Overwhelmed by your laundry room? Don’t panic! Follow this step-by-step guide to an eco-friendly makeover on a budget.
If you’re like me, the laundry room can become a dumping ground. Household cleaners, pet products, shopping bags, not to mention the actual laundry spilling out of the hamper…all amount to visual chaos.
In my case, the laundry room also happens to be situated next to a guest bathroom, so this disaster was out in the open for my guests to see. I finally reached my breaking point and decided I had to do something to re-imagine how this space could be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Bonus points if I could make it reasonably eco-friendly. Extra bonus points if I could keep it budget-friendly, too.
It took some elbow grease, but after following a few relatively easy steps, I now have a totally refreshed laundry room (and a lot of bonus points!).
Step One: Set an Intention.
Before starting a project, it’s important to visualize a goal that makes you feel inspired. Otherwise, when the going gets tough halfway through, it’s easy to abandon the whole thing.
I already knew what I didn’t want: a boring, closed-in, overstuffed laundry room (duh). And just a few minutes of scrolling through Pinterest gave me the inspo I was looking for. I decided I wanted a bright, chic room—with a splash of serene color. A laundry room that was organized and practical. A space that would make me smile whenever I entered it (instead of wanting to scream and run away). Equipped with a clear vision, I dove in.
Step Two: Take everything out of the space.
I started by removing all the things I had jammed into the shelves and nooks over the years. There were so many large, unsightly items—things that I rarely use. I wondered if there was a cheap, effective way for me to organize them out of sight instead of permanently showcasing my toilet cleaner and puppy pads... I set everything off to the side in the hallway to be dealt with later and took a look at what I was actually working with in the now empty space.
I grabbed measuring tape and discovered I only had 13 spare inches between the washer and dryer. I also had an 11-inch space from the top of the machines to the bottom of my built-in shelving. I realized I would have to get creative and implement some space-saving magic in these tight quarters and build some extra shelving. I rolled up my sleeves.
Step Three: Make your purchases.
I marched over to Home Depot and Lowes with my measurements to see what my options were. (If you’re not very handy, a store associate and handy person from a service like Task Rabbit can help. If you’re REALLY not handy, just focus on painting and organizing!)
I reviewed their kitchen cabinetry and settled on an affordable natural oak cabinet that was less than exciting but enough of a blank slate that I knew I could get it to match my vision for the space. It was 12 inches wide, which was perfect, but only 32 inches tall, and I needed about 37 inches…I decided to roll with it (more on that later), and moved on to the shelving.
For my laundry room’s new color palette, I chose green, white and natural woods. In the paint aisle, I grabbed primer, green paint (Muted Sage, Behr—flat finish and ultra scuff defense, since laundry rooms tend to get banged up a bit) and bright, cheery white paint (Fresh Popcorn, Behr—semi-gloss finish since it’s easy to wipe down). (Note: you can also opt for a more eco-friendly paint brand such as “Lucky Day” by Ecos Paints). As for the wood, I decided I’d mix three different kinds of wood to increase the texture and warmth of the space, while still keeping it visually clean. I happened to have redwood boards left over from a recent garden box project that I could use to add height to the cabinet, which was great. I also wanted birch planking or shiplap on the backside of the shelves, but it was more costly than I wanted to spend, which was not great…but there’s always a decent cheaper solution.
Instead of birch, I stumbled upon this large sheet of ⅓ inch birch veneer. I found it in the plywood section at Home Depot for only $45! Finally, I purchased a plank of natural oak to make the shelf above the washer/dryer, picked up some new black hardware to replace the old door handles on my laundry closet, and took all my new goodies home.
Step Four: Paint & build.
After thoroughly scrubbing the space, I primed the shelves and put a coat of Fresh Popcorn paint on the walls, doors and ceiling (yes, don’t forget the ceiling!) I then used my Muted Sage paint on the shelf trim and inlay outline around the laundry closet in the back of the room. I also replaced the boring closet door handles—instant upgrade!
It was now time to install my awesome birch plywood. I first backed the shelved walls and ends with pieces of cheap wood to which I could anchor the birch plywood. In order to get the birch in place, I had to cut each piece slightly shorter than the height of the shelves. This left a thin gap after the birch was glued in place, so I caulked the bottom and top of each piece of wood. I then used Hard as Nails to glue the wood in place to the anchor boards. I finished by popping a few clamps in place to apply pressure and let everything sit overnight.
