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How We Designed a Family-Friendly Laundry Room in the Portland Project

This is the third laundry room I’ve designed (I think?), and it’s absolutely the largest one. I use the term “room” loosely since the first one (in my Glendale house) was a literal closet but a very functional and pretty closet at that…I mean we even wallpapered that sucker. But this one in the Portland Project will make all of your fluff and fold dreams come true. The space was originally being used as storage, so we decided to steal part of it to design the ultimate laundry room. They say kitchens and bathrooms sell a home…I think we can add “killer laundry rooms” to that statement, too, don’t you think? I want this to be my laundry room, but unfortunately, I had to leave it behind in Oregon to its new owners. But let’s move on…

I, of course, realize that not everyone has the same amount of space (or renovation budget) that we had here to bring in the same fun gadgets and add-ons that make this tedious yet necessary chore a bit more enjoyable (less miserable?). So we wanted to break down the six elements that make a room like this functional and give you tips on how you can implement similar ideas even if you have a smaller laundry room. 

Emily Henderson laundry room cabinets

A combo of open and closed storage

When you have a bit of room to work with, I think a mix of closed cabinetry and some open shelving with baskets works best in a workspace like a laundry room. Here, we imagined the owners would use a hefty amount of the closed storage for household items (cleaning supplies, bulk items, seasonal goods, tools, etc.) while the open shelving and racks were for easy access to things you use more often in this space (laundry detergent, lint rollers, iron…that kind of thing).

Small space hack: If you have the space, install shelving, but bring in containers (like pretty utility baskets) to corral everything and if you don’t have small kids to worry about mistaking laundry pods for candy and whatnot, decant what makes sense into clear containers to bring down the visual clutter. 

Emily Henderson laundry room cabinets

A utility sink

Here’s a funny “behind the scenes” story of this room: this sink right here is a utility sink, which is typically installed with mounting brackets straight onto the wall. It was designed so that the cabinet line would follow the base of the sink, leaving it to be more of an apron front, but somewhere along the way, it ended up getting installed like this and frankly…we don’t hate it. Happy accident?

Small space hack: Okay, there really isn’t a way around this one if you don’t actually have space or an extra water source in your laundry closet or area…sorry about that one. 

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Laundry Room3

Another sort of “whoops” moment here is the faucet. Hot tip: Do as I say, not as I do here. While this Kohler fixture (which we got through is beautiful, to be honest, looking back, it’s not as functional as it could be (nothing against the faucet itself, more just about faucet-type choice). Ideally, in a utility space like a laundry room, you would have a sprayer attachment for easy reach to clean and take out stains. You live (and design), you learn. 

Something we did do that I’m super happy about how it turned out is that backsplash. You might THINK that’s hand-glazed tile, but really, it’s a white glass tile from Bedrosians set against white mortar on the wall. It was a much more affordable (but still good looking) design idea I’m glad we moved forward on. What do you think??

Emily Henderson laundry room cabinets

Vertical storage for tall, bulky items

An ironing board is a laundry necessity that also happens to be big and kind of clumsy, so we built a taller cabinet to keep it tucked away when not in use. You can also store brooms and your vacuum (as long as it’s not a cumbersome beast) here.

Small space hack: If you have little to no cabinetry, consider tucking away a smaller ironing board between your W/D (or just to the side of them where there’s normally a bit of a gap), or get a hanging attachment for the wall or behind the door. There are even ironing mats that are made to be used atop washing machines and dryers, eliminating the need entirely for a board. 

Emily Henderson laundry room cabinets

Designated laundry bins and hanging racks

Okay, this post isn’t called “How we designed a tiny, hyper space-efficient budget laundry room” so this is where things start getting a little “extra” as they say these days. But if you’re at a point in your life where you have the means and space to create a DREAM laundry room, things like “designated laundry bin area” is how to kick things up a notch. Here, we used three rolling baskets from Rejuvenation that you can easily assign to each kid when they are in charge of their own laundry, or come up with your own system that works for you (maybe one is for things that are clean and folded, one for washed items waiting to be folded, and another for dirty laundry hanging out before their turn in the machine??)

A rod for hanging up those clothing items that are too precious for a dryer is also great for avoiding that thing that happens when you’re walking around your home draping shirts and skirts along the backs of chairs, on the floor of a spare bedroom…we’ve all been there.

