UPDATE: Well, I'm back from what LG calls its Laundry Lounge, a pilot laundromat that aims to change the way people "experience" doing laundry in public; and honestly, I can't say I was as overly impressed or excited as I was when I read the press release. Perhaps my expectations were too high; when I heard 'luxury laundromat' I pictured champagne bottles, gold bathtubs and chimps wearing tuxedos. And while the all-white-and-pink laundromat is certainly much swankier than most laundromats in New York City (not a huge accomplishment), it does not have as much flair or swag as one might have expected.
First, the televisions: The flat-screen TVs on the wall are small, about 19-inchers, and there are only about four. These TVs are the real differentiators in this laundromat, and frankly, I either imagined they would be bigger or that there would be more. There is no seating in front of these televisions, which means that this laundromat isn't so much a 'lounge' as it is a 'bar without chairs or booze.'
Second, the complimentary computers. Yes, LG's laundry lounge is probably the only public laundromat in the country with free-to-use Internet-connected laptops available for patrons. However--and this was the press preview of the place, mind you, when the venue is being sold to journalists as something worth writing about--the laptops I saw looked to be older model Dells, and what's more garish, they were black, which totally clashed with the color scheme. Again, the seating was really shockingly minimal, with only a few back-less stools up against the laptop bar, and none else that I can see (perhaps they are bringing in some folding chairs at some point?).
The overall interior design, by a Korean company called DAEHAN, is sleek, eye-catching and gives a strong, branded experience; but technologically, LG could have done more. Simply adding WiFi and a new paint job to a laundromat is not revolutionary. Calling something a 'lounge' when it has nowhere to do so--well, perhaps that is a bit revolutionary.
Right now, the best thing the LG Laundry Lounge has going for it is the relative newness of the machines and its cleanliness. But even here there were red flags raised: When I remarked to an LG executive that I was impressed with how clean it all looked, he laughed and said, "Come back here in a week and see how clean it is."
Perhaps LG should also be investing in mops.
When LG asked if I wanted to be at the grand opening of a luxury 'laundry lounge' they were opening in New York City's West Harlem, I replied that there was nowhere I would rather be at that moment in time on the planet earth than in attendance at their fancy new laundromat.
In an attempt to share the overwhelming emotions I am sure to feel during my tour of the new Harlem luxury laundromat, I will be live-blogging the entire event, from the chauffered town car LG is sending to pick me up, to photos of the HD televisions mounted on the walls, to reviews of the plush leather furniture that has apparently been installed for maximum comfort for the lux laundry-going set of NYC. I will also be chatting with executives from LG and Coinmach. What do you want to know? I will try to ask them any of the questions you leave in the comments.
Below, the LG luxury Laundry Lounge live-blog of 2011:
LG expects its Laundry Lounge to be a 24/7 venue for clothes washing and drying, and it is open for business starting tomorrow, Friday, September 9th. As for one feature that has not yet been implemented: An executive from Coinmach, the nationwide coin-laundry operator that has teamed up with LG to launch the laundromat, says that text message notification could be up-and-running next year. When your laundry is done, the machine would send a message to your phone to let you know that your load is ready to be switched to the dryer.
The laundromat, I neglected to mention, is at the corner of 139th and Amsterdam. An LG Press Release calls this the "Upper West Side"; I beg to differ. If that's the Upper West Side, then so is New Hampshire. That's the Upper Upper West Side.
Because sometimes, words fail:
"This is a place to experience the brand and have a new experience to do your laundry."
I can say for certain that, if I were to do my laundry here, it would certainly be a new experience, if only because the place is so darn clean.
Initially, I admit, I mocked the idea of a luxury laundromat--but really, the only thing that's really luxury about this place is how new the machines are, and how white the walls are. If the price remains at .50 per load, then there's really no reason to do your laundry anywhere else that I can think of. This is a luxury laundromat, but for some reason they haven't instituted luxury pricing.
And why West Harlem?
"There's a lot of demographic in this area," I was told. Also no argument from me on that point. This luxury laundromat is right next to a discount bodega and one of the dirtiest-looking takeout Chinese places I've ever seen.
We're up here in West Harlem, which, on first hearing, does not seem like the best location for a luxury laundromat. But the building's proximity to the City College of New York, which has 15,000 students, was apparently enough for LG to decide on what is decidedly not the most deluxe neighborhood of the five boroughs.
The front-loading washers appear to be running at .50 per load, which is about standard in laundromats around New York City. What is not standard in laundromats are the amenities here: Free Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs on the wall playing the New York One channel or the Weather Channel.
"We don't want to get into battles over the remote control," an exec told me. "The attendant will control the remote."
Well, I'm here, inside this laundromat that looks like an Apple store. All white with pink LG accents, the walls are lined with washing machines and driers, all bright white. An LG exec greeted me and asked if I had been in time for the opening remarks. I hadn't.
"You didn't miss much!" he boomed. He introduced me to a few other salesmen. "This is Jason, from the Huffington Post. He didn't see the opening remarks. I told him, 'He didn't miss much!'"
We all laughed.
My towncar is now 5 minutes late in picking me up to take me to the luxury laundromat. If I miss the inaugural pouring of the detergent, so help me God...
I just got a call from the town car service: The intermittent rain falling here in New York City can't stop the luxury laundromat opening!
I asked last night if I could bring some dirty clothes with me to test out the facilities, and I was told that there "wouldn't be time for that." I'm going to take a load of laundry and some detergent with me anyway, just in case.