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Sometimes a solution is so obvious that it makes you wonder how on earth nobody came up with it before. Wasbar, a brand-new launderette/meeting place, is a fine example: while their dirty laundry spins, the people of Ghent can enjoy a drink with friends or get a new hairdo in one of the two hairdresser’s chairs. The all-in-one concept was elaborated by Pinkeye.

The property that Wasbar occupies was formerly a bookshop. Its worn-out parquet floor was given a fresh coat of lacquer, while the ceiling with its decorative mouldings was left intact. The technical aspect presented the biggest challenge. ‘A launderette primarily requires plenty of brainwork and preparatory work: you need extra power to keep everything running and we wanted to hide the pipes and wiring from view,’ Pinkeye’s creative director Ruud Belmans explains. The pipes and wiring are ensconced in the cellar, leaving just the rows of sleek machines in the space above. ‘There’s nothing about a washing machine which says it has to stand in an unpleasant space.’

Wasbar is perfectly suited to the student or young professional who is cramped for space – something that is not unknown in this Flemish city of students. ‘What does the student want?’ wondered the young, ambitious proprietors, Dries Henau and Yuri Vandenbogaerde. To spend their time more usefully, I mean more enjoyably, than sitting in a cheerless, bare space with garish strip-lighting in the midst of a ‘soundcloud’ din of whirring machines.

So Wasbar is quite the opposite: cosy and convivial. The washing theme plays the lead role in the elongated interior. The 18 ‘grand old ladies’, the washing machines that bear the names of a grandma, are lined up proudly along the wall. The tumble dryers take the names of grandpas, all crowdsurfed via Facebook.

Opposite the washing machines stands the colourfully tiled bar, with a collage of wooden drawers in various types of wood mounted on the wall, all recycled from discarded furniture from grandma’s day. The contents of the drawers serve as a display for the food menu, the washing prices and washing possibilities, the haircut options and so on. Some of the drawers have been reborn as alternative planters.

Besides employing this kind of upcycling, Pinkeye conceived a palette of toned-down salmon pink, pistachio, cornflower and royal blue, as well as a graphic identity in the form of a two-fold logo: a clothes-peg crossed with a bottle-opener. They created lampshades from coat-hangers and colourful clotheslines playfully break up the space. Second-hand chairs were given a lick of green or blue paint. Fashion designers Black Balloon created dapper laundry bags so that you don’t have to trawl through the city with a transparent plastic bag full of personal wares.

‘For us it was important to create a solid identity,’ says Belmans. ‘The concept will probably be rolled out in other cities in Belgium, which makes a distinctive image important. Then a couple of pieces of vintage furniture doesn’t cut it.’ The designers have even thought about the potential laundry errors of the inexperienced washer: as a warning there are examples of what happens if you throw a red sock in with a white T-shirt or give your woollen sweater a hot wash.

Wasbar taps into the social trend of people wanting to commune again, to meet face-to-face instead of whiling away an hour with ‘wassups?’ on an iPhone. You can even practice your riffs on the Wasbar piano. And if you really want to, then you can stay in touch with the virtual world via wifi.

Photos by Arne Jennard

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