Small space hack: Let’s say you have a little more room than a typical hallway closet with stacked machines, but not necessarily enough to create a bin station like this one…try out reinforced hooks on the wall and hang a canvas bag with a grommet on each. It’s the same idea in terms of creating a spot for everyone’s laundry duties. You can also install a rod or actual drying rack on the wall space above your machines (if you don’t have those wire shelves all homes seem to force on you), or directly from the ceiling to maximize vertical storage. 

Emily Henderson laundry room cabinets

Folding surface

The space on top of your large, family-sized washer and dryers typically becomes a resting place for totally random things that you find yourself moving from machine to machine when you have to open your washer, or don’t want things flying off during a cycle, but oh man is that a wasted design opportunity (if you have front loaders). Create a permanent surface for all your treating, sorting and folding needs.

Small space hack: This is actually more of a budget saver than a space saver, but Julie found this really affordable DIY from Vintage Revivals that you can do if you aren’t building a laundry room from scratch but just trying to make work what you have. Click here for a $90 plywood waterfall surface that not only looks really good but is super practical. 

Emily Henderson laundry room cabinets

A little bit of style

I can’t tell you how happy that little pop of pattern and color from the wallpaper in my old laundry closet brought me, so while it might seem like a waste to add decor to a spot like your laundry room, it’s really not. Here, we brought in beautiful art from Mia Farrington (a local Portland artist) and a rug from Annie Selke.

Small space hack: Add a fun paint color or wallpaper to the back wall of whatever space you have (you can even use a temporary peel-and-stick paper if you’re a renter). 

And there you have it: six things that really took this old storage area and transformed it into a pretty special laundry room with tons of functionality for a busy family. Let us know what you think and of course, leave any questions you have for me or the design team in the comments below.

Emily Henderson Portland Project Reveal Laundry Room1

1. Yellow/Gray Abstract Art by Mia Farrington | 2. Woven Basket by Schoolhouse | 3. Cabinets by Crestwood Inc. | 4. Undermount Cabinet Light (similar) | 5. Faucet by Kohler via | 6. Sink by Kohler | 7. Drain by Kohler | 8. Countertop by Bedrosians Tile and Stone | 9. Backsplash Tile by Bedrosians Tile and Stone | 10. Cabinet Knob by Rejuvenation | 11. Cabinet Pull by Rejuvenation | 12. Rug by Annie Selke | 13. Lint Roller | 14. Wood Hanger | 15. Small Wood Bowl | 16. Large Jar | 17. Medium Jar | 18. Interior Doors by Metrie | 19. Interior Door Handle by Rejuvenation | 20. Still Life Painting by Caitlin Winner | 21. Laundry Bin by Rejuvenation | 22. Dryer via | 23. Washing Machine via | 24. Sleepy Blue by Sherwin-Williams | 25. Pure White by Sherwin-Williams | 26. Wood Flooring by Hallmark Floors | 27. Baseboard by Metrie | 28. Crown Moulding by Metrie | 29. Door Casing by Metrie

***Photography by Sara Tramp for EHD

For more Portland Project Room Reveals: Living Room | Staircase | Office | Master Bedroom | Master Bathroom | KitchenDining Room | Powder BathroomGuest Bathroom | Hall Bathroom | Guest Bedrooms | Media Room | Family Room | Playroom | Secret Room


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57 thoughts on “How We Designed a Family-Friendly Laundry Room in the Portland Project

  1. Take that, single-handle-faucet-haters! You still think they are ugly? 🙂
    I like this room a lot.

  2. This room looks amazing. And this + binge-watching Marie Kondo’s Netflix show has totally inspired me to finally start working on a laundry room makeover. Because I currently hate going in my laundry room.
    Also, I appreciate all of the “small-space hacks” because though we actually have a laundry room with space, I take these as budget hacks because we don’t have a huge makeover budget. Thanks!

  3. In theory, I love the idea of creating a “folding space” by putting countertops on top of the washer and dryer, but the reality is that I’m too short for that to be a good space for doing anything. Doesn’t anyone else have this issue?

    1. I’m short also. I dump my clean laundry on my bed to fold & put away.
      Also, our machines are elevated up on large storage drawers. So that makes them even higher.

