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Sustainable and functional minimalism

Moving to a smaller apartment left sustainability-minded fashion influencer, Emma Elwin, with less space for her clothes. Elfa’s wire shelves and smart solutions make it possible to use vertical space to maximise the efficiency of the minimalist wardrobe.

By Charlotta Flinkenberg

This is where we live

Emma Elwin is 33 years old and is an Art Director and sustainable fashion influencer. She has a boyfriend and a son, plus two bonus children and a dog. She and her son live in an apartment with 60 sq.m. of living space.

From six wardrobes to one

Emma Elwin’s career as a stylist has included working as a fashion editor at ELLE. The apartment that she moved out of had 130 sq.m. of space, high ceilings and no fewer than six wardrobes. Downsizing to an apartment with half that space meant there was considerably less room for storing clothes.

 “I’ve had to totally rethink my storage needs after moving to a smaller home.”

Thankfully, Emma is a sustainability consultant and able to eye things with a minimalist mindset. But even so it involved a radical change when it came to prioritising what should be given space in the new home.

“There was a large walk-in wardrobe in one of the rooms, but unfortunately that had to be taken out so that my son could have a bedroom,” Emma says with a smile.


Utilising the height of the wardrobe

What did you feel were the biggest challenges when it came to clothes storage? “The limited amount of space, especially the shortage of space for hanging things up. There was a classic walk-in cleaning cupboard that I could use. Although you can step inside, it has 2 square metres of floor space at most. However, it’s lofty, which meant thinking vertically and making full use of the cupboard’s height.” Elfa’s team, headed up by storage expert, Christine Dahlman, advised Emma to go for wire shelving and a door-hung rail with mesh baskets for accessories. “Before the makeover, the cupboard was fitted with solid shelves and a rail for hanging clothes on. Fairly standard for this kind of space. After the transformation, the main difference was the greater focus on shelving and less on hanging space. That was a first for me.”

There was a classic walk-in cleaning cupboard that I could use

How does it feel now you’ve changed to a more shelf-based system for your clothes? “I’m absolutely amazed! I really didn’t think it would be this convenient and efficient. I never used to have so many clothes folded. I like it like this. It looks attractive and is practical, thanks to lots of smart features in Elfa’s system. The shelf dividers definitely help to keep items in place and stop them from toppling over. It’s also easier to find things and see what’s on the shelves, which are transparent, from below. It gives a good overview of contents and creates an open, roomy feel. Being able to choose the depth of shelving also lets you tailor a solution to suit your needs.”

See the Click-in system, top-hung
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The wardrobe was fitted with an L-shaped layout that uses wider shelves on the right with a single rail for hanging items on. A tall, narrow shelving section with a larger rail beneath it was then added. Shoes are placed neatly on mesh shelves furthest down.

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Emma was delighted by how many clothes and accessories she could get into this small wardrobe. All thanks to Elfa’s versatile system.

“There’s so much more room for things now than before the makeover! I used to have to pack out-of-season clothing away. Now I can store items for the whole year, apart from really bulky outerwear, in the wardrobe. That’s because we’ve created storage space all the way to the ceiling. At the moment, my summer clothes are furthest up.”

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The thin metal coat hangers that Emma uses instead of thicker wooden ones is another space-saving detail.

“Working as a stylist, you’re constantly transporting clothes back and forth to various places, and sturdy wooden coat hangers become heavy and clumsy. Thinner hangers from the dry-cleaners are ideal. I buy mine from my local dry-cleaners, although they tend to mutter a bit and are not too keen on letting them go. I do use sturdier wooden hangers for more tailored items of clothing that need support over the shoulders.”


Transparent wire shelves give a good overview of contents and create an open, roomy feel

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With a keen eye for aesthetics, Emma wanted a space that is not only practical, but inspiring and attractive too.

“You’re aiming to make your own wardrobe as inviting as a clothes shop. I learned the importance of arranging clothes by colour early on, when I was working with well-known stylists, like Robert Rydberg. You should hang and fold garments for a visually pleasing look, making it more dignified for your clothes and showing them respect.”
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Many people don’t take the time to fold their clothes properly. You have quite a your wardrobe always this tidy?

“I’m not an expert in folding. But Elfa’s interior design guru, Jannice Wistrand, gave me this excellent piece of advice: if it takes less than one minute, do it straight away! It’s really good advice that I follow to this day. You feel pleased with yourself once it’s done, which you don’t if you dump things on a chair.”


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Emma’s top tips for a sustainable wardrobe

  • We tend to analyse a lot of things in our lives, like which car and home we want to have. Clothes, however, often get overlooked. I think we need to become better at giving ourselves time to think about what kind of clothes we actually wear and like, and then build a wardrobe based on that.
  • Avoid getting caught up in trends and fads that others try to convince you to wear. Any clothes you buy that don’t match your needs and don’t feel right for you will end up unused. Go for styles in which you feel comfortable and good.
  • If you fancy trying out a new trend, pick up a second-hand item rather than buying something new.
  • Be realistic about your lifestyle and what works for you. Especially the type of clothes and choice of fabrics. What items can you wear day to day? If you have young children, silk and cashmere are probably not the best option.
  • Invest in pieces that you can see yourself wearing in ten years time.
  • Be strategic and selective when it comes to buying something new. Does that item pair with something that you already own? If you cannot combine it with other garments, it’s not going to get used.


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