Our Current House

Our Laundry “Room” Redo Is Officially On

There’s nothing like having a newborn to make you appreciate having a nice spot to do laundry. Ours functions just fine, but I’d say it still falls a bit short of “nice” in the looks department. So we’ve decided it’s major overhaul time.

Things have made minor progress since the beginning. Blue trim was painted. Old blue bi-fold doors came off. Flooring was replaced. Hallway walls were painted. And, oh yeah, we unexpectedly had to buy new appliances.

I actually bothered to spray those bi-folds white back when we painted the trim and doors upstairs and they’ve been living in the storage room ever since. Once every few months Sherry and I talk about re-hanging them and always end up in the same place: “but it’s so nice to just have it open and not have them in our way.” I think we’re just fans of small spaces that are open as opposed to small spaces that are closed off (with the exception of bathrooms of course). Heck, in our first house we even demo’d out the bi-fold wall in favor of a more open laundry setup.

We often rely on Phase 1 updates to inexpensively improve rooms like bathrooms and kitchens while we save up & plan, since they can be a lot pricier to fully redo (and can call for tons of function/layout/material decisions that we like to think through) but this small laundry corner should be a lot more affordable, especially since we already have new appliances. So as long as we can both get to a place where we’re 100% sold on our approach, we’re ready to get down to business right now.

But getting to that 100% sold place isn’t always easy. There has been a fair amount of debate about what we really want from our laundry area since deciding it would be our next project. Sometimes I think the most important part of DIY is thinking. Not to the point that you never do anything and keep re-hashing everything until your house stops moving forward at all and you’re frozen for a year in place – but enough thinking so that you’re not rushing into the whole “doing” part without being sure about your approach/materials/layout/etc. So this weekend we had fun with the family, went to the best neighborhood party ever, and did a whole lot of thinking. Not an ounce of doing. Unless you count tile shopping, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

First we heavily considered this:

Option #1: Why not take some inspiration from our first house’s laundry makeover for our current laundry situation? Sure, the cased opening is more nicely finished in this instance, but it still cuts off a lot of the laundry area and creates lots of a dead space beside the appliances (since they have to stay centered in the opening). Plus getting rid of it and shifting things over will give us room for more storage both on the wall and below. Here’s a rough idea of what we considered:

Having that wall out of the way would also be a good invitation to pretty-up the space. We really want to add a tile backsplash to bring in some texture and bounce around more light in this dark end-of-the-hallway, and a floating shelf along with some upper cabinets and a nice light fixture could go a long way.

Here’s a shot of the other corner, which is where we were thinking a base cabinet with drawers would go after everything shifted over. It would add more storage, plus we could top it with a small piece of countertop (maybe remnant granite?) for more surface area.

In the floor plan we noted the possibility of a door. We thought a pretty door with a large frosted pane in the middle like this would still let light in (and could be left open for a nice breathable feeling while doing laundry) and it could be closed to dampen sound and seal off the room when things are running. We both like the idea of making it more of a laundry room and not just a laundry spot-at-the-end-of-the-hallway.

We also think it would help that long part of the hallway feel less cavernous, but we aren’t 100% sold on adding it yet. For one, we may end up liking the look of the finished laundry wall so much that it seems silly to pay money to hide it behind a door. And the sound of the washer/dryer haven’t bothered us since upgrading them, hence our resistance to rehang those old bi-folds.

The big vote against this idea is…. we’re both grappling with the idea of having two doors to pass through to the storage room – especially once that space becomes a finished TV room/bunk room. Right now as it stands, you’d walk down the hall and open a door at the end of the hall to enter the bunk room/TV room, but if we added a frosted door in the hall to make the laundry nook into a bona-fide laundry room, you’d have to walk through the laundry room to get to the room beyond it. That could be weird, right?

Which brings us to…

Option #2: Leave the cased opening as it is right now, and work on the back wall (add tile, floating shelves/cabinetry, update the lighting, etc). We can always add nicer bi-fold doors down the line to close things off if we’d like, and even if we don’t, it’ll have more of a finished nook-look than just being an open laundry area at the end of the hall (we think the framed out trim feels more polished than something that’s all open might). The nice thing about choosing this option is that we’re not tied to anything until we’re sure. We can work on that back area, and if we suddenly have a moment of clarity about removing the cased opening and adding a frosted door in the hallway down the line, we can (meaning Option #2 can easily morph into Option 1). And if we just want to re-hang some nicer bi-folds later, we can do that too. Or leave it open. The world is our oyster.

