According to architect Anne Barrett of the Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, firm 30E Design, the vision for revamping a laundry room in an 1849 Boston brownstone began with her favorite question: “What would James Turrell do?” The back-of-house space was originally a cold, dank hallway with a dingy aluminum vent linking the basement and first floor. Now anchored by a glowing borosilicate chute—illuminated by a bundle of fiber-optic cables—this laundry room is more of an art installation than a hub for domestic chores.
The residents wanted the space to be as beautiful as it is functional. Barrett’s challenge was to create a minimalist design to conceal the water heater, cables, Miele washer and dryer, and storage space, all of which are now tucked away behind lacquered cabinets and chiseled limestone. The sleek new laundry room forms a graceful passageway that serves as a transitional space from the main part of the house to the garden out back.
The top of the luminous chute sits beneath the residents’ first-floor sink; they can toss garments from their main bathroom through the diffuse tube, and into a basket below. “Life is messy,” one resident says, “but we never have dirty clothes around. The laundry chute is a big deal in our lives because it makes the mess from upstairs vanish.”
After occupying the house for over a decade, the residents knew exactly how to transform the space so it catered to their habits—and part of that meant that it does double-duty when they entertain. “When we’re not doing laundry,” says one, “this becomes a kitchenette—we can store glasses here, have drinks, a bucket of ice, and an hors d’oeuvres prep space for a garden party.” For these clients, at least, Barrett says, “the laundry room is the new kitchen.”
Besides writing and designing, Tiffany Chu's passions include photography, cartography, and all things Scandinavian.