Photography by Larry Arnal
Lisa Canning shares her tips for transforming a dysfunctional laundry room into a practical and stylish space.
When Lisa Canning moved into her Toronto home in 2009 (while 8 1/2 months pregnant with her first child, no less), she knew that her bungalow was in desperate need of some love. That was especially true for the dark and dingy laundry room, a basement space with bare concrete walls and floors. By 2015, her family's head count had grown to seven (that's five children aged six and under). Laundry had become an almost daily event, which made an organized, dirt-free wash-and-dry zone all the more important. "It's funny that the laundry room is supposed to be this place of cleanliness, but I was afraid of dropping something on the floor," says Canning.
A renovation was in order. First, Canning nailed down the room's functions: laundry room, storage room and mudroom. Then, she made a design plan and hired a contractor for the larger projects, which included installing insulation, hanging drywall and applying a large-scale herringbone tile backsplash. She handled the smaller projects herself over the six-week renovation, which helped keep the budget under control. The result? A cheerful, modern room where doing laundry feels like much less of a chore.
Bigger is better
"I'm a busy mother who doesn't like doing laundry," says Canning. "Installing a high-efficiency top-load washer was a huge game-changer. The capacity, compared to a front-load system, is so much larger—it saves a lot of time." Canning can now wash three times as many clothes in one load. "If I could reduce my folding time by that much, then I'd be set," she laughs.
Before the reno, hang-to-dry laundry was hooked over the shower-curtain rod in the upstairs family bathroom, which had to be removed when the tub was in use. Now, a custom hanging rack is installed in the laundry room, improving functionality and keeping clothes in one place. The rack, built with a slab of live-edge wood and 1 1/2-inch black pipe, is both rustic and industrial, providing an interesting contrast in an otherwise modern space. "Not only is it very practical but it also acts as a piece of art," says Canning.
Having a large surface on which to sort and fold clean clothes makes it easier to organize laundry before it gets put away. By creating eight feet of counter space (installed at a comfortable height for folding), there's ample room to fold and stack, to lay sweaters out flat to dry or to work on stain-busting.
Canning made use of every square inch by incorporating a customizable floor-to-ceiling storage system on two of the laundry room's walls. Hooks, shelves and cups are attached to panels that store household items such as tools, tape, towels and crafting supplies. "If I store something in a bin, it can get lost," explains Canning, "but because everything is visible on the wall, it's really quick to find what I need."
An organized cabinet system was another must-have on Canning's wish list. After determining all of the family's items that needed storage, Canning designed the cupboards to accommodate them. This built-in bench flanked by floor-to-ceiling storage offers a spot for everything from detergent to off-season clothes. Because the laundry room doubles as a mudroom, the kids can come inside, head straight downstairs with their sports gear, sweaty clothes and outerwear, and easily throw items to be laundered into the hamper that's hidden away in a cupboard.
For more on laundry, check out our ultimate laundry guide.
This story was originally part of "The Laundry List" in the April 2016 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!