Before & After: You’ll Want to Send This Laundry Room Makeover to Your Landlord Immediately

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(Image credit: Cat of The Suite Life LA)

Until we received this submission, we just kind of assumed that a dark and bland laundry room is sort of par for the course when you’re renting. If you’re on the lucky side it’s clean and not spooky and those of us on the other end of the spectrum truck it to the laundromat. Well throw out what you thought you knew about laundry rooms and deep dive into this laundry room makeover!

(Image credit: Cat of The Suite Life LA)

From Cat: Laundry. It’s loads of fun, right? Maybe not, but I definitely think that hitting the spin cycle in a pretty space makes it a little easier to get through. Apartment laundry rooms are notorious for being dark, drab and boring and since we’re all about “elevating apartment life”, we set out to remodel the last of the two laundry rooms at the building we manage in West Hollywood.

We got the other laundry room up and running after 20 years of downtime a few summers back, but this one was still looking all sorts of sad and in dire need of its own so fresh and so clean. Now we’re not one to air our dirty laundry, but we wanted to tell you about how we made over this space.

(Image credit: Cat of The Suite Life LA)

The first thing we always like to do when tackling a project is to really take a look at the space and identify what the problems are (if any) and think of ways we can improve on them. The first issue in this room (other than it was just sad and ugly) was that it had an awkward layout with the dryers so far away from the wall that the previous manager had to run the exhaust pipes pretty much across the length of the room. Not pretty or practical.

Then we had the unsightly water heater in the corner and an old table to set your laundry basket on that was found on the curb (thumbs up for recycling). The plastic sink wasn’t flush with the sloped floor and was made level by screwing it to a piece of wood that had paint peeling off of it (nice work, MacGyver). The original 1950s back splash, while I love vintage charm, was way too big for that small sink and just looked odd because of it. We know from when we remodeled the other laundry room that both rooms were originally set up to have two cast iron sinks, but we’re not quite sure where they went or why they were removed from this one. Overall, the layout left us with a tight space with not much room to maneuver and a square room screaming for some perky paint and a new personality.

(Image credit: Cat of The Suite Life LA)

Part of the fun of a project like this is getting to design it – it’s a great creative outlet for me. I knew immediately that I wanted to incorporate a nod to the building’s 1950s heritage and add in a bit of drama with dark walls. My color inspiration came from blowout salon, Drybar, since I love their color combination of gray and white with touches of yellow.

I also knew that I wanted to add some cabinets with cubbies inside for the tenants to be able to store their laundry supplies like we did in the other laundry room. That way they don’t have to carry them back and forth every time they want to throw a load of laundry in. In the other laundry room that we remodeled, we purchased cabinets from Home Depot and then put in dividers to make individual cubbies and added colorful storage baskets for each of the tenants on that side of the building. But this time I wanted to do something a little bit different, so I thought we’d change it up and do a Shaker-style door instead. I know, we got super crazy! Off to Home Depot we went to pick up the cabinets.

When shopping for accessories for this remodel, Target was one of our first stops. Now if you’re like me, then you already know that feeling of unadulterated pure joy that can only be felt when going up and down every aisle at Target for no reason at all. Oh those stylish Nate Berkus desk accessories; those colorful Oh Joy! and Design Love Fest end caps filled with fun little goodies that you just HAVE to have to complete your soul.

(Image credit: Cat of The Suite Life LA)

Since I was designing this laundry room at the tail end of fall, it was right around the time that “Back to School” accessories went on sale. Naturally, I needed to browse through these as I dreamt about our future children and their cute little backpacks filled to the brim with brand new folders and pencils (all color coordinated, of course). I pushed my cart further down the aisle and became legitimately mesmerized at all the colorful locker accessories. Umm, where were these when I was an awkward teenager navigating the treacherous waters that are middle school? My locker could’ve used some of this “cool” factor back in the 90s to go along with my C+C Music Factory and En Vogue tapes, for sure.

Back at the job site later, I reminisced about those super rad locker magnets and mini chandeliers that I saw at Target to my project manager (and boyfriend), Brian. I think I might’ve even said, “I wish I could go back to school just to decorate my locker!” Well, then smarty pants Brian looked at me and said, “Why don’t we do lockers for the cubbies in the laundry room instead?” DING! That’s it! That’s a brilliant idea that I didn’t come up with on my own (err…). But I gotta give design credit where it’s due and Brian definitely earned this one. Back to Home Depot we went to return the Shaker-style cabinets.

