If you’ve been following along with on my Stories then you know that a couple weeks ago Xan and I built a new desk for me. Yippppe it’s so awesome to have it finished, and as I promised I have all the details for you on how to build it. I’m still collecting all the accessories for it and will do a full reveal (hopefully) later this month.
DIY Desk – Background
I want to start with a little background information about the space and the desk. I’ve been using this dinky little Ikea desk for the last 6 months. It’s so tiny I can barely get my legs under it (#tallgirlproblems) and I feel like all my stuff is scrunched in on top when I’m working. In this house my desk started downstairs, but that wasn’t really working so we I decided to move it upstairs. It fit pretty nicely in the little nook of our guest room. But after working there for a while I knew something had to change. And while my desk won’t stay in this spot permanently – it will probably be long enough that it made sense to find another solution. Our options were to buy something or to DIY something. Buying something would have been a nice time saver, but there weren’t a ton of options that fit what I was looking for. I wanted as much uninterrupted space as possible, tall enough for my legs to fit underneath even when crossed, and the best use of space I could get. Most store bought options didn’t have quite the right dimensions or I couldn’t get my legs underneath. It became clear that DIY was the solution to getting exactly what I needed and probably for cheaper than if I’d bought it. So that’s what we did.
The DIY Desk
Together we decided that a floating surface mounted across the entirety of the alcove would be the way to go. Not only would it look clean and simple, but not having legs would make it easier to get the surface even (#oldcrookedhouseproblems). I painted it white to keep it super neutral and allow it to blend in as much as possible because I’m still unsure what I’m going to do with the room. So, for now I decided it would be best to leave it as much of a blank slate as possible. That way I have the flexibility to decorate the room in any way I want.
The DIY Desk Instructions
1. Get your MDF cut to the size of your desk. If you want a thick edge like mine you’ll need to get two pieces cut. One should be the full size of the desk the second should be as long as the desk but only about 3 inches wide.
2. Use your wood glue to glue your small piece to the bottom front edge of your large piece. Be sure to add clamps when drying.
3. While your glue is drying measure and cut your 1x2s. They will be added along the perimeter of your desk so use that as your measurement.
4. Find the studs in your wall and mark them all along the perimeter. TIP: if you also have an old house with plaster walls it’s pretty much impossible to find studs with a stud finder. They locate the studs by detecting extra mass in the wall but plaster walls usually have a full lath underneath and so basically the whole thing feels like studs to a stud finder. Instead of drilling a bunch of holes in your wall to find them, you can use a really strong magnet. Because all studs are nailed in when you run the magnet along the wall it will stick wherever those nails are.
5. Mount your 1x2s along the perimeter by screwing them in on the studs. You want to make sure these are very secure because this is what will hold up the desk and whatever is on it.
6. By now your glue should be set add a few screws to hold the two pieces securely together. And then it’s time to sand the front edges. You’ll definitely want to round the top edge so it will be more comfortable for your wrists. I also rounded the bottom edge for a more finished look.
7. Set your large piece of MDF on top of the 1x2s that are already in place and screw it in.
8. Use wood putty to cover all the holes left by the screws.
9. Use joint compound or caulk to fill any gaps along the sides or back as necessary. Because our room is not plum we knew we had gaps that could not be helped no matter how perfectly we measured. The smaller ones we filled with caulk and the larger ones we filled with joint compound.
10. Paint and prime your desk. I used Kilz Latex primer and Valspar Cabinet enamel. The enamel should provide a very durable surface for the desk with minimal chipping and scratches. After painting be sure to let it cure for as long the label calls for. The Valspar enamel cures for 3 days before use. During that time I ran our dehumidifier in there constantly. Keeping the humidity down is very important when drying paint. Also, you may need to sand between your first and second coats of paint. If the desk feels a little rough from the fibers of the MDF just use a 220 sanding block and it comes off very easily. I also sanded the front edge to take off the live edge. It feels so much better and more came off more easily than sanding the raw wood.
11. Fill any gaps left after you take the tape off by caulking all of the edges where the wall meets the desk.
And now you’ve got a new desk! The majority of the project doesn’t take very long at all. It’s definitely possible to get the desk made and primed all in one day. Leaving a few days for painting. Especially if you get your measurements right on the first try. We may or may not have had to take ours back to Lowes to get it recut more than once 🙃 It’s a simple project that makes as awesome use of extra space!