someday I wanted to expose the brick?? Or use the chimney to vent…something? Or have it rebuilt from the attic floor up? This literally kept me up at night.

Hold up. I have nothing to vent. I have no reason to rebuild the chimney from the attic floor, and certainly not the money. I’m not even into exposing brick chimneys like this—I think 99% of the time it looks stupid. HOW’S THAT FOR A HOT TAKE. Come at me.

Demolishing the chimney had the enormous added advantage of being able to use the remaining void as a chase for all the plumbing and electrical, without losing any space in the small dining room closet below. I realize you’d have to be pretty intimately familiar with the layout of my house for this to make any sense, so don’t worry about it.

But also…ugh. That’s so many bricks to haul out of the house. It sounded like the worst possible way to spend a weekend, so instead Edwin and Edgar and I did it together one morning during that week we were working on the back of the house. It wasn’t so bad with three people. Now the chimney is in a pile in the backyard, where I’ll have to sort through it this spring to salvage what I can and dispose of the rest. That’ll be a terrible time. Let’s not think about it yet.

Instead, let’s think about all the laundry I’m going to do in this room! Let’s think about all the ways I’m going to use that SINK!

Literally, this is the plan. Hey—there’s a plant OK?! I made the mood board a) so I’d have a way to end this post and b) to drive home the point that WE ARE NOT GETTING CARRIED AWAY HERE. I can dream really big but I’m forcing myself to dream small. See that rug? Discontinued from IKEA and I already own it. See that sink? It’s plastic and $95 at Lowes with a $23 faucet. THAT is the vibe. Functional and good enough with as few new purchases as possible.

I’m gonna rock that plastic tub sink, just you wait.

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