Before & After: This Seriously Scary Laundry Room Got a Sunny Reno We Can’t Stop Staring At

published Dec 17, 2021
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Credit: Dana McMahan

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If you stepped into the dreamy laundry/mudroom at Bethany Adams’ family’s home today you’d never believe what it used to look like. 

The dirt-floor basement of the 1896 Victorian in historic Old Louisville, Kentucky, was “moldy, dank, dark, and disgusting,” Bethany says. “It was just a terrifying space.” She and her husband were moving there with their then 6-year-old daughter, and Bethany — an award winning interior designer — wanted to redesign the room to make it “so bright and perky and cheerful that [their daughter Evelyn] would forget that it was once a terrifying dungeon.”

Thanks to natural light on three sides, and some super cool vintage wash sinks, the basement had the bones to become the jaw-dropping laundry room it is now — after Bethany’s magic touch, that is. 

The incredible makeover was completed along with the rest of the house, and took six or seven months altogether. They spent about $20,000 total. That includes around $15K for the construction (think plumbing, electrical, framing, drywall, painting and sink refinishing); another $2K for storage solutions from IKEA, $1K for decor like the wallpaper, rug, bench, coat rack, and screen; and $2K for the new washer and dryer. 

While the entire home redo was stunning, the laundry room was the most dramatic transformation in the house, Bethany says. It would be hard to top going from a horror film scene to a room anybody would actually love doing laundry in. How’d she accomplish such a change? 

Credit: Dana McMahan

Reuse existing elements where you can

Those cool but grody sinks were sent out for refinishing and painting in the most delightful daffodil yellow. Inquiring minds want to know: where, exactly, do you have something like that done? A search for “coating and blasting” in a decent-sized city should turn up options. “Oftentimes tub refinishers will come on site,” Bethany says, and barring that, look for DIY kits from Rustoleum

Recessed lights help add more light to the space. A huge sisal rug warms up the concrete floor. A mix of vintage finds and IKEA storage pieces create a unique and super functional family space. An abundance of plants lend a happy greenhouse vibe. And that lemon wallpaper! “Nobody can feel cranky down there,” Bethany says. 

You can follow Bethany’s lead if you’re looking to add life and color to a dark and dreary space. Ask at your favorite plant shop what kind of greenery has the best chance of survival in low-light situations. 

Credit: Dana McMahan

Don’t shy away from color

“When it comes to paint and wall coverings, “use all the bright colors, especially if you’re in an interior space without windows,” Bethany suggests. She carried her sunny yellow palette throughout the basement, painting pipes and window trim to match. The formerly eyesore pipes are now “hiding in plain sight,” she says. “And I also painted the ceiling Palladian Blue, because it just brightens it up and makes it feel more like outside. It was just fun, one more thing to try to make it a little brighter and friendlier.”

Credit: Dana McMahan

Hide utility assets with screens

And even though the room is incredibly functional, there’s no need to scream utility room, so she hid the water heater behind a vintage screen. Not only did the screen make the heater disappear, it “keeps my toddler and anyone else from getting near it,” she says. 

What else might you try when it comes to downplaying those necessary but not necessarily pretty elements in a home? “You can hang a picture over an electrical panel,” Bethany says. Or make that eyesore work for you! “In our old house it was in a weird spot so I painted it with chalkboard paint and used it as a message board,” she says. “A curved ceiling mount curtain rod could hide a water heater (but check with your plumber for adequate spacing and ventilation requirements),” she suggests. “Or you could place a painted piece of trellis in front of it and a big potted, climbing plant.”

Credit: Dana McMahan

If you have a big space, considering dividing it for another function

With a now 10 and a 3-year-old, Bethany has created the ultimate family go-zone on the opposite side, transforming part of the space into a mudroom. Hooks are easier for the little ones than hangers, so a vintage rack by the back door offers a convenient landing space for backpacks, masks, and jackets. Woven baskets echo the warmth of the rug and provide necessary storage space. With closet space in their Victorian in scarce supply, the mudroom serves as Shoe (and Sock and Mitten) Central, so everyone can slide shoes off or on as they come or go, without tracking things through the house. A vintage airline bench anchors the room with a place to grab a seat. And for life in the time of COVID, it has been incredibly convenient having scrub sinks as soon as you walk in, Bethany says. 

Don’t stress about being matchy-matchy

One last tip from Bethany: Nobody says your laundry room has to match other living spaces, especially if it’s separate from the rest of the house, as this one is. “Our laundry room doesn’t have a lot to do aesthetically with the rest of the house and I think that’s okay,” she says. “It’s like a fun, family casual space. And it’s separate, completely separate. It’s a little more modern glam [upstairs]. But you know, that’s the place to do your laundry and put your backpack away. It’s for the family.”