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Laundry Room Refresh

Updated: Apr 24, 2019

Maybe "refresh" isn't the best word to use for this little weekend project because this space was never designed to begin with, but it feels appropriate to describe a few simple touches that you could add to a small space in your home. I spread this project out over several days, but if you plan ahead it could easily be done on a Saturday! And maybe finished up Sunday ;)

Let's start with the before. Clearly, not a glamorous beginning. Our laundry room is also a utility room, and you have to pass through it when you come in the back door (which we use the most frequently) to get to the main part of the house. The cat's litter box is in here (is there even a good spot to put a litter box?!) along with her food bowl, so naturally her food ended up sitting on top of the dryer. And there's laundry detergent, stain remover, dog collars for the electric fence, and leashes that get dropped when we come in from a walk. Basically, there's a lot of through traffic and stuff that ends up here.

It's not that we don't have storage - since this is also the utility room, the hot water heater and water softener (a must if you have well water) are in a closet on the wall opposite of the washer and dryer, and there are tons of shelves above them all the way up to the ceiling. It's really perfect to hide all the cleaning supplies, tools, and miscellaneous items that we don't use everyday (and that aren't pretty), but it's not ideal for things that you reach for often, so the stuff that I want to access quickly ends up not getting put away and sits out on the dryer.

Once I realized that the same stuff kept ending up sitting out and didn't have a home, the plan was to get some pretty organization that would also make it easy to access. I settled on just three bins - one for detergent and stain remover, one for cat food, and one for dog leashes and collars. We really only needed one shelf for those three bins, and since we have TONS of shelving in the closet I didn't feel the need to add more just to fill the space, so I decided to add some artwork above the shelf to bring some color and something pretty to a utilitarian room. Hot tip - treat "functional" rooms like ACTUAL rooms. Just because you do laundry in here doesn't mean it shouldn't be pretty. Just because your powder bath is small doesn't mean it doesn't deserve some art. Or flowers. Or a live plant if you have a window! Every room should have something that makes you smile and enjoy being in there.

Now that we have that decided, here's what we did for the shelf:

1. Found heavy duty brackets that are easy to install, utilitarian but also sleek and simple, and can hold a lot of weight. I settled on these.

2. Measured for the shelf to determine how many brackets we'd need, found the studs in the wall to hopefully hang the brackets directly from those, and checked for electrical and plumbing in the wall so that we wouldn't drill into it. If you're hanging a shelf and you can't use the studs, you'll need some kind of anchor to hold in the screws for your brackets (especially if you want the shelf to hold any weight). These toggle bolts were recommended for the brackets that I got, so I bought one for each bracket because we unfortunately couldn't use the studs

3. Picked out wood for the shelf. One of the reasons I chose these brackets is because the wood shelf just sits on them - no fastening necessary, and a standard 1"x10" from the hardware store fit perfectly. I got one board, had it cut to size in the store, and put on a quick coat of natural stain to bring out the grain, plus two coats of poly to seal it.

4. Measured how high above the washer and dryer to put the shelf - WITH the lid of the washer UP! If you have a top loading washer this is important, especially if your shelf is deeper than the gap between the dryer and the wall (generally there's a gap because of the dryer duct) - you definitely don't want the washer lid to bang into the shelf every time you open it.

For the bins, we already had that tub in the center for cat food, and then I just grabbed two white plastic bins from IKEA for the laundry supplies and dog stuff.

Now for the artwork, I really wanted something wide and not super tall because it was already going to be pretty high up on the wall. I had four small square canvases already (but you can buy them at Michael's pretty cheap), so in an effort to keep this project low-budget I painted some abstract river-inspired scenes for a relaxing, colorful addition. It took me a few days to do these, and I know not everyone paints, but you could frame your own photos, buy some affordable prints on etsy, or for a last minute solution download some prints from my print shop!

The shelf and art was actually the easy part of this project. Once I started working on this space, I realized just how bad the rust on my 12 year old dryer had gotten:

The perfect example of "project creep": make something nice, and the "not nice" things become much more obvious!

I had forgotten how bad it was, mostly because it was covered in all that junk! And also, in an effort to keep from getting rust spots everywhere, I covered it in duct tape until I could deal with it. I don't totally recommend the duct tape solution, but for a few months until I could attend to it, the duct tape actually did the job and kept stuff clean. I didn't deal with it right away because I knew that it couldn't just be painted over (rust tends to creep through paint, creating the same problem all over again), plus the paint was chipping, so apart from removing the rust it also needed to be sanded, and I've never dealt with refinishing metal/painting appliances before, so I put it off. Turns out, with a little research and just a couple products it was pretty easy! I know this is a specific project that most people won't need to do, but if you need to remove rust from metal and you don't know where to start, I thought I'd share the steps because it actually wasn't as bad as I thought!

To remove/repair rust spots:

1. You need a strong remover/inhibitor. I used this. It's a strong chemical, so use outside if you can, but definitely make sure your space is well ventilated if you're inside like I was. It says "non-toxic," but it smelled very strong and I wouldn't recommend breathing it in for long periods (a mask would be good, too!). However, you need something strong to remove rust, and this worked great! Pour it on, let it sit, and basically wipe off the rust! I used it a couple times to get it fully cleaned, but it worked quickly!

2. Sand off and clean excess paint/dust. You don't want to paint over chipped paint pieces.

3. Use a filler to level out the surface. This only applies if you're painting something, but it's definitely important if you are! Factory coatings on appliances are pretty thick, so when that paint is removed there's actually a significant difference in the surface level. I used this all purpose putty. You'll also need to sand this lightly once it's dry so that the surface is smooth.

4. And finally, get some touch up paint to finish off the surface! I used this. My dryer isn't even by Whirlpool, but the color matched perfectly. One warning about touching up appliances, though - you're never going to get the same finish as the brand new piece, so don't expect it to be perfect, especially if you're painting a large spot like I was. Appliances are specially spray coated for a super even finish, so obviously a tiny touch up brush isn't going to create the same even surface. Small spots look great, while larger spots will for sure show brush strokes, but in the case of our dryer, you can't tell unless you look real close or run your hand across the top.

Obviously much better! The only thing I might add is a woven bamboo shade for that little window. :)

Do you have any plans for weekend projects? I'd love to know what you're working on!!

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