And seeing inspiration rooms like this one (found here) confirmed that choice. If a little laundry nook with bi-folds can look this good, well, that’s pretty convincing.

UPDATE: There have been a bunch of questions/suggestions for everything from adding a pocket door behind the guest room or stealing the guest closet completely to moving the washer & dryer to where the current storage door is and adding a new door where they currently sit (or adding a barn/sliding door), so check out the comments for explanations on all of those possibilities. 

And since I mentioned tile-shopping, here’s what Sherry rubbed her face all over we debated. Even though it won’t really be a wet area (other than damp clothes – we don’t have a sink or anything) we both were inspired by the room above and a few others that we’ve seen with tile. After thinking about other alternatives (like painting a stencil or hanging some wallpaper) tile felt like the more “luxe” option – and it’s something we know we can DIY pretty easily. Not only will it add polish, it’ll bounce more light around, which is definitely what this dark alley at the end of the hall needs. And since we’ll only need a small amount, we can splurge on some slightly fancier options, like…

1. This mini-subway look in marble was really elegant and classic looking, but we both wanted to try something a little less basic.

2. We liked this fun small scale hex tile, but the deep colors made us worry that the laundry room would feel darker instead of brighter.

3. This one was amazing in person, but at $20 per square foot it was the priciest one we looked at by a long shot, and we thought the scale might be a bit large for such a small area (it would be amazing on the back wall of a giant shower though).

4. You know we love penny tile, and this shiny milk-colored option was really charming, but we wanted to try something new since we did penny tile in our last kitchen.

5. We always like white lantern tile (we had fun using something similar in a showhouse bathroom) but the bright white color wasn’t exactly the same as our washer/dryer, so it made them look off/clash by comparison.

6. We really loved this herringbone patterned tile, and the light marble looked like it would reflect a lot of light without being too shiny (the finish felt extra luxe in person). We also liked the scale (larger than #4, smaller than #3) and we also liked that it had a variety of tones and looks great next to our white washer & dryer.

Spoiler alert: That’s is the one we got. It felt really high end, the price was right (after the 10% off YHL10 coupon code it was around $12.50 per square foot), and they only had a few boxes of it left, so we were so lucky to get to it before it went out of stock.

So that’s what’s going on with the laundry room. Here’s hoping we can figure out the whole shelves/cabinetry thing, and get started on tiling. What did you guys do this weekend? Family stuff? Travel? Tons of thinking? It’s kind of an important DIY detail, right?



It’s Electric (Boogie, Woogie, Woogie)

Yes, that’s an electric slide reference. And I’d bet money that it’s cracking my mom up while my brother is rolling his eyes and vowing never to read this blog again.

After last week’s post about our four new outdoor sconces, we mentioned we had some other electrical work done inside at the same time, so here’s the rundown on everything we added, where it went, and how much it all cost. Let’s start with the prettiest result so far – the new light in our bedroom.

We had the electricians add ceiling fixtures to all four of the upstairs bedrooms, since we like the look and convenience of overhead lighting, but all the bedrooms were without it. Thankfully there was no drywall-disrupting work necessary other than the hole in the ceiling for the fixture box because they could takeover the existing switches, which used to just operate various wall outlets in each room. So not only did we not have to add additional light switches, we no longer accidentally turn off random things like the cable box or the sound machine as we leave those rooms.

We don’t have fixtures for the kids rooms or the guest room picked out yet, so we’ll just add white metal covers to minimize the whole blue-circle-with-wires-in-it look until we find some. But we did have the master bedroom light ready and waiting. It’s this Large Lotus Pendant that we ordered from World Market waaaaay back when we bought our hallway lights. It was going out of stock and we got the same 25% off deal on it as the other three lights, so it was $112 instead of $149 with free shipping.

Our only gripe upon receiving it was that it didn’t include a light kit (we somehow missed that bullet on their website). Then we noticed that World Market’s light kits only come in black or silver, so we hunted down these two bronze options from Home Depot and Lowe’s. They’re the kind they make so you can pair them with their decorative glass shades (like the ones they show on the packaging) but we thought they could work for this application too (fingers crossed). We liked that they had a few finish options and came with all the other hanging hardware (and a ceiling canopy) that we’d need.