We hunted high and low for lockers that were big enough to fit a standard size laundry soap jug and thought that square “box” style lockers were just the ticket. Only we weren’t able to find them anywhere where they were also counter height. They were either too tall or too short. Having to abandon my dream of eight individual box lockers stacked two high and four wide, we ended up going to a locker salvage yard and purchasing used double-tier vintage lockers instead. Oh, the memories they evoked from my Thunderbird days. The good news was that they were within budget. The bad news was that they were old, beat up, and blue. Brian got to work on power washing them and then hammering out some dents in addition to cutting them in half, painting, and securing them together.

(Image credit: Cat of The Suite Life LA)

Now that we had our lockers and a solid vision, we got to work on pulling the whole design together. We started by relocating the ugly water heater out of the room and to the other side of the wall where there is an adjacent storage closet. This freed up a ton of space and let us lay out the room in a more functional way.

We chose white wainscoting for the lower half of the walls to break up the space and give it some fun texture. Behr “Ultra Pure White” is always our go-to white and it really helped to brighten up the small space. To give the room some drama, we tested a few samples for the top part of the walls and finally landed on a dark gray, also by Behr.

We chose a standard Home Depot bathroom cabinet to house the sink and to covertly hide a few cleaning supplies underneath too. I’m happy to say that when we remodeled the other laundry room, it had those two original cast iron sinks I mentioned earlier. We saved one for this remodel and after storing it for a few years, we were able to put in back into action. Welcome back, old buddy! We gave it a good scrub and anchored it to the wall and cabinet.

To give the space a little glam, we tiled the sink surround with marble tile. The hexagon shape was another nod to the 1950’s while the material was just the perfect touch to elevate the space a bit. I think it’s so fun to use fancy finishes in unexpected places like a boring, old laundry room. And because the amount of tile we needed was so small, we could afford to splurge a little bit here.

(Image credit: Cat of The Suite Life LA)

They always say “the devil’s in the details” and I definitely think it’s the accessories job to help make the whole design come together in a cohesive way.

For the counter top, we opted for butcher block to warm up the space since Carrera marble felt too cold and like a little bit too much. Each locker got a butcher block shelf added to it to create a place for two tenants to store their laundry supplies. Then we labeled the inside of each locker door with yellow numbers that correspond to the tenant’s apartment number. I still get a nostalgic kick out of that sound of metal hitting metal when opening up the lockers now. On top of the counter top, we found the cutest vintage washing machine container from Cost Plus. We used our Cricut to label this as the “lost & found” for stray socks. When a solemate goes missing and is placed inside, it looks like the little washing machine has a full load of laundry in it. So cute!

On the wall above the lockers, we added a few Ikea “Ribba” frames and used our Cricut again to design and cut out our own “artwork”. We used large clothespins for one frame and classic laundering symbols for the other to help illustrate tenant “laundriquette” when using the communal space.

There’s nothing worse than when doing laundry, a neighbor cuts in front of you or (gasp) moves your laundry from the washer to the dryer so that they can use it. As Stephanie Tanner would say, “How rude!” To avoid these types of scenarios, we designed a way for the tenants to communicate who was doing laundry and who was next in line. Each tenant now has their own name tag hung on a bubble-filled drawer pull anchored to the wall. When doing laundry, they can move their name to the clip that says “washing” or “drying” to let neighbors know who is doing laundry and who is next in line. That way, if a load is accidentally left in the dryer and forgotten about, we know whose door to knock on. Or a tenant can claim their place in line by putting their name in the “waiting” clip. Our tenants are very courteous and will knock on each other’s doors to let them know that they’re finished and that the washer is now available. And for some fun, we added some magnetic poetry to play with while they wait for the machines to stop spinning.

(Image credit: Cat of The Suite Life LA)

To light the room, we went with an affordable IKEA Vitemolla fixture that brought in some texture and then angled each of the lights to spotlight certain parts of the room. We chose a ’50s inspired trash can from The Container Store and to create an immediate focal point, we added a decal from Etsy that helped to bring in some of that vintage feel as well as break up the gray wall.

On the wall above the sink, we added a wire organizer from Cost Plus that was painted white and inside we added a few small accessories like a plant, vintage-looking hand soap, and a mason jar filled with clothes pins. Above the shelf, we hung a metal “laundry” sign, also from Cost Plus, that we repainted yellow. And since we always like to “surprise and delight” wherever we can, we also added a mason jar filled with Lemonhead candies for our tenants to enjoy while doing laundry. We think the space turned out pretty sweet (even without the candies).

Thank you, Cat! Readers, you can see more on Cat’s blog The Suite Life LA.