Our laundry room is getting a BIG makeover. Things have been a bit tight here at the Day farm as our household count rapidly grew from three to six (seven, if you count my nomad sister who's currently taking up the guest room). I've been mulling over the idea of an outdoor laundry room for awhile, and after visiting a ton of spots on the East Coast my wheels started turning.
Here in California we typically put the washing machines as an afterthought in a closet, the garage or their own tiny room tucked into a corner of the house. Most places I've encountered on the other side of the country (except Manhattan, of course) have laundry rooms that appear to serve a bigger purpose. They're more central to the home, often stuck smack dab in the kitchen or entryway. Laundry spaces over there, by and large, seem chock full of utility. This one in Georgia acted as a mudroom where the whole family could unload their weather-worn gear as opposed to tromping it through the house.
I've often contemplated how I might implement this sort of functionality in our own home.
There's no room by our front door for a sprawling wash area. Our back entry and all around the sides of our home, on the other hand, have been on the docket for a mini-revival and there's plenty of space out there. When one of my Portland friends recently installed a ‘she shed' in her backyard to serve as her office, it was like a lightbulb went off. I ogled her pictures and decided I could build myself a laundry she shed! It can act as an outdoor wash room, a place for our family to ditch their dirty duds, and a hipster-y sort of gathering spot where I can shake off the dust of farm life while simultaneously grilling carne asada and popping open a bottle of bubbly on the back porch. In my mind, an outdoor laundry room can take everyday tasks that parents do to keep the family running, and actually integrate that with the family's activities. For me, it's important that my boys see us doing laundry (and take part in the process whenever possible). This task shouldn't be sectioned off in a random corner of the house. Just like the East Coast and their loud and proud approach to laundry displays, I want to make the space mine – incorporating a casual outdoorsy twist, in true West Coast fashion.
When you last got a peek at our laundry room, it looked like this. We've been chugging away every chance we get at home renovations, and it now looks like this:
To some, this may seem like a step backwards. That's because we're actually gutting the current laundry room in favor of another bath. Our master bedroom is a converted garage, so there's no bathroom on this side of the house and I've grown tired of tromping through the living area when I have to pee at 3am. So I'm finally getting my very own commode, and the washing machines are finding a fun new space to occupy outside!
Planning an Outdoor Laundry Room
When I lived in Hawaii as a kid, almost everyone I knew had their machines on the patio because most people hang-dry clothes there. The idea's not so off-the-wall, but I searched online and couldn't find much about outdoor laundry rooms. There were a few shown in pool sheds, outhouses or other small spaces, including some interesting semi-off-the-grid situations coupled with solar panels and composting toilets. I chatted with our sponsor Speed Queen about the she shed idea and they were familiar with a few similar outdoor laundry room installations. The only obvious concern was protecting the machines from direct damage in case of severe weather.
I wanted the washer and dryer fully enclosed but not in any sort of closet or nook. Ideally, I was looking for a shed where I could leave clothes near the machines and take my time folding them without worrying that they'd get rained on or sun-bleached.
First, we set our eyes on this Keter My Shed. Unfortunately, Nate and I don't have time to install anything ourselves right now and the handymen in our area want to charge an absolute fortune. This one also kept going in and out of stock, which didn't instill a ton of confidence.
Next up, we eyed this beautiful Handy Home Solar Shed, but once again we faced the installation issue. I liked the idea of big, bright windows but I wasn't a fan of the single narrow door for access.
Finally, I spotted this large tool shed that was a phenomenal price and included an upgraded flooring system, installation, and the option to add windows immediately or even plop them in later with a widely-available upgrade kit. Ding ding, we have a winner! I placed my order, started clearing out the space where the shed was going to sit, and began brainstorming my decor.
For a laundry room that leads directly to the outdoors, I really like the idea of incorporating some greenery in the space and throwing down a big mat to catch any excess dirt. Hopefully, with that underfoot, we can easily shake away debris and keep the space neat.
The idea of a big, open tabletop has always been super-appealing for me in a laundry room. We're getting a stacked washer and dryer set from Speed Queen because I have a back injury that flares up every now and then and I want to minimize bending over as much as possible. I used to think I needed a ton of space to enjoy a pro-level washer and dryer, but the people at Speed Queen were so helpful in inquiring about our needs and guiding us to the most fitting model.
As far as decorations, the primary theme I'm going for is a sort of vintage-industrial vibe, with farmy accents and simple lines like we tend to use throughout the rest of the house. I want things to feel homey, not frilly. I think that cute metal signs can add just enough personality to give it a lived-in feel.
Sticking with that old-school theme, I really want to track down some nice-looking laundry carts! One pick that IS going totally modern is our decision to opt for mechanical controls. I was anxious about that because we've had electronic panels fail on us before, but Speed Queen guarantees them with a 5-year warranty on parts and labor. The control buttons are tested to 1,000,000 depresses, which is the number times an owner is likely to push the buttons over the average 25-year life of the machine. Since Speed Queen has set industry standard for commercial use, I'm going to trust that they know what they're doing when it comes to our house.
Also following the lead of big companies, I'm thinking we'll probably wind up tiling the floor and walls of our shed eventually. I like the idea of total durability and water resistance in an outdoor laundry room. The shed is being constructed right outside my bedroom so I'm slightly concerned about noise, and I feel like tiles on the walls might help offer a dampening effect. The Speed Queen people assure me that's unnecessary and we're getting a set that has amazing balancing technology for a remarkably silent operation.
I'll report back on that after my first load!
For storage of soaps and detergents, I've seen a couple Pinterest photos showing clever storage in antique drink servers (labeled and put up away from children, of course). I bet I could track some of those down for a bargain at our local thrift shop.
Another farm-inspired, outdoorsy idea is using galvanized containers and glass jars for clothespins and other necessities.
Speaking of necessities, a retractable clothing line is totally on the list. I think that's pretty much essential for an outdoor laundry room. Gotta take advantage of all our sunny San Diego days!
Last but certainly not least, we're sprucing up the area all around our outdoor laundry room so it can be exactly as I envision: a central gathering place to involve the entire family in the tasks that keep us all going.
We've already yanked out those old fences that were enclosing this space, the pipes have been redirected through the wall and we've tested the hook-ups with our old machines. Concrete is being leveled out for the shed base as I type, and we've sorted through everything in our storage containers to make room for all the random storage stuff that was pulled out of the former laundry room. Shed construction happens in three days, and I couldn't possibly be more excited!
We'll finally be able to ditch these dingy old hand-me-down machines and make the much-anticipated switch to our trusty new Speed Queens. I can't wait to give them a whirl!
UPDATE: Our outdoor laundry shed is done, it's amazing, and I'm utterly obsessed with my newfound space. Click on through and check it out!
Would you ever use an outdoor laundry room?