Life Musings

Home Improvements: Laundry Room Rehab

I’ve been living in my apartment for a year and a half. It’s taken that entire length of time to get all of my rooms fully furnished and decorated. Two rooms — my office and my laundry room — were ongoing disaster zones. Last winter, I finally found the energy and ingenuity to get my office situated and beautified.

The laundry room, however, lingered in disarray. It’s hard for me to convey just how awful it was. Imagine a beautiful space — hardwood floors, full length mirror, plenty of natural light, with a washer/dryer stacked in a recessed corner — strewn with clothes, shoes and assorted crap. I had to pinch pennies last year, so furnishing this room was not an option. All I had in there was a lonely ironing board, a makeshift cabinet that I found in the attic and hampers of various shapes, colors and sizes. It was a hot mess.

Every time I entered that space, I felt a micro-moment of tension and stress. My chest tightened, my breath caught in my lungs. A little self loathing caught in my throat. Finally, a few weeks ago, my budget allowed a little room to get my shit together. So I set to work trying to figure out what to do with the space.

The room itself is kind of an odd space to wrap your head around. It’s pretty small – about 9 by 10 feet. On the upside, there’s a closet and the washer and dryer are flush with the wall, making them, in principle, unobtrusive. I knew I didn’t want the room to just be used for folding and ironing clothes. For a long time, I dreamed of turning it into a boudoir, complete with a fainting sofa, a shag rug and, oh I don’t know, something kitsch like a mannequin. But I also wanted a legitimate guest room. Could I possibly do both?

It occurred to me that I needed a guestroom more than a boudoir and a futon would get the job done. But I also needed this room to serve another functional purpose–storing my clothes.  After a year of hardcore thrifting, my wardrobe had quadrupled. Both of my closets were filled to the brim with clothes, which is why I often had things piling up in the laundry room. It became clear to me that I needed a real chest of drawers. So I went to St. Vincent de Paul – my favorite thrift store for finding beautiful furniture. Not only did I find a fabulous futon — complete with wooden frame and a new, sealed mattress — but I also found a new, matching chest of drawers. Both items were being sold at about 50% the cost of retail. I was a little concerned about two things: 1) that the room would feel crowded with the futon open and 2) the fact that I didn’t have space for an end table. But it all worked out rather beautifully. With the futon open, the room feels cozy and the chest itself serves as a nice “side table” to place your belongings.

Guest Room

With the furnishing issue solved, I now turned my attention to the laundry facilities themselves. The washer and dryer were an eyesore. What to do? For a long time I’d envisioned covering them with a curtain, but not being very handy, I was unsure of how to make this happen. I knew I needed a rod that would curve on one end and connect directly into the wall on the other. So I took a trip to Home Dept and described what I had in mind to one of their awesome assistants. She suggested a getting a regular curtain rod and flatting out one of the ends so that it could go straight into the wall. That cost me all of about $1.50.


Awesome Sauce
This makes me so happy.

For the decor, I got just about everything from Kmart and the thrift shop. Found some cute curtains and pillows to match the futon and got a gorgeous, opaque, floor-to-ceiling curtain to cover the washer and dryer. For the chest, I found a neutral table runner, a little vanity mirror, a fountain and lamp. My absolute favorite addition is the “jewelry” box I contrived from stackable plastic containers I found at Kmart. Storing my (costume) jewelry was a big problem. I had a real jewelry box, but it was so tiny that it could only fit a fraction of my earrings. I also disliked the little jewelry box because you had to open up every compartment to see what was in there – and frankly, I ain’t got time for that. For a year and a half, I’d gotten by with piling up my earrings, necklaces and bracelets on the window sill of my bathroom. That worked for a while, but I started to run out of room and earrings would routinely fall on the floor, behind the sink and into oblivion. I needed a system for organizing the jewelry that would not only keep everything orderly and accessible, but would also allow me to easily see everything I had. The stackable, transparent box I have now perfectly fits my needs and is aesthetically quite pleasing to the eye.

Jewelry box

I’m also obsessed with this pretty macramé plant hanger I found at Home Depot. Another sales assistant gave me this kickass idea when I told him I was looking for a pot. The lush green of the plant suspended by the window adds a touch of natural beauty that really sets the room off.

Plant Hanger

The LED votive makes the room feel so warm and cozy at night.
The LED votive makes the room feel so warm and cozy at night.

