Who doesn't want more useful, more organized, and more beautiful spaces? Those were the goals I set for a major overhaul of our very dysfunctional laundry room. In this post, I’ll share the ideas, projects, and tools that combined in perfect harmony to make it happen.
First, it helps to understand the problem(s) we were facing, which were quite numerous.
Our house is small, so storage is one of our most pressing issues. It’s also a historic home (aka “old”). It’s been remodeled and added-to over the generations, and I’m pretty sure there was nary a professional involved. The result is a crazy floor plan.
You go through the laundry room to get to the bathroom, the master bedroom, and the back yard. Is that not normal?
The result of this odd traffic flow was that every guest inevitably spent at least a few seconds looking at our washer/dryer and the surrounding hodgepodge mix of wooden and metal shelves jam packed with tons of stuff then wondered if they made a wrong turn. It was bad.
To make it all better, our project aimed to tackle a storage need, a “flow” issue, an aesthetic problem, and tried to make the room more useful while we were at it. As it was, the only real uses for the space were storage and laundry.
Here are six of the most effective mini-projects that made up our major laundry room overhaul. You’ll find ideas here for any room and each of these would be great as a stand-alone weekend DIY project.
One – Rethink the Space
When you buy a house it already has a floor plan. Traffic flows how it flows, and it can be a real challenge to see new opportunities because of the way things have been established. If you look closer, possibly with the help of some graph paper and a scaled drawing, you can often see a better way.
We reduced the size of the bedroom door and created a proper hallway leading to the bedroom entrance. We also moved the washer over and surrounded the washer/dryer with custom built-ins, a closet, and copious amounts of hidden storage above.
This left a “new” open space sufficient for a large desk thereby converting the whole room into a home office and a much more useful space overall.
Tape Measure & Graph Paper – You don’t need fancy software to get a bird’s-eye view of the way your space flows. Just measure the room and the things in it then draw them out to scale on graph paper. Caution: The “to scale” part is pretty important. Even seasoned design pros have a hard time drawing to scale just by eye.
Two – Beautiful Beadboard Walls
The walls in the existing laundry room were a mess. They were “not flat” so I expected to find some damaged framing underneath. Thankfully, it turned out that the framing was in great shape and by simply replacing the wall paneling with nice beadboard, we were able to totally transform the look of the room.
Walls are the largest surfaces in most rooms so the material and finish matter more than you’d think. Removing the old paneling also gives you a chance to look at your framing and inspect it for any needed repairs (I added some foam insulation in a few holes and gaps, for example).
Circular Saw – While it may seem daunting, it’s actually not that hard to cut nice straight lines on beadboard paneling, which is usually thinner than regular sheets of plywood (mine was ⅜” thick). I used the Black & Decker 15 amp Circular Saw, and it made beautiful and straight cuts every time.
Auto-Sense Driver Drill – The Black & Decker driver/drill with Auto-Sense Technology was a huge player throughout this project. The Auto-Sense technology, which automatically stops driving a screw when it is flush to the surface, proved to be excellent at finish work and furniture assembly. At the same time, the drill mode was more than powerful enough to drill holes in solid concrete for Tapcons, which we did in more than one place.
Jig Saw – You’ll have to cut out holes in the paneling for things such as electrical outlets. The Black & Decker BDEJS300C 4.5amp Jigsaw is the right tool. Simple and free of any complicated adjustments, you just plug it in, and you’re ready to go! Perfect!
Mouse Sander - The Black & Decker Mouse Sander makes light work out of getting your paneling smooth. The detail oriented shape makes it easy to smooth out those hard-to-reach corners and little pieces of trim.
Three – Creative Use of Furniture
The original plan called for custom made shelving units but it bothered me that we had this beautiful shelving unit we could no longer use (from a commercial office space) about to go on Craigslist. We ended-up finding a great way to incorporate the furniture into the new room, converting it from a stand-alone piece to a true “built-in” and designing much of the project around it.
The icing on the cake was that the same line of furniture was still available so we were able to purchase a beautiful matching desk.