    2. I have a separate high table in my basement laundry room (my wheeled separator baskets fit underneath it), but I never use it for folding. Too small. I just fold while watching TV or on my bed.

      1. I fold laundry at my dining room table! that way i have a nice flat surface and can sit down while folding.

    3. Especially since my tall husband insisted on having our front loaders on a pedestal (we built one in instead of spending the crazy money on the ones that matched our machines), I agree that I would never fold laundry on top, but I wouldn’t mind having a countertop anyway. We’re constantly mindlessly setting things on top of our washer and dryer, and then when they are running, the vibration makes the stuff sitting on top rattle, or we’ll end up knocking things down the cracks on the sides or between them. Wouldn’t be a problem if we had a countertop.

  4. I will be dreaming about this laundry room! I’m about to start renovating our new home with a big laundry room renovation on the list. My question is, are the cabinets pre finished in that color or painted over pre-finished or unfinished cabinetry? I’m having such a hard time finding unfinished cabinets.

  5. Wow this is super pretty….. this is exactly how a laundry room should feel – light and airy. The light blue cabinets really contribute to that feeling. And the design is so classic that the space should last for a VERY long time.

  6. This laundry room is beautiful and I want to say that THIS is a great way to do a post like this. While I could never afford this exact laundry room, I appreciated the “hacks” as a way to talk about what you could do. Bravo!! I don’t remember if posts like this were ever written this way before (I don’t think so) so I am glad to see that all the feedback from last week’s post was implemented. I know it’s a ton of work to blog, and I appreciate everything you share! If you all were able to–the more “Julie finds” that can be linked in a post the better. I loved that waterfall counter and having the visual with your hack made me think…I can have a nice laundry room too! There are so many of us out there that want beautiful things, and know what things SHOULD look like, but lack the funds to implement. Again…awesome post. Keep it up!

    1. Yes! Love this and all the many ways you presented gorgeous design and high/mid/low ways of making it happen. Perfect post!

    2. Agreed! Love this Portland post and so appreciate the effort you guys immediately put in to making reveal posts applicable for everyone – so fun! Also, love the Vintage Revival shoutout – Mandi is wonderful and I love the idea of an online community of designers encouraging and promoting each other. XO

  7. This Portland house continues to be amazing. I love these reveals. One question for the design team- any ideas how to add folding space with top loaders? Ideally, there is space next to them but how do you design something that’s cohesive.

  8. A plea- I love to check your blog on the bus on my way to work as I listen to podcasts, books, whatever. But your autoplay videos are disruptive. Lately I just give up and don’t read your content. Even when I find the video and pause it, if I go back to restart my other audio content and navigate back to your site, the video restarts. If there is any way to fix this, I could be a regular reader again! Sorry to be this person, but it’s driving me nuts!

    1. I’m sorry but I have to agree, on mobile especially, it is really hard sometimes to see content because of the auto-play videos.

      1. agree! the ad bar across the bottom, combined with the videos makes seeing the actual content (which i enjoy) hard.

    2. ditto! all the videos actually freeze up my browsers – this has been a problem for me on multiple computers! plus i can’t stand trying to read while videos are flashing off to the side.

      just a little feedback from someone who loves your content, esp the portland house!

    3. Totally agree! Between the autoplay videos and the newer banners that come across the bottom of the screen (and keep reappearing after you close them), finding and reading the content is becoming more of a chore than a pleasure.

    4. yes! the ad banners too – its all so large you cant even see the entire photo at the same time. It is so hard to appreciate it in chunks.

      1. AGREED! both the videos and the pop up bars, really takes away from your content (thought I understand why they are there in principle) – such a tough user experience to get to the good stuff.

    5. Agree! Please, please stop this !! I only come to your page now if I really want to see the content because it takes forever to load and freezes up every so often.

    6. One more in support of this! I read tons of blogs with advertisements etc., this is by far the most difficult to read. Although I love this blog, I too often wind up skipping it because of excess time and freezing issues. No problem with ads, but must be a way to streamline to prevent these problems. Thanks!

  9. Love it! Wish I had a laundry room, let alone a laundrey closet. My old & tiny 1950’s house has no space for laundry inside. Mine are tucked into a corner of my garage. I dream about a real laundry room.

