Monday, July 20, 2009

Reader Question: Laundry Room Re-do

laundry area with elfa

I'm a regular reader and love your blog posts. Can I ask for advice and feedback from you and your readers?

I upgraded to a stacked washer and dryer a couple of months ago and lost a neat cabinet in the process. I put in Elfa shelving which did increase the storage capacity of this space quite a bit but it looks sloppy to me and it's not quite working. In the cabinet, I had little, handled bins sorting everything and they haven't made the transition to open shelving very well. After studying the Elfa laundry room set-ups on The Container Store website very carefully, I'm considering white Tribeca bins (two large ones side by side on the "messy" shelves (see shelf with blue paper towels and shelf with square basket) but want to keep the striped bins since they're working well and I think they're cute.

Will two shelves with uniform white bins transform this space? My husband thinks we need to replace all containers on the shelves with white or translucent bins. Maybe we could try it in stages until it looks right - replace the blue tote on the top shelf with a white one as the next step and maybe put white Tribeca bins on other shelves to tie in? Will it ever look like the Elfa set-ups if I keep the striped bins and the round wicker baskets on the shelves on the right? Is it possible I have too much time on my hands and I'm suffering from TCS addiction? --Cynthia in San Francisco

Here are Cynthia's "before" pictures, with the cabinet:

laundry area with cabinet, doors shut

laundry area with cabinet, doors open

Here's what I wrote back to Cynthia:

1. Elfa shelving is a very different look from your old cabinet. It might be that you really just prefer the cabinet look. (But the shelving is more convenient - no door to open.)

2. You might be happier with the Elfa solid shelving. (The Container Store will probably take back the ventilated shelving you currently have, too - they are great about returns/exchanges. When a client of mine bought a Elfa system, they specifically said he could bring it back after it was installed, if he didn't like it.) Or maybe it would help to use the shelf liners.

3. I love those handled bins you had - I just discovered them at The Container Store and used them extensively (in the white version) at a client of mine's. But this was inside a hall closet, not on Elfa shelves.

4. Those striped bins are nice - they are cute, they work, and you like them. I'd keep them. Who cares it your space looks just like TCS pictures? I'd be inclined to deal with the problem shelves first, and then see if anything more is needed. Those striped baskets could add a nice pop of color if most of the rest is clear or white. But then again, I'm into eclectic. Certainly, some other people would prefer the all-the-same look.

5. Obligatory organizer question: Do you really use and/or love everything you have in this space?

6. With your new set-up, it looks like it would be tough to get to the things on the non-ironing-board side wall - and the stuff on that wall really looks crammed in there. Are there any other places for that stuff?

7. You say "it isn't quite working" as well as you don't quite like the look. What specifically isn't working? Be sure to consider functionality as much as looks.

8. The size of the big blue bin seems out of proportion to the rest - it's not just that it's blue.

Cynthia wrote back, and it seems #5 was the most useful comment, along with #8. A lot of things can actually get removed, giving her more of the look she wants, with "extra space around everything."

Any other suggestions for Cynthia? I know I have a lot of organizers as readers; what might you recommend?


Carmen @ Get Organized! said...

Cynthia -

I'm going to zero in on a phrase you used "looks sloppy." That tells me that you not only want easy access to things BUT you want them to look aesthetically-pleasing. I would recommend you invest in matching/coordinating bins immediately! That way, you can get the cohesive "look" you want. I guarantee it will make you feel more organized. :)

Carmen (One of Jeri's Pro Organizer Friends!)

Emily said...

One potential quick, easy, and inexpensive semi-solution: replace the open-wire drawers with mesh drawers:

They won't quite hide the bottles inside (which will still be taller than the top of the drawer), but they will help make them less obviously visible when you're looking at the system straight-on.

Good luck, Cynthia!

-Emily (another of Jeri's fellow organizers)

SueBK said...

To me, it looks the same in both pictures. The only real difference I notice is that before you could close the door and "filter" the look. I would be tempted to hang a curtain or roller blind in front of the narrow shelves. A blind might be hard to attach to anything though. Another wider blind over the top two shelves would also work.

Translucent shower curtaining could give you the same "filtered" look as the cupboard doors.

John Trosko said...

In my opinion, there is too much useless crap sitting on top of the cabinet. Get some baskets that are the same size, shape, if you want to uniform the space. I agree with the white canvas basket idea, they suit the cottage look anyhow... those striped baskets are too chaotic.

Also, you could frost the glass of the cabinets and not worry too much about the stuff inside, it will disappear.

John aka OrganizingLA

Jeri Dansky said...

John, the cabinet is from the "before" picture; now we have the elfa shelving next to the stacked washer and dryer.

Louise said...

I *love* the stripey fabric baskets! I think they look fresh and upbeat for a utilitarian space like the laundry room.

If you could pare down some of the stuff on the shelves and consolidate most things into those baskets (perhaps add a few more if necessary), then the remaining open shelf space could be used for things you really enjoy.

For instance, if you have artwork or pretty bowls in those same bright colors, they could be placed on the shelves among the baskets. What else do you own in primary colors? Folded beach towels/out of season blankets? Bright blue mop bucket? Our bag of cat food would match!

So instead of seeing a jumble of junk being stored, you could see a bright wall of fun and lovely things in cheery colors, with a few of those things being storage.

Does that make sense? Some of it is attitude shift ("This room is worth decorating") and some is simplification (less stuff and more cohesive colors.)

Jeri Dansky said...

I'm really enjoying these comments - some people love the striped bins, others say to replace them. Which illustrates, once again, that some things really are just personal preference. (And partly, we're trying to guess what Cynthia's would be, with limited data.)

Emily, I totally missed that alternative elfa basket; thanks for pointing it out.

And thanks to all for the other suggestions, too! Cynthia will have lots of ideas to consider.

Pook said...

Thanks so much for the feedback! I've been working on the space this week and really appreciate the advice.

Now, I'm focusing on how I USE the space and what I never even touch. It's made it easier to dump some stuff and to know what needs priority.

Taking pictures really helped me see the space, too. I cleaned up the obvious crap right away after seeing the pictures.

Stay tuned!


Jeri Dansky said...

Cynthia, I'm so glad this was useful to you. We'll be curious to see how the space winds up looking - and working!