The “aged” finish of the Portfolio brand pendant from Lowe’s (it was $18) was a better match to the fixture, which was lucky because it was the only one that ended up fitting. The ring on the capiz fixture was slightly too small to screw it on normally, so instead it rests on the flared part of the light kit like so:

Once we realized that nesting the cord and shade that way would work, the installation process was pretty straight forward. In fact it might be the quickest light install we’ve done here so far, clocking in at under fifteen minutes yesterday morning. Bingo. Bango. And not once did John poke himself in the face with a metal flower petal. I was not so lucky.

It takes one 60-watt bulb so it’s nice bonus lighting on top of the two bedside lamps that we’ve been surviving with so far in this room (since we’ve lived with only those for over a year, we knew anything on the ceiling was just icing on the wattage cake for us). But can I just tell you how incredibly novel it feels to walk into a bedroom and flip the light on from the doorway. Seriously, it’s almost akin to living without a dishwasher forever and then getting one. Suddenly you feel like royalty.

But let’s switch gears to a quick overview of the whole electrical job. Here’s everything that was accomplished in the three mornings they were here (it was too hot to be in the attic or crawl space later in the day, so they spread out their work across the cooler morning hours):

Update: You guys are asking for more office floor outlet details, so here they are: it was a really simple addition since they could come up from the crawl space. Didn’t take them too long at all. They just wired it up from below and drilled a small hole in the floor from above and popped the outlet cover on. You can see the finished result below:

We got the bill this weekend, which totaled around $1,500. The breakdown was $270 for materials and the rest was labor/time. It was definitely one of the larger electrician bills we’ve received, but we paid around $900 for the lighting in our first kitchen, so getting nine fixtures across six rooms and three new outlets was a lot more work/time, and we were pleasantly surprised to realize that it calculates out to an average of about $100 per item, not including all of the switches they converted or the intercom they terminated. If we had electricians come out to tackle these rooms individually instead of bulking them all, it would likely have been a few hundred bucks per room each time (they’d be in and out of the attic a bunch of times instead of being able to do everything all at once). So efficiency = saved money, especially when you’re paying by the hour.

Besides passing along the try-to-combine-lots-of-jobs-if-you-can tip, this was also a good reminder that it helps to be available if at all possible when this type of work is being done. In this case, it saved us from lots of unnecessary holes in our office ceiling. Thanks to being there, we were able to put our heads together to come up with an alternate wire route than the first one they proposed, which ended up causing a lot less drywall destruction:

Instead of going through multiple joists and making tons of ceiling holes, we realized if the wires were run parallel to the fixture box joist, it could be snaked down that wall, and fed over to the wall switch via the crawl space instead of the ceiling (they’d be down there anyway adding that floor outlet). That option only required one small hole in the ceiling (near the tip of the blue arrow above) instead of nearly ten holes had we gone with the first method. It also meant there would be a few down the wall, but those would have been made near the light switch if we went with the other method anyway, and patching walls holes feels much less perilous to us than ceiling ones anyway (ceilings just tend to catch the light more and show every last imperfection, whereas wall ones are more forgiving).

Another little bonus that we came up with after putting our heads together was gaining this outlet right under the surface of John’s desk:

When the electrician told us a hole would end up around that area as he snaked the wire down, I asked if we could place that hole below the desk line and put an outlet there to fill the hole (instead of having to patch yet another area). He said no problem, and now John can keep his cords out of sight better (the original outlet he was using was behind one of the shelves that we anchored to the wall, so a big power strip had been resting on the floor beneath the desk).

We did the same thing on the wall under the light switch where he was going to have to make a hole anyway. That extra hole-filling outlet meant we could plug in our printer and that lamp without the cords having to snake out to the outlet under the window. So being home and talking through options might add up to more functional outlet/switch placement and less spackling & sanding.

Oh, and that’s a painting of a monster that Clara brought home from art camp last week. I think it’s our new favorite creation of hers, so it might just get a permanent home there eventually. One that doesn’t involve masking tape.

So obviously you’ll be getting some light fixture updates for the office and the rest of those upstairs bedrooms sometime in near (ish?) future as we find fixtures for those spaces. Now if only we could punch our ceilings up a foot or two to give us more options. #8ftceilingproblems