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Scrubbing up the laundry room

The Baltimore Sun

Debbie Schwartz has given her upstairs laundry room the star treatment. Her super-capacity washer and dryer sit on marble floors and bask in the light of twin bronze chandeliers. A Romanesque sculpture stands on one of the wide, polished marble counters designed for folding laundry. The large room has the same cabinets as her gourmet kitchen, as well as a tile stall to dry delicates. There's even a garden view.

It's a workroom, yes, but, by making it elegant, the chore feels less like drudgery. "I never shut the door to this room," she says, standing next to a built-in TV. "I want every room to be pretty."

Now that kitchens are equipped to impress a chef, bathrooms look like spas and closets can hold a diva's wardrobe, the laundry area is ready for its close-up. It's moving out of the garage and into a larger space often near bedrooms -- the starting and stopping points for most laundry. The room is being outfitted with warming drawers for clothes too dainty for dryers, rotary presses to iron sheets and laundry sinks with whirlpool jets to clean bulky comforters.

And for those who miss the simplicity of a clothesline? A $3,750 indoor air-drying unit promises to deliver something close to a fresh-breeze scent.

The enhanced environment helps to take the dreariness out of an unending chore -- American families wash an average of eight to 10 loads of laundry a week, according to research conducted for General Electric. In 1992, only 17 percent of American homes had a separate laundry room. Today, 56.7 percent of households do.

The average space devoted to laundry work is now 47 square feet, enough to hold a full-size washer, dryer, sink and hampers. For those with household incomes more than $100,000, it's almost double, according to the research.

New status for the once-lowly laundry room reflects both an appreciation of the task and the emergence of the space as sort of an organizational center for an increasingly complicated household.

California homeowner Lynn S. Neuberg says a large laundry room helps to manage a household. When she's having an outdoor party, caterers prepare trays in this room and use its door to the backyard, sidestepping the kitchen. It's also an art room and flower-arranging spot, and the drip-dry stall can be used to bathe a dog.

The 125-square-foot room, which she planned with interior designer Malgosia Migdal, has a limestone floor and counters and a Bendheim glass window to see into it from the hallway.

Schwartz also knew want she wanted: her Maytag washing machine and dryer on one side of the room, a farm sink on the other and a long marble counter in between for folding.

During the planning stage, she asked architect Richard Landry for 3 extra feet on the width of the room. That allowed for built-in sorting bins to hold white, light and dark laundry.

"I didn't want piles on the floor," says Schwartz, who also has a laundry station downstairs. "I have an organizational mind, and I want the room to always look nice. Everything can stay hidden and be accessible."

Janet Eastman writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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