17 In DIY projects

office makeover step 2: a DIY desk

After painting and stenciling the office walls (check that out here), next up was to start to move some furniture back into the room. The original desk was not only less than beautiful to look at, but was way too deep for our double-duty office/guest bedroom. We needed something that would be nice and narrow, offering plenty of desk space for our computers but not overtaking the room. So we checked out a few options (the besta burs desk at IKEA was almost a winner), but in the end decided to DIY something. We wanted pretty specific dimensions and also figured we could save a bit of dough.

First thing was to figure out our design. We liked the look of desks with a wood top and white drawers (like this one by Aubrey + Lindsay), but knew we couldn’t use regular filing cabinets or other deep drawers for the bottom since they wouldn’t be as narrow as we needed. So when we stumbled upon the Helmer drawer units from IKEA ($50 a pop), which came in at around 17 inches deep, we were sold.

The top of the desk was surprisingly uncomplicated. We bought super basic wood from Home Depot – two pieces of the 9.5 inch deep pine – about $20 worth. Dan-the-man cut the pieces to size and then literally just glued them together with wood glue (and left them clamped over night to make sure they were bonded really well). And if you’re wondering about sanding, since the wood was really pretty smooth already and we knew we were going to be just using the surface for computers, we didn’t bother.

Next step was to crack open my favourite stain. Yep you guessed it, minwax in dark walnut. Come to mama. See our coffee table makeover and our wedding signs for other dark walnut adventures.

One coat of stain and three coats of varathane later, she was lookin’ pretty fine. We put 3 coats of varathane on just to make sure the top was going to be extra durable. Plus, it adds a really pretty glossy finish. The varathane is still wet in the picture below — hence the blueish tone.

Once the table top had cured out in the garage for a few days, we brought it in and just plunked it on top of our two new drawer units. We thought we might want to secure it all together somehow, but realized that it was actually really sturdy just the way it was. No wobble = fine with us (and makes dan a happy man).

To make the best use of space and since we had some leftover wood, the hubs customized things up a little. He built a little platform for our desktop monitor (which not only elevates the monitor but also means you can tuck the keyboard in) and little compartments for all of the u-u-ugly computer components. It really makes the whole thing look so much cleaner and organized. And y’all know my heart pitter patters for good storage solutions.

And here’s how she’s looking all put together…

Not only was this a fun project to do, it definitely didn’t hurt that we came in way under budget too. The total cost would have been about $160 (for the drawer units, wood, stain, and painting supplies), but luckily we had an IKEA gift card for the drawers and we already owned the stain and supplies. So totally cost for us? About twenty dolla dolla bills.

Desk? Check. Next up? Dress the shelves nicely, figure out our filing and storage system, artwork, and all sort of other things. This room is definitely becoming less and less like the ugly stepsister of our house and more like the belle of the ball.

What do you think? Have you DIYed a desk before? We were surprised at actually how easy it was and definitely so nice to be able to customize to fit the room perfectly.

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  • Oh I like it – we had our study desk purpose built for our computer system too. I love the shelving and decorating – great job!

  • Anthony

    If I didn’t score this hairdressing front desk already, I would definitely do this for myself! It looks fantastic.

  • great job!! It looks like a place you won’t mind spending time in…love how the desk turned out.

  • What a cute room! Great job. I have a very similar desk set up.

    • gemma

      Thanks Krista!


  • Helen

    This is so awesome! Good work Gemma and Dan :)

  • Pingback: a DIY 2011: the best of | the sweetest digs()

  • Conessa

    I love the office makeover – layout is very similar to our little office/guest room. How long is your desktop?

    • gemma

      Hi Conessa!

      Thanks! The desk top is around 6 to 6.5 feet (that’s off the top of my head.. can’t remember the exact measurements now). It definitely provides ample room for two computers (potentially two small chairs), and lots of writing space.


  • Hi, Found you at Better After and like your DIY desk. I’ve been thinking of doing something similar since I’m working with tight corners too. The drawer units are better than file cabinets for what I need too.

    • gemma

      thanks for popping by, katharine! yep – the desk is amazing for tight/narrow spaces. Good luck!


  • I’m loving this. I need something narrow, cool, with storage. I love what the hubby did under the desk. My only issue is a 14 mo old for whom that might at eye level. But I’m like you, all about hiding the ugly wires and components! Nice work!

    • gemma

      Yeah..probably not the best with little kiddos. Maybe you could add some kind of cover? Definitely nice to hide those wires!!


  • Hyunsu Joo

    Great Job!
    I am thinking of trying my self, but i am concerned whether it is safe to put a wood (width 47*depth 18 inches) on top of two IKEA drawers. I heard that those IKEA drawers are pretty weak…..

    • gemma

      We have had ours up for over a year (with LOTS of stuff on that desk!) and no problems so far! The drawers still look good as new.


  • Linz

    How did you connect the top of the desk to the drawers? And were the drawers metal? I’m looking into making a desk for myself with a metal filing cabinet as one of the legs and can’t figure out how to attach it to a wood top. :(

    • gemma

      Hi Linz – We actually just placed the wood top straight on top of the filing cabinets without actually securing it in any way. Because the desk was loaded up with weight, it never moves around.

      Good luck with your project!