before and afterInteriors

Before & After: Lauren and Austin’s Laundry Room Reno

by Lauren Chorpening Day

Austin and I have lived in our new house for three months now, and it’s already hardly recognizable from the house we toured in October. It was built in 1900, has a half-acre backyard, is located in a historical neighborhood in Des Moines, IA and was a steal of a price because it needed a lot of improvements. It sat on the market for five months, which is unheard of in such a competitive real estate market like Des Moines’. We are so thankful no one else saw the potential in this home (or wanted to take on quite this much work) because we were able to buy the worst house — for now — on our favorite street in town way under value.

We weren’t looking for houses when this one randomly came up on our radar. The pictures in the listing were awful and nondescript, but there was one picture of three dark wood doors on a single wall that instantly hooked me. I figured if there was this much character on one wall, the house had to offer more than what was being shown online. After seeing that the foundation was perfect and that all walls were square, we couldn’t believe it hadn’t been snatched up — even with bright orange and green walls. We made an offer the same day we saw it and got to planning our mostly DIY renovation.

The three doors I had originally fallen in love with ended up being the door to a coat closet, the door to the upstairs and then a door to a tiny room that the previous owner had used as a sewing room. We weren’t sure what to do with it. We thought about an office but figured whichever one of us would work in there would just get cramped and never want to be there. Then we thought about a full bathroom. Both of the existing bathrooms in the house are located on the second floor. A bathroom on the main level would allow friends and family members with mobility limitations to be able to visit without worrying about using the stairs. It would also be nice for overnight guests if we eventually had sleeping space on the main floor. My mom had the idea to turn it into a laundry room with a half bath to make it even more functional. Austin and I agreed that we didn’t need three bathtubs in the house and that having the downstairs bathroom pull double duty as a powder room and a laundry room was the most practical use of the space.

It was incredibly convenient that this itty-bitty room to the left of the stairs was situated directly above the basement laundry and directly below the guest bathroom on the second floor. It made plumbing a room that had never been plumbed a much easier endeavor. We had a licensed plumber bring the water lines in, an electrician change out the knob and tube electrical for bathroom-safe wiring and had our contractor run the gas line up for a new dryer. The rest of the plaster work, tiling, installing plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, etc. was done by Austin and his 73-year-old father.

I’m definitely biased, but the space is so pretty now. For stock cabinetry, beginner’s skills and the cheapest fixtures we could find for most things, the laundry room looks and feels the way I had envisioned. The paint color really makes this space. We went with a beigey-pink for the walls, a warm sand color for the cabinets, white trim and accessorized with black. The other rooms on the main level have more cool tones like greens and dark blues. We figured that a small bathroom was the perfect spot to do something a little experimental with color while also adding some warmth to the walls. We reused the countertop from our coffee table redo since the legs broke during our move. The countertop is now the perfect space to fold laundry, but can look less utilitarian by styling it with vases of flowers when guests are visiting. I can also easily unfold my drying rack over the stool for a spot to air dry.

While some of the rooms have a long way to go before they look the way we hope, it’s so nice to know that the laundry room is done and that our guests can comfortably avoid the mess of the bathrooms we’re working on upstairs. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for us and how we’ll use it.Lauren

Photography by Austin Day

Image above: A not-so-functional room on the main level became a highly practical space for housework and accommodating visitors.





Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno
Originally we had planned to keep the hardwood floors the way they were in here. We figured they were already beautiful so we didn't need to change them. Unfortunately, a previous owner had cut the floor joist below where the laundry appliances were going to go and the floor had already started sagging and warping. Adding a layer of cement board and then tile helped fortify the floor in the laundry room while a new floor jack in the basement will keep things from damaging further.
Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno
We originally wanted to put the units side-by-side with a long, deep counter over the top of them for folding clothes, but the dryer and the counter would have cut into the window 7 inches. Stacking the units was the best use of the space. We're thankful we did because there isn't a tight space between the stool and the dryer that there would have been otherwise.
Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno
We had to find a tiny sink for this space. The wall is 19 inches wide and we found this 15x15-inch sink. If it had been any bigger it wouldn't have worked. We chose the cheapest sink and faucet we could find -- not expecting much -- and we actually found that we love the way they look.
Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno
The space feels so much larger than we expected. For having so much going on in a single, small room, we had a lot of wall space on the righthand side. An original lithograph by Austin's brother, Wilson, was the perfect piece to fill it. This was the addition that really made the room feel done and cohesive.
Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno
The three doors that convinced us to come look at the house are now much more exciting to look inside.
Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno
View from the dining room into the laundry room.
Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno
This little table was one of Austin's finds for the space. With everything going on with the left side of the bathroom, the right side by the toilet was somewhat plain.
Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno
Canisters for laundry detergent pods, dryer sheets, and stain powder keep everything in arms reach while looking nice for guests using the bathroom. To polish the transition between the cabinets and shelves from the laundry units, we added MDF to the righthand side and above the appliances and finished it with white trim.
Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno
We picked up a 24-inch-wide stock cabinet from the hardware store for storage and folding. The space between the back wall and the window trim is only 22" so we chose to cut 3 1/2 inches off of the back of the cabinet to allow it to fit without impeding on the window.
Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno
This tray is more decorative than useful so it might get moved to a shelf during the week and then moved down (if we feel like it) to the counter when people are coming over.
Design*Sponge | Lauren and Austin's Laundry Room Reno


