Every year, I get motivated after the holidays to get my sewing room back into some sort of order so I can enjoy tackling new sewing projects. Things get a little hectic in there in late fall and early winter as I work on items for my Etsy shop (mainly the popular fleece Doctor Who scarves). Piles of fabric and other stuff form and grow….and grow. I’ve also recently moved from mostly quilting to sewing garments. This means different types of fabric and notions looking for homes in my sewing room – more piles. And several of the piles came to roost on an electronic keyboard and bench that was trying to make its home along one wall of the room. (In the photo, I’ve already done some initial straightening up – those piles of fabric are very neatly folded!)

So! At some point last year, a friend and I made a 60-mile trek up to The Container Store in Denver and checked out their Elfa line. The wheels started spinning, and I knew that when I did a serious clean-up of my sewing room, Elfa was going to be the way to go. I grabbed a catalog, went home and did a little measuring, pulled together an idea of what I might want, and was initially stunned by the possible price tag. For a set of three simple drawer units, with tops, to fit a space about 48” wide, I was looking at as much as $300.

But since I wasn’t planning on doing the reorganization until many months later, I had some time to keep my eyes peeled for other ideas. I looked around online at what others had done with their craft spaces, and, interestingly, shelving and drawer units seemed to all come down to either Ikea’s Antonius units or Elfa from The Container Store. And nearly all of those who had gone with the Ikea pieces said something like “I went with the Ikea stuff mainly on price point. They really aren’t as nice as Elfa, but it was worth it to me to save the money.” And the price difference was considerable – three shelf units would be $60. At that big of a difference, some differences in quality would be expected. Some mentioned in comments that the Ikea drawers would pop off their runners when they became to heavy. Others said the drawers stopped gliding smoothly once filled.

Once the time was getting near, and I was getting more serious about the project, I did some more detailed measuring and planning. The space in my sewing room that I was going to fill with the shelves was too small for the standard depth Elfa units as well as the Ikea units (both about 21 1/4” deep). I needed to go with something smaller, and The Container Store has cabinet-depth Elfa units that are 17 1/4” deep. This, combined with my desire to go with higher quality, made my decision much easier! 


So off my friend and I went to The Container Store again (with an initial stop at Ikea just to look) during their annual Elfa sale. I came back with three drawer units – two 18” wide and one 14” wide (all cabinet depth). I decided against the melamine tops (approx $10 a piece on sale) because I didn’t think they looked that great even on the samples in the store. They were stuck on top of the units with double-sided foam tape and didn’t butt nicely together. They just looked sloppy. I’d be happier with something that would go across all three units in one piece. Final cost – approximately $240.

I made sure to get all the needed pieces (assembly required!) – frame pieces, drawers, drawer stop pins, etc. It took me awhile to decide on the drawers – there are different depths available for this very customizable system.

Assembly was pretty straight forward. You just have to put the frames together before sliding in your shelves. I noticed the “suggested rubber mallet” was sold out at the store and wondered if it was really needed. Oh boy is it ever! Once the frames are finally pounded together, you are NOT going to get them apart again. I didn’t have the needed mallet, so I used a towel to buffer my regular hammer. The process was very VERY noisy. 

Here is my one beef with The Container Store and their instructions for assembling the Elfa units. They don’t tell you that you need to put in the top drawer stop pins (the ones that stop the drawers from continuing out the back of the unit when you push them in) BEFORE you hammer on those top rail pieces. Once they are on, there isn’t enough room to drop the pins in. Oy. I finally decided to put the pins in upside down and to secure them underneath with tape. For such an expensive system, this was pretty surprising and unacceptable. The pins for the lower drawers were, of course, not an issue. 

Elfa3 Elfa4

The last thing I needed to do was find something for the one-piece top shelf that would go across all the units. I was pleased that the design of the units makes the cross rails the ones that stick up highest. So a shelf could nest down in between the top rails across all three units. This meant it only needed to be 15.5” deep, and it would be very secure after being dropped in to place. No other fasteners or adhesives would be needed to keep it from sliding around. After much searching, I finally found a piece of shelf-grade particle board I found at Lowe’s for $13. It was 15.25” deep and 8 feet wide. My husband cut it to the length needed (49.5”), and it is perfect!


Full disclosure – here is what the other side of my room looked like after I moved all the stuff off the keyboard and bench so I could get the Elfa units in (this photo still makes me a little short of breath):


And not ALL of that fabric went into the units. Some of it is being given to a friend who is a new quilter, some of it is being sold off in my Etsy shop, and some of it found other homes in my sewing room. But – the majority of the fabric for garment sewing did go into the drawers, and I have a nice top shelf for my new little boxes and bins of notions (I’ve been very good about not putting fabric piles on the temptingly flat surface). I love it!