Shelves, bins and pegs can help transform even the smallest laundry room into a more efficient space. (Matthew Williams)
Make your laundry room work harder. Versatile wall shelves, repurposed counter space and assigned spots for frequently used tools enhance the usefulness of a small space.
I recently finished a project in just such a small space, a pantry closet off the kitchen in the guesthouse at my farm. I am thrilled with the result: a windowed, well-apportioned workroom that allows me to do everything a larger laundry room would except for big ironing projects, which can be done easily enough in the adjacent hallway. I have a complete set of cleaning and washing and ironing tools and supplies, a good folding table and excellent, sturdy shelving to hold heavier items like soap canisters, cleaning kits and even extra towels and linens.
I suggest that you revisit your laundry roomís design and make alterations that will indeed turn the frequent tasks of washing, ironing, steaming and folding into more of a pleasure and less of a chore. You may even opt for a brand-new redesign. Many kitchen cabinetmakers are building cabinets, shelving, and brackets that can be used for other installations, such as in mudrooms, flower rooms, craft rooms and, yes, even laundry rooms. Iíve highlighted some of my favorite details. I hope they help you to reimagine your own laundry room, no matter how big or small the space.
Anatomy of a good laundry room
Deep shelves: Wide shelving units expand the storage space upward in this small room. I keep all the frequently used laundry soaps and kits within reach, while surplus supplies go on the higher shelves.
Rows of pegs: Each of these shelving units comes with a row of Shaker-style pegs ó a convenient place to store things at eye level, such as cleaning tools, hangers, a pouch of clothespins and my trusty stain-removal chart.
Sorting station: The storage cabinet provides an extra surface for sorting and folding garments. Deep wicker baskets hold a load of laundry, and the fabric liners can be removed and washed.
Custom countertop: My homemade oversize muslin-covered ironing board makes the most of limited counter space. It sits flat atop rubber feet on my washer and dryer, where thereís plenty of room to press tablecloths and other large linens, but itís also transportable. I use a smaller board for shirt sleeves and collars.
Kitted out: Dedicated areas for the essentials, from everyday detergent to stain-removal products, keep things organized.
Decanted detergent: Replace bulky boxes of laundry detergent and stain-treatment materials, such as baking soda and cotton balls, with refillable clear containers.
Mending kit: Any tears should be repaired before washing a garment. Keep different thread colors and sewing needles on hand so you can tackle a variety of jobs.
DIY scent: Add organic essential oils to unscented dryer sheets as an alternative to buying prescented versions. Personally, I love everything unscented.
Stain-removal kit: Pour solvents and cleaners into clearly labeled bottles, and keep them near the necessary application tools in a tray near the stain guide. Visit marthastewart.com/stain-chart to print out my stain-removal chart.
Keeping it clean
For garments that look and feel good as new, think before you wash. Just follow my tips for handling a few common laundry conundrums.
Whiter whites: You can never bring white linens back to their original whiteness, but oxygen bleach (gentler than chlorine varieties) will maintain the color and lift stains. Check fabric labels before you begin. Presoak extra-dirty whites in bleach. Add more to the wash with the detergent. Use hot water.
Dark denim: Use a liquid detergent, and set the water temperature to cold or warm to keep jeans and other denims from fading. Turning items inside out will also help preserve their colors, by protecting the garments from abrasion. Wash them with similar colors - the indigo dye can bleed into the water.
The softest towels: Proper care from the outset keeps towels soft longer. Stay away from fabric softener - it actually reduces absorbency. And avoid using chlorine bleach on white towels, which can be damaging. Dry towels on medium heat, and remove them and fold immediately.
Questions should be sent to Martha Stewart Living , 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. You may also e-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.