Auto-Sense Driver Drill – To install the built-in, screws were used to connect it to the new framing and Tapcons were used to attach it to the concrete side wall. We also used the Auto-Sense extensively in the assembly of the desk.
Cordless Circular Saw – Using the same 20V Li-Ion battery as the Auto-Sense drill, the Black & Decker cordless circular saw was useful in making small modifications to the factory-made wooden furniture in order to make it more seamlessly built-in.
Level – In any old house, don’t count on the floors or walls to be level. Use a carpenter’s level to check for level and plumb at every opportunity.
Four – Hidden “Attic” Storage (With No Attic)
The coolest part of this project is invisible. We created a “hidden” storage area above the washer/dryer which is accessible through a removable panel above the built-in.
The beadboard makes it nearly impossible to see the removable panel, and the storage space is massive—enough for four or five extra-large storage bins.
Circular Saw - The access panel is just beadboard paneling and 2×4 framing. The circular saw makes all the cuts you need. If your finished panel is a little bit of a tight fit like mine was, you can even use the circular saw to put a bevel cut on the inside frame to make it easier to remove/replace.
Auto-Sense Driver/Drill – The Auto-Sense technology is perfect for attaching the panel once in place. Just a couple of screws will hold it until you’re ready to access the storage area and the Auto-Sense stops those screws perfectly when they get flush with the paneling, keeping the powerful 20V motor from pulling the screw too tight and making an ugly divot in the surface.
Five – A Real Linen Closet
I didn't know how much we missed having a “normal” linen closet until I built us a new one.
Before that, our house “design” included using a narrow (less than 12” deep) cabinet on the wall for linen storage. The thickness of towels and sheets was constantly popping open those cabinet doors and it was just not functional.
A real closet with a bi-fold door and some real shelving more than 24” deep changed everything.
Auto-Sense Driver/Drill – From building the wall framing, installing the bi-fold door and attaching the shelves inside the closet, the Auto-Sense drill was a go-to tool.
Mouse Sander – If you remember to sand your closet shelves down before you install them, any sander will do, but if you get in a hurry like me and install wooden shelves before sanding them down, the Mouse Sander is perfect for reaching the edges of the shelves, even right up against the wood paneled walls.
Six – Awesome Chalkboard Doors
The visual highlight of the new room is the ultra-cool chalkboard bi-fold doors that hide the washer/dryer area.
Given the very short height of the opening, installing these doors was a task not for the faint of heart. The hollow-core doors had to be reworked substantially in order to be usable for the correct size. Given more time, you could custom order the right size doors.
The end-result with smooth doors painted with chalkboard paint is just incredible! We use it for all sorts of things from inspirational quotes to appointment reminders to to-do lists! We love these doors!
Workmate Workbench – When it comes to cutting the “meat” out of the top of a hollow-core bi-fold door, I can’t think of any system being better than the Black & Decker Workmate bench. It was almost too easy.
Cordless Circular Saw – With the cut-off door ends firmly in the Workmate bench, cutting away the unwanted “door skins” and leaving only the needed door structure for use in the shorter version of the doors was quick work. Just be sure to have a dust mask ready when cutting hollow-core doors, which often have Low Density Fiberboard cores along with some cardboard webbing, since very fine dust will be generated.
Auto-Sense Driver/Drill – As if the Auto-Sense drill had not already earned it’s keep in this project, it came into use again to re-attach the hinges and to install the tracks and pivot hardware for the doors. Screwing hinges onto an easy-to-strip hollow or soft surface like these doors was a perfect example of the brilliance of Auto-Sense technology which stops turning when the screw is flush.
A Functional and Beautiful Space Emerges!
We couldn't be happier with the results of this project. What was an ugly, wacky, and dysfunctional space is now a beautiful home-office that has more and better storage, and can be used for more than just laundry and confusing visitors.
The furniture turned built-ins combined with the new desk we bought and assembled provide plenty of nooks and crannies so there really is a “place for everything” from office supplies to school supplies to regular old household “stuff” (BTW – the Auto-Sense technology and “Ready-to-Assemble” furniture were made for each other).
We love it and if you employ some of these ideas in your next project you’ll see why!