With my shelves done and my ego bolstered, I moved on to installing my new wall-length oak shelf. Prior to mounting it, I sanded and put a few clear coats on the shelf to protect the wood. Then, I used 4 brackets to mount it above the washer and dryer. It was at that point that I realized I didn’t like the raw wood edge. It looked cheap, and while I set out to revamp the laundry room on a budget, I didn’t want it to look like it!
Luckily, I remembered that I had trimmed an inch of the oak board. Hallelujah! I took that thin piece, sanded it, put a clear coat on the strip and then nail gunned it to the edge of the shelf, using an oak-colored wood filler in the holes. Details like this can make a huge difference. I was back on track.
Now, for the cabinet…I needed to raise it about 4.5 inches to be in line with the washer and dryer, so I built a simple 2.5 inch wood base for the cabinet to sit on, and attached it with wood glue and a few screws. For the top, I took those (2 inch thick by 24 inch long) planks of redwood that I had leftover from another project and wood-glued them together, clamping them to let the glue dry. I did the same for a front kick-plate that would hide the raised base of the cabinet. Once dried (about 24 hours later), I sanded the top and kick-plate to look like seamless, solid pieces of wood. After a clear coat of sealant, I used the last of my wood glue to stick everything in place.
While the cabinet looked great, if I do say so myself, I wasn’t loving that there was a hole leading back behind the washer and dryer. It was showing the outlet and washer hook-ups on the wall. I decided to make a redwood back plate for the top of the cabinet, to disguise the space behind it. What a difference, right?
Step Five: Decorate.
As much as I love building and installing, decorating is always my favorite part of a makeover. It’s like putting a cherry on top of a hard-earned ice cream sundae. All I had to do was sort through all my products and…As I made my way through the immense amount of cleaning paraphernalia I had removed from the shelves in Step Two, I finally had to face the facts: “I’m a cleaning product hoarder!” I realized in horror. Particularly in the Stainless Steel Cleaner category—I uncovered so many different varieties, you’d have thought I housed dozens of stainless steel refrigerators. Even after offering my surplus to multiple neighbors, I ended up donating a large box of brand new bottles to the local Habitat for Humanity store.
Humbled by the realization that I was the problem all along, I returned to styling with a vow to be more mindful moving forward (books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up can help redirect some of those hoarding tendencies). I decided that every single item I put on my new laundry room shelves was going to serve a thoughtful intention, even if that intention was just to make me smile when I look at it (or “spark joy,” as Mari Kondo likes to say).
In keeping with my original vision of a well-organized room, I looked for options to house products in a chic way. I started off by lining all the shelves in simple white to make it easier for upkeep. Then, I ordered four 32 ounce amber glass spray bottles. I put my top four go-to laundry room liquids inside and stuck cute labels to the front. I placed these on the first shelf, above my dryer, in a fun wooden bin. I threw in my essential oils from Aromatech and Sweet Sheets for easy access to add my favorite scents to my all-natural wool Fluff Ewes dryer balls. And I put the dryer balls into an extra-large glass canister.
I purchased clear containers with bamboo lids and additional large glass canisters with black metal lids (to match my new black hardware) and scoops for oxygenated powder and baking soda (a great substitute for bleach. I put a cup of baking soda in every load of laundry—it brightens whites AND colors, and helps lift stains, too.) I was able to consolidate multiple packages by putting these items in the large jars. I placed laundry detergent strips and Swiffer pads in adjacent, easy-to-grab containers. I married like-minded eco-friendly cleaners and organized products by groups. Pet products went into itemized bins, as well as Swedish cleaning towels, rags and other miscellaneous items. I placed everything in tonal containers, keeping the palette to white, natural twine, clear, wood and bamboo.
To make the space feel extra polished, I added some finishing touches: A wall-mounted metal container for reusable plastic grocery bags next to the kitchen entry; and black metal hooks for the broom, Swiffer and fly swatter on the opposing wall. I also swapped out the white light switch plates to black metal ones to keep with my black hardware theme.
And suddenly, I was looking at the laundry room that I had envisioned just ten days earlier. I had set out to create a bright, chic space that was organized and serene. A space that would make me smile whenever I stepped into it.
I hope it makes you smile, too. And I hope your vision for your laundry room comes true.