Washer: Whirlpool 4.5 cu.ft Front Load Washer
Dryer: Whirlpool 7.4 cu.ft Front Load Gas Dryer
Wall Color: Sherwin Williams SW6056 Polite White
Cabinet Color: Sherwin Williams SW 6058 Likable Sand
Trim Color: Sherwin Williams SW 7005 Pure White
Sink: Elanti White Wall-Mount Square Bathroom Sink from Lowe’s
Faucet: Danze Rouge Chrome 1-Handle Single Hole WaterSense Bathroom Faucet from Lowe’s
Tile: White Honeycomb Mosaic Floor Tile from Lowe’s
Cabinet: 24″ White Shaker Door and Drawer Base Cabinet from Lowe’s
Table: Target
Light Fixture: Sculptural Glass Geo Flushmount (Large) from West Elm
Mirror: Decorative Circular Wall Mirror from Target
Vases: West Elm
Canisters: World Market
Tray: Target
Building Materials: Lowe’s



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  • It’s so charming! It really fits with the rest of the house too, and when you said you’d gotten lucky with the placement of the plumbing, it just confirmed that you were working with the house instead of against it. I like that green on its own, but….yeah, for this little room with all that natural light, stick with light and warm! Awesome improvement.

    • Thanks so much. That means a lot! We wouldn’t have moved forward with it if the reno had been more involved with water and gas lines coming from across the house.

    • Thank you Caroline! We used Sherwin Williams Polite White for the walls, Sherwin Williams Likable Sand for the cabinet and Sherwin Williams Pure White for the trim.

  • Congrats on getting a hidden gem of a house at a great price! Love the new bathroom/laundry room. Our 1912 home has a room exactly like this that was awkwardly turned into a small dark bathroom/laundry room. I want to do something just like what you have done, but unfortunately what we have works well enough that I can’t justify the expense or waste of materials . . . yet. Which is exactly why you should buy houses exactly like you bought this one–you can do the renovation you want, not the renovations that the previous owner thought would get you to buy the house!

    • Thanks Amanda! That’s a great point. As much work as it was, it truly was a blank slate. Are there small cosmetic changes you can make to your laundry room that might make it more enjoyable in the meantime?

  • I feel like Des Moines’ housing market is pretty reasonable—for now. There’s still a mix in my neighborhood (North of Grand) of affordable “fixers,” but I am a little surprised at how much some of the “fixed” have gone for recently. It makes me feel like we’re on the cusp of something.

    Nice update on your house! I love how clean and tidy it feels. The light coming in is wonderful, and I’m a sucker for a good blush paint.

    • Agreed! We had friends looking for homes in Des Moines last summer and they put higher-than-asking offers on 5 properties and lost out on all of them. They finally bought a house in Ames because they couldn’t compete with the other buys in Des Moines. Things are changing around here. I love the North of Grand neighborhood and all of the craftsman homes.

      The natural light in this room is so dreamy. I’m so glad we designed around the window and not into it.

  • I’m wondering if you need a stool to reach the top controls. Does that ever present a problem?

    Looks great!

    • I’m 5’7″ and they are in a comfortable place for me without having to overextend but if I was a few inches shorter, I would have to stand on my tip-toes. A small step stool is a great idea for any guests that stay and want to do laundry. Good thought!

    • It really wasn’t bad. We took it out of the packaging outside, marked the sides where it needed to be cut and took the drawer out. Then we laid it on one side and cut it with a circular saw, flipped it over and cut the other side and then finished by cutting the bottom in the same spot. We attached a new back out of some 1/4″ ply wood and the base was pretty much done. We took metal shears to the drawer track to shorten them in the back and then cut down the drawer box with a reciprocating saw. I think the whole process took 2 and a half hours and went really smoothly.

  • Such a lovely little room. Can you tell me where you got the light fixture? That is exactly the kind I have been looking for.

  • That’s a beautiful transformation. I really liked your choice of wall color. It looks just right. By the way, that little table is the “design detail” that makes the difference and transforms this room from nice to great! So that was a good find Austin. ;)

    • Thanks so much. I’m really happy with the wall color too. And pretty much all of my favorite pieces in our house are ones that Austin picked. He has such a great eye.

  • Would you mind sharing the source of the sink? I need a tiny sink and love the look of yours!

  • What is the grey wall colour in the adjoining room in that last photo?

    Please and thanks! This whole house is so enviable!

    • Hi Brenna, the paint color in the office is Sherwin Williams Roycroft Pewter SW 2848. Thanks so much!

  • I love this laundry! Love the pink and black, and how you’ve cleverly stored the toilet paper.

    • Thanks NC! It’s strangely my favorite room in the house because it’s so cheery.

  • It turned out really great, I like the design I must admit the color of the walls also very well fits this project.