Daily Archives: February 20, 2013

lucky thirteen: a love story and a laundry room

We’re currently celebrating our house’s thirteenth birthday (thirteen years with us) and its 128th birthday on this street.  To watch and read about the whole process in those early years (pre-blog), check out our rehab slide shows, nine of them, here.

This feels a little bit like cheating.  The reason?  I already wrote a love story about my laundry room here, and now it feels a little gratuitous to continue rambling on about the place.  It is a room set up for the sole purpose of doing a necessary, unglamorous chore.  

Plus, up until now (with the exception of the living room, I guess) I’ve been documenting the evolution of rooms in the house that haven’t been touched in years, and that rarely grace the pages of this blog.  In the past five and a half years that I’ve been writing here, most of the work we’ve done has been on the top half of the house.  We started at the bottom, worked our way up (improving our skills and taste along the way), and now we’re working our way back down fixing all the mistakes and unfinished areas.  Our laundry room lies firmly in the center, and has been created once and reborn again, so I guess it’s worthy of some additional affection.  Doing the quick math in my head, I think we’ve finally reached the point in our adult lives where we’ve had our own laundry for a time equal to not having one.  Hooray for no longer needing a $20 roll of quarters and a Sunday afternoon to get our clothes clean!
By now you probably know the drill:  gut it, clean it up, rebuild.  It was no different in here.  

And then the laundry room sat like that for awhile.  On our first anniversary we flew up to Chicago for the weekend.  I remember the airport being really quiet and strange feeling – this was just about ten days after 9-11, so there was this somber feeling in the place.  I also remember that we distracted ourselves on the airplane with a copy of This Old House magazine we picked up at the newsstand, and we saw an advertisement for an LG combo washer dryer.  We had been tossing around ideas for how we were going to finish out our laundry space and hopefully give up the laundromat once and for all, and we were intrigued with the idea.

So we took the plunge and bought it.

At the time I was teaching a college course in Architectural Graphics, and I had a really amazing student who was also working part time for a local custom cabinet designer.  We took in our drawings and she ordered the cabinets for us – the only thing she changed (smartly) was adding that third drawer for miscellaneous things like scissors and batteries and extra buttons.  The bottom two drawers are our laundry “baskets” – after lugging laundry around for almost a decade in a plastic laundry basket, I was ready to never see one again.  I’m happy to say that I haven’t.  Good riddance.

We loved our laundry room, and the way the single unit fit so nicely under the countertop.  You could throw in a load of laundry in the morning and it would be dry when you returned home in the evening.  The problem was this:  these things were really popular in bigger density cities, where laundry space is a premium.  This unit is the size of a dishwasher, and doesn’t require venting or anything more than a standard outlet.  So you could plug one into a closet in a New York or San Fransisco apartment.  But try getting the thing serviced here – it was a nightmare that required three trips minimum just to get someone who could read the manual and try and puzzle it out.  A repairman broke our first one, and so LG replaced it – this time with a white one that we liked even better.

We added a couple of kids, and the room was transformed into our all-in-one baby care center.  I never liked diapers (does anyone really?), but I was a little weird about them too.  I always thought it strange to have a diaper changing table in the bedroom – and probably because E slept in our room for so long, I really, really didn’t want diapers opened where we were sleeping.  We had planned our laundry room to operate as a built-in diaper changing station, and it worked so well.  There was a handwashing sink right there, and an exhaust fan.
Plus, it was an excellent place for an infant scrub down station.  Cue the nostalgia for a moment.
Brand new baby E.
 Newly sitting up five month old E, on the changing pad.
I’m quickly outgrowing this setup, new baby F.
Meanwhile, the washer/dryer needed some routine service, and each “service” call seemed to bring new issues up.  Eventually we had a machine that washed but didn’t dry… and now we were also doing cloth diapers.  

Time to potty train, or get a new setup.

We did both.
Luckily, we had planned ahead for this moment.  We knew the first machine was a gamble, and we got almost seven years out of it, minus some occasional grief.  We had designed the cabinets so that we could cut the countertop down, slide in new stackable units, and modify the upper cabinet to accommodate them.  I made a model:
We bought the units…

and we got down to business.

Old unit out…

…old cabinet out.

We moved the shutoff valves so that they were up in the cabinet above.  And since our laundry room is on the second floor, we are required by code to have a drain pan and drain under the unit (ours is built into that platform), so we don’t have to worry about a flooding washing machine taking out the rest of the house.  Side note:  my sis and family had a washing machine flood and destroy their finished basement just before Christmas, and they are almost done restoring everything – so take a minute and make sure you have an alarm and an auto-shutoff installed on your machine if it’s not hooked up to a drain.  It’s completely worth it.

We built a new surround for the machines, and M cut that upper cabinet down – including the doors, and you cannot tell at all.  Norm Abrams would be so proud.

New wiring and plug…

Some white paint.  We should own stock in white paint.

Heavy units up, and then oonched in, for lack of a better word.  I think the hookup was pretty fun.  And I’m being completely sarcastic.  Luckily my husband is skinny and has long arms.

Baby seal of approval.

New venting installed above (remember the first unit didn’t require it.)  Also, my husband is the neatest plumber ever.

This is the Laundry tin that I love, and that everyone makes fun of me for.  I even made a tiny one for the model, and put it on the countertop.  I love it, but don’t use it.  Just for looks now.

I love this little gadget – for another $50 you could upgrade the stacking kit to one that had a pull out shelf.  Kind of makes up for the loss of countertop.

I also love the fact that all the cleaning supplies are hidden, and now our new vacuum cleaners fit into the lower cabinet on the left.  We painted the room aqua, and that frame doesn’t sit in there now – it was just hanging out in there at the time.

E made me the rainbow that hangs above my paint sink – the paint sink that’s getting a good workout, yet again.  I don’t really love laundry, but I do love this room for it.  It’s a room that has cleaned up our biggest messes and our tiniest little ones, and looked pretty good in the process.