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Here's a fresh idea: Liven up the laundry

I spent the good part of a beautiful Sunday afternoon attempting to make my laundry room a bit more palatable. It's now a bit tidier but still completely lacklustre.

I have one of those laundry rooms from the good old days before creating chic spaces for washing clothes was de rigueur in every home renovation.

When we moved into our home many years ago, we figured a new tile floor and paint job would do the trick for ours. Wrong!

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I have loathed this space for years, ever since I started creating fresh, inspiring and pretty laundry lairs for my clients. On Sunday, I decided it's time to tackle my troublesome "fluff 'n' fold" and create something more stylish.

To get my creative juices flowing, I dug up some photos of a great space I created for an expectant mom last spring (as a surprise for when she returned from hospital with three babies. I figured that with three tiny bundles, there was apt to be plenty of loads of laundry in her future.

We were on a tight timeline and really tight budget, so my goal was to get the maximum impact for the minimum investment of design dollars. With a little creativity, we were able to deliver on both of these goals.

Now it's time for me to take my own advice and make my laundry lab a little more chic. I will be following the ideas I applied to my client's project last year.


Go beyond basic white

A room can feel clean and fresh in shades other than stark white. Having seen one too many spa-inspired laundry spaces, I wanted a look that was a little richer in hue. For my client's space, I opted for a sand and sea palette of silvery blues and café au lait neutrals. (If you are tending triplets, I can only assume you need your surroundings to be as serene as possible!)

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Feel free to break with tradition and pick any colour combination that lifts your spirits and makes the mundane routine of laundry a bit less of a chore.

Take a cue from appliances

Gone are the days when the only colour choice for washing machines was white. Today, you can get just about any colour, including red, mint green, ice blue, cobalt, black, silver and pewter. There is no excuse for this functional space to be lacking in colour and decorative punch. I chose metallic blue in keeping with my ocean-inspired theme.

Do as the Europeans do

North Americans have been a bit slow in catching up to our European friends with the whole front-loading washing machine concept, but it seems we've finally realized it's a good idea to go for the appliance design that uses less water, less detergent and is gentler on fine washables. But in addition to those benefits, front-loaders also enable you to run a continuous counter right over your machines, creating much-desired folding space.

Shop around for cabinetry

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I was feeling thrifty (okay, okay … cheap) when I went looking to fulfill my storage needs, so I decided to limit my selections to in-stock cabinet options that were also on sale. I happened upon a toasty wheat faux bead board door profile that suited my scheme perfectly.

When shopping for off-the-rack cabinetry, be sure to consider the variety of door sizes available. I used a combination of glass front, standard height and above-the-refrigerator cabinets to compartmentalize my storage in a pleasing pattern.

Imaginative counters

I knew I couldn't afford to have a custom floating shelf made but wanted an open area to stack freshly folded clothes. I bought two runs of countertop and cut the depth of one in half, then mounted it to the underside of the tallest cabinets and ran it from side to side. The counters have a sleek, square-edge profile with an aluminum facing that picks up the steely details on the appliances.

Prepare to make a splash

It's not really necessary to install a backsplash in the laundry, but for a few extra dollars, it can look great.

I found icy blue glass mosaics and tumbled travertine stone accents at my local big-box store and created a pattern to mimic the effect of the horizon where sand meets sea and sky. For an eight-foot run of counter, you'll need only 12 square feet of tile to create this effect (and at an average price of $15 a square foot it only added $180 to the budget).

Go to the bar for help

I have no time for washing things by hand, so a huge laundry sink isn't a priority in my design.

My favourite solution for a clean-up sink in the laundry is a 21-inch round bar sink that is easy to install, well-priced and, best of all, cool looking. What I save by choosing a simple sink I tend to splurge on a good single-lever faucet with a pull-down spray (which comes in handy if you are trying to fill a bucket to mop up a mess made by a little one).

Texturize and accessorize

My sea-related look needed some cottage touches to finish it off.

A bamboo blind, linen-lined rattan laundry hampers, a classic striped woven cotton runner, and a long hook board all bring home the easy, breezy look of casual seaside style.

Don't be left in the dark

The laundry is likely the last place you'd spend a lot on a great-looking light fixture, but that doesn't mean you have to go without!

I wanted to add the look of luxe and found a brushed-nickel fixture for less than $100. With five chandelier bulbs, it ensures the room is always sparkly and bright, and who doesn't need a touch of glam when tackling one of life's more mundane chores?

Sarah Richardson is host and co-producer of Design Inc. on HGTV and principal of Sarah Richardson Design ( ).

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