Published on September 28, 2019

imagePin It
photography by tessa neustadt for emily henderson design

The word room implies space, the ability to move about freely, the chance to spread out a little. Closet, on the other hand, signifies a lack thereof (especially if it’s not preceded by adjectives like dream or walk-in). This difference really becomes apparent when the only place to wash, hang-dry, and fold your laundry is a pint-size cupboard that could easily be mistaken for a pantry. 

Renters and small-space dwellers know the drill: If you have an in-home washer and dryer, odds are the bulky machines are hiding behind an accordion door in the hall or, worse, out in the open in the kitchen. The question isn’t whether or not cleaning your clothes in such a teensy spot is doable (spoiler: they’re totally functional) but rather, are you using what you’ve got to its full potential? Don’t go airing your dirty laundry—follow these seven genius tips for working in tight quarters. 

Cover It With a Curtain 

laundry closet with wood counter and white curtainPin It
photography by Brooke Holm; styling by Marsha Golemac

If your only option is to do your laundry in your living room, consider cleverly disguising the area with a simple white curtain. Designer Lena Bruno suspended a swath of fabric from a ceiling track in this West Footscray, Australia, house so that when guests come over, smelly gym gear won’t be the topic of conversation. 

Make It About Wallpaper

floral wallpaper with washer and dryer stacked to the side wallPin It
photography by Angela Seckinge

One advantage of positioning front-load appliances side by side is that you can do your folding on top. The downside: All you see are two giant chunks of metal when you swing open the doors. Designer Cameron Ruppert took a design-focused approach in this vibrant Washington, D.C., home by placing one machine on top of the other, tucking them in the corner, and letting a botanical print and featherlight fixture take center stage. 

Use Every Available Surface

laundry closet with blue ocean wallpaperPin It
photography by tessa neustadt for emily henderson design

Emily Henderson’s upstairs hall closet is basically an all-in-one chore zone. After covering the nook in a whimsical ocean wave wallpaper (the print instantly makes it a pleasant place to be) and lining the interior with open shelves in which to stock detergents, dusters, and lint rollers, the designer added two over-the-door-hangers, one for holding a mop and broom and the other featuring a fold-out drying rack. 

Upgrade the Finishes 

This discreet alcove was an unused kitchenette before Sydney-based designer Lynne Bradley upgraded it with pink marble counters, ambient lighting, and paneled wood door fronts. The elevated materials and sleek mounted clothing rod make handwashing less of a bummer. 

Replace the Doors 

cane doors opened up to reveal laundry machinesPin It
photography courtesy of hunted interior

Bifold doors are never as seamless to open as you think. Kristin Jackson of Hunted Interior replaced her clunky black ones with a standard white style (she and her husband constructed the pieces themselves), then filled the center panels with perforated screens covered in cane webbing. When shut, no one will ever guess what lurks behind them.

Give It More Responsibility

siliver washer and dryerPin It

Photographer Elizabeth Messina’s utility closet does double duty. Along with housing her washer and dryer, it also includes shelves for extra dishware and cleaning supplies. With the help of a brass pot filler, she can tackle stains or fill a jug of water for the dining table on the fly. 

Take Advantage of Height

laundry closet in a kitchenPin It
photography courtesy of studio mcgee

This clever arrangement by Studio McGee is a testament to the vertical stack. The designers saved space in the kitchen by going up rather than across—and there was even room for a small shelf of essentials at the tippy-top. 

See more laundry-related stories:

The Laundry Rooms We Couldn’t Stop Gushing Over in 2017
Yes, a Laundry-Folding Robot Actually Exists
This Renovation Proves That Chic Laundry Rooms Do Exist

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