So yeah, I could not be more pleased with this space now. I smile every time I do the laundry, pulling back the curtain for the “big reveal”. The chest has solved my clutter problem – now all of my clothes have a home. The futon is comfy, the space is functional. The whole vibe is boho beautiful. And Zora has another room to layer with cat dander. Purrfect.


*And yes, I know I have to fix the curtain rod behind the futon, which has been warped due to outrageously disorderly conduct by the guilty-looking feline pictured above.

Academic Musings, Life Musings

The Room Where I Will Write My Book

This is the year that I must finish my book — and this is the room where it will happen.


I moved into my place almost exactly a year ago – and it has taken all 12 of these months to figure out what to do with this space.  It has built-in book shelves and a lovely window – so I always knew I wanted it to be my office, but I could never pull it together.  The room was difficult to decode because of its unwieldy dimensions: one side of the ceiling is slanted at a steeper angle than the other.  For a long time – indeed, right until a few weeks ago – I despaired that I would never be able to make this room work, much less work in it. When I first moved in, I tried having the desk in front of the window.   But I would bump my head on the ceiling if I moved too much to the left or the right, and that’s just . . . awkward.

Arranging my home office — and finding a resting place for my desk — had been the bane of my existence in this otherwise lovely home.  I must have moved my ergonomic-height-adjustable desk up and down the stairs 3-4 times.  A strong, muscular friend initially put it in my upstairs room when I first moved in.  Then I got frustrated with the room and moved it down the stairs — myself — to the room that’s now my bedroom.  But having an office in that room didn’t feel right.  So — in an exercise of terrible judgment — I decided to try and move the desk back upstairs on my own.  Somehow I was able to do it, but ended up with a crick in my neck and terrible back pain for about 2 weeks.  Do you know what it’s like to have a crick in your neck for 2 weeks?  I couldn’t move my head to the left or the right without searing pain.  On the upside, I learned an important life lesson: Never do stupid shit like that again.

So, I had two different friends help me at various points in the year move the desk up and down the stairs as I tried to figure out where to set up an office.  For most of the year, I ended up using my living room as an office — books and files piled up everywhere.  I felt like a bootleg professor, working on the couch with papers scattered on my coffee table.  Over time, the upstairs room devolved into a hot mess.



You cannot imagine the unspeakably terrible dungeon this room was before the revamping took place.  It was full of boxes, piles of paper, all manner of random junk and crap scattered across the floor.  Zora’s litter box was perched sadly in a forlorn corner.  There was another curtain hanging up, but it was tattered from the cat’s frenzied clawing and the curtain rod was broken.  It was a shameful.  A travesty.

Finally, the Spirit of Getting-Shit-Together swept over me right around the holidays and I resolved to go up to the room and simply ask myself: “What can I do with this space?”  I took a few minutes, did some conscious breathing and just “listened” to my intuition as I looked around.  Suddenly a bunch of ideas started flowing.  I began to get energized about organizing the boxes and storing them in the attic.  I vacuumed furiously, cleaned the carpet.  I already had my desk and an office chair, but I realized that I needed a long table to lay out my papers and files, as well as a few other items to make the room functional. I went to some second-hand furniture stores and thrift shops.  I found a used printer/computer stand for 8 bucks that matched my desk and bargained with the manager at one store to sell me a simple folding table for $12.  The table was ugly, however, so I knew I’d have to cover it.  So off I went to K-Mart for a few decorative items: a beige, natural fabric curtain that I cut and used to cover the table, a little library lamp, a small picture for the wall, a curtain rod and a red floral panel that would match some of the red accents.  I had a bunch of things already at home that I had previously purchased for the office but never had been able to put to use given the defunct status of the room.  I realized that it was best to keep the desk on the side of the room with the higher slope.  Now bumping my head on the most important side of the room isn’t an issue and having the desk where it is now is perfect because I can just swivel around in my chair and I’m facing the bookshelf without having to bend over or hit my head on the slanted ceiling. It took me about 2 days, but I finally got everything cleaned up, organized right before New Years.



It’s a simple office – nothing fancy.  But it’s mine.  And pretty.  And functional.  I absolutely love having a cozy, beautiful, dedicated space to get my work done at home.  Finally!  At long last!  I now feel a bit more like a “real” professor.

Zora’s definitely a fan, though she doesn’t seem to understand that the ottoman is for me to kick up my feet while I’m sipping tea and reading — not a velvety throne for her royal highness.



An unexpected surprise the next morning was finding the room aglow with beautiful red light, sun rays streaming through the curtain.