    I painted a canvas art piece for above my bed, that looks identical to the Mia Farrington picture. Mine is horizontal, since above my bed. I free handed the “circles” grey, and a reddish-pink. I get so many compliments. Who knew I had something going on with my masterpiece? Just couldn’t find anything I loved for above the bed, so I took matters into my own hands.

  10. Love it! Fun cabinet color. I wallpapered our laundry room ceiling and it was the best choice I ever made. It’s so much fun and you can see our laundry room from our front door. Totally worth the visual impact

  11. The facet sprayer reccomendation makes so much sense! Will also look to embed a utility sink into the counter bc I really like how finished it looks. Thanks for the info!

  12. I don’t like it. I’m so sorry. It does look like the room is meant for service/household staff and not for the family to use. It does look like someone using it is meant to work there, and not for the personal use by the owner. Which may be fine of that’s someones lifestyle. But it doesnt appeal to me. The colors in the room, the variable counter heights. I love a more streamelined look to rooms and more of a “room” look. For example bathrooms should be treated as another room, meant to feel good and be relaxing as opposed to some ugly back room with sterile tile to do your business and wash up. Similarly, I like laundry rooms to feel more like beautiful walk in closets in terms of color, cabinetry, art, etc. Sorry to be negative. I just wanted to present a different view on it

  13. Such a beautiful space!! I wonder why the machines poke out from under the work surface though? It feels like they should fit under there and not stick out?

  14. I’d also like to have a dog washing area. Something like a walk in shower so I don’t have to pick up 60 lb dog and put on counter. I’d like to fashion after wash stations at some high end pet stores. Important to put large hook into studs, so that I can hook my water phobic dog into the area and use a hand wand on her fur. Another hack idea: I put some of my kids framed art pieces in my laundry area. They are usually more colorful and whimsical, to make the area fun. It doesn’t usually go with the rest of my decor, but I like to look at it!

  15. samsung has a washer with a built in laundry sink inside it! I thought that was really cool for small spaces

  16. What is on the adjacent wall that runs parallel to the wall shown? Is it a blank wall or are there windows? So many good ideas – the Dash and Albert rug would work perfectly in my area. Thanks!

  17. I wish I had a laundry “room” — of any size. We just have a stackable unit in a closet with no room for ANYthing else (our townhouse was designed that way). I’m please we have in-unit laundry facilities at all, but my dream house will have a functional and PRETTY laundry room.

  18. Oh. one more thing: I always thought glass tiles were more expensive than ceramic. But it’s the opposite???

  19. What material are the ceiling beams and how are they made? Is there a stain or finish on them? I love the look of them and would like to do similar beams in my great room but I don’t know if my contractor will know what these are and i want to be able to tell him.

  20. Love the painted cabinets in this room! Such a nice break from white, though this color reads a little baby blue for me, I’m wondering if they’re a little more gray in real life.

    1. They are. The photo team tweaked and tweaked and tweaked the color in post processing of the images, but it’s a really pretty chalky blue gray with a slight greenish undertone.

  21. This is pretty. The tiles and sink are just lovely!

    I do agree with another comment that I think that it might look a little cleaner if the washing machine and tumble dryer were flush with the run of cabinets. I’m also curious as to whether you considered doubling up on the machines – if I had a big enough laundry room and was starting from scratch I would definitely stack two pairs to enable double-quick efficiency.

  22. Hi Emily!

    I LOVE the Metrie doors, but it looks like they are discontinued. Have you found any that are similar to that design? I love the circular detail. Thanks for your help!

  23. It would not be possible to use this permanent surface above the machines, as shown here, for all “your treating, sorting and folding needs”. The machines protrude too far for someone to have to lean over and work at that counter top in any comfortable way.

  24. I’d love to learn more about the lights (?) under the cabinet. I’m getting to the point (old enough) where I want more light when I’m prepping laundry! Thanks.

  25. Reminds me so much of my former laundry/craft room. In that they both had washers and dryers and blue cabinets. Except I recycled our old kitchen cabinets and painted them blue instead of new custom cabinets… okay, they were nothing alike!
    But I did have a ton of storage and a whole wall of dowels holding all my gift wrap and bows decanted into decorative jars. And a separate closet set up as a permanent sewing station. And another sit down work space for crafting. And a lot of counter space and I covered every wall with pegboards. And I loved every square inch of it.

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