Owner Builder Life
When my husband and I took on the huge job of building our house, the only way we could afford to do it at all was by putting in a lot of our own “sweat equity”, as we had very little of the monetary kind laying around. We couldn’t afford to pay others to do the work that we could do ourselves, whether we had any previous experience in that area or not. We learned how to do most things out of necessity, and between the house and the various outbuildings on the property, we’ve tackled and completed (successfully!) nearly every aspect of house building.
Because we were living in the space while it was being built, we got pretty good at prioritizing which things needed doing when (my husband wired the outlet for the stove the night we moved in so we could make dinner!). As a consequence, things like installing and painting trim were/are the last things to be done.
The Laundry Room: My Nemesis
Our laundry room was mostly functional during this time – our big old washer and dryer were in there and working, so it stayed like that from the beginning (we’re talking a decade). We tried various free standing cabinets over the years in attempt to give storage without a huge financial output, but it just never flowed, and we were often fighting our way through piles of laundry and bulk Costco goods.
I finally decided that it was time to think about how we really wanted it, bite the bullet, and spend the money to get it functional. This involved buying a compact washer and dryer that could be stacked, freeing up the floor space that our old mismatched set took up. Of course, that required some plumbing and electrical reconfiguration, but Chuck loves that stuff.
I wanted this room to be part laundry center, part larder/pantry, and part garden room, so we planned on lots of shelving for jars of bulk beans, nuts, seeds, and dried herbs, as well a place to store harvesting baskets, pruners, and vessels for flowers.
I planned everything out using the Ikea kitchen planner, and was just about to go buy the cabinets when someone posted almost the exact configuration of cabinets that we needed on our local buy/sell page – for free! They were dark oak, but the doors were the exact same profile as our kitchen cabinets. Fate! As I’ve said in the past, stall on something long enough, and the perfect solution often presents itself.
A Few Alterations
While the cabinets were largely what we needed, there was no sink cabinet. This could have been a stumbling block, but it actually ended up adding more character to the room than we’d originally planned. Chuck simply built a support for the sink, and added some shelves for recycling baskets underneath, and I got to cover it up with a cute farmhouse sink skirt, something that was never in the cards (I even found cute laundry themed print).
The one thing we’d been hoping for that wasn’t included with the cabinets was a small pantry cupboard to go next to the washer and dryer, but we improvised using what was available. We mounted an over-the-fridge cabinet about 18 inches off the floor to make room for laundry hampers to slide underneath, and then modified an upper cabinet slightly so it could rest on the countertop above that piece, giving the suggestion of one cohesive unit.
Appliances and Materials
Considering I’d prepared myself to shell out a hefty chunk of change to get this room the way we wanted it, it came together fairly inexpensively in the end. The appliances were the major expense, but they were key in making the room workable, so it was money well spent. We decided to go with a compact, stacking washer and ventless dryer. They are smaller than our old machines, but we haven’t found the reduced capacity to be a problem.
The reason for going with a ventless dryer was largely based on energy savings. These dryers are essentially large, tumbling dehumidifiers, so rather than directing the moist air outside, they condense the water and drain it away, venting the warm, dry air back into the house rather than outside. I have found that the warmth from running the dryer takes the chill off well enough that I can often turn the heat down, or off entirely. While ventless dryers aren’t well known here, they are commonplace in Europe (vented dryers have actually been outlawed in some countries). In addition to venting (and wasting) the heat from the dryer, standard machines also suck the warm air from inside the rest of your house and pump it outside, adding to your heating bill.
The cabinets aren’t the only re-purposed items we used – the old enameled sink came from Freecycle years ago (hoarding tendencies redeemed!), the light fixture is an antique glass utility light, and the beadboard came as leftovers from a project at my mom’s house. All we had to buy new was the countertop, the faucet, shelving, the fabric for the skirt, and cabinet paint. (We painted the walls in the same colour that we have in the rest of the house.)
The large drain boards on the sink are perfect for laying sweaters flat to dry, for setting freshly washed garden harvests, or housing bubbling ferments or damp and frequently-misted mushroom kits.
It’s amazing how quickly this went from being my least favourite room in the house – one that I always made sure to close the door to when people came over – to one that I love and want to spend time in.
Even if it does mean doing the laundry.