The Laundry Room Gets a Chic Makeover

As the place where muddy jeans, sauce-splattered shirts, and fragrant socks go to get cleansed, the laundry room has long been perceived as an unromantic space barely worth a second thought beyond basic function. But not anymore. Just as the kitchen has evolved from a hidden service room into a showpiece gathering place, many designers are now conceiving laundry rooms as statement-making destinations.

“People are realizing that these functional rooms get so much of their time,” says Nathan Turner, a West Hollywood, California–based interior designer who has recently been lavishing as much attention on laundry rooms as kitchens and bathrooms. “So why not make them something special?”

When you put effort into the design of this functional space, laundry can feel less like a chore and almost a cause for celebration. “It’s something that offers a little surprise and delight,” says Marie Flanigan, an interior designer in Houston. “It can really amp up your quality of life and increase the joy you experience spending time at home.”

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Muted green custom cabinetry in a Lori Paranjape–designed home in Franklin, Tennessee.

Allison Elefante/Ruby & Peach

But how to get there? For starters, consider building out the room with materials and finishes similar to those you would expect to see in an upscale kitchen, including bespoke cabinetry, handcrafted hardware, and countertops in natural stone, quartz, or butcher block. New York–based interior designer Rodney Lawrence recently designed a laundry room—with walnut floors, Jet Mist granite counters, pewter hardware, and Waterworks plumbing fixtures—that is as handsome and inviting as a well-appointed home bar. “No corners were cut in this room,” Lawrence says. “We wanted it to be cohesive with the rest of the house.”

“Laundry rooms are the new places for super-bold colors and patterns.”

Then, blast it with a standout wallcovering or paint color you wouldn’t dream of using in the living room. “When I present bold wallpaper to clients, they’re always like, ‘Oh, let’s put it in the powder room,’ ” says Turner. “But what I’m finding is that laundry rooms are the new places for super-bold colors and patterns.” In a laundry room he’s designing in Denver, the walls will swarm with vibrantly colored Fornasetti fish; in another, in Beverly Hills, they’re striped with different shades of blue.

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Pierre Frey Arty wallpaper and a light-and-dark penny tile floor in a laundry room by Gail Davis in Plainfield, New Jersey.

Rayon Richards

Bella Zakarian Mancini, an interior designer in New York, sometimes lines laundry rooms with audacious wallcoverings, but other times she just douses everything with a single enveloping paint hue. “We’ve done lots of saturated color for people who wouldn’t do it elsewhere,” she says. For a client with a love of turquoise and green, she created a teal laundry room as aqueous as the Caribbean Sea. Washing and drying machines can also serve as focal points, she adds, now that color choices range from Ferrari red to black stainless steel.

Of course, dazzling finishes mean little if the laundry room isn’t also well equipped. That’s why the ones Flanigan designs have a place for everything, from cabinets and baskets for wrangling cleaning supplies to nooks within walls for parking rolling hampers. Because not all garments are suitable for the dryer, including plenty of drying space is also key, she says, if you don’t want to be left slinging wet undergarments over your dining chairs. Her laundry rooms include not only hanging rods but also slide-out drying shelves with permeable mesh that allow stretchy sweaters to dry flat; fold-down drying racks for larger loads; and retractable valet rods that simply provide somewhere to stow dry cleaning when it returns home.

Done well, it might all add up to a space so compelling that other family members will want to jump in—and guests will want to take a peek at it. “Even though it’s a utilitarian space, it’s an opportunity to have an elevated design that makes you happy,” says Flanigan, “whether you’re the one doing the laundry or not.”

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This story originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE

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