IKEA Hack: Custom, Transforming Home Office Desks
Recently, my husband and I decided to take on tackling our multi-purpose great room (a.k.a., “man cave” as he calls it) in our basement. With needs to accommodate entertainment space for Eric, a children’s play space for our toddler daughter, storage, and workspace, we decided to work on the areas segmented one at a time, starting with the home office area.
After repainting the entire great room and trim ourselves, we were ready to get started focusing on the distinct areas.
The Problem to Solve
We knew we wanted to replace our older, worn out desks, with something new and more modern. We needed a good amount of work space each, some storage, also room for filing away key paperwork, and finally, a solution to expand the work space when needed. On trips to IKEA College Park, Maryland, I was interested initially in the concept behind the MALM product, which was a desk with a pull out table on a track. You could pull it out for additional workspace, but it would stop at a certain point, doubling the size of your workspace instantly. However, it wasn’t quite the look we were going for and did not offer the storage space that we both needed. In talking to a store associate, he suggested that we consider the idea of building our own table to meet our needs precisely.
The “Hacked” Solution
Walking over to the design-your-own-table area, with floor samples of tabletops, legs, and desk drawers, I wasn’t initially wowed by the idea I’ll admit. It took Eric going online later and mapping out some ideas in drawings to win me over. I think this was sparked by the idea that the floor associate said, “remember, these aren’t your only tabletop solutions at IKEA” referencing the options available through the swinging door on the other side of the wall for the kitchen countertops.
Eric’s design involved a stationary desk, with storage on one end and legs on the other. Per desk, this would use design-your-own-table parts of: 1 set gray ALEX drawer unit and 2 OLOV adjustable legs, but a solid-wood oak HAMMARP 74″ x 1.125″ butcher block table top from the IKEA kitchen department. And, then, to the side opposite the drawers, another design-your-own-table, with parts: 4 white KRILLE lockable caster legs and a gray LINNMON 47.25″ x 23.625″ table top. The OLOV legs would allow us to increase the stationary desk slightly to accommodate the side table that would slide underneath. However, the drawers were a fixed height, so to add just enough extra height, we bought 2″ casters at Lowes. This also allows for easier movement of the desk when we need to pull it from the wall for contractor work, etc. — lift up the end with the legs and the other end (the drawers) are on wheels.
To handle our paperwork filing needs, a 3-drawer, black-brown, locking GALANT upright cabinet to sit between the two desks.
Ultimately, this would give the desks a clean, modern look, and incorporate elements that would be seen elsewhere in the great room of the basement: wood, white, gray, metal. It would give us the desk work space and the storage that we both needed.
The drawing also allowed us to make sure the finished project would fit nicely within the dimensions of the office area in our basement.
The Added Bonus from “Hacking”
Unlike the MALM product, the side tables would be completely removable from the stationary desk, which would still function 100% on it’s own. Giving us the added flexibility of using them for: craft / sewing tables to allow fabric to hang off the back side; or to push together as a makeshift “conference” table for playing family board games, building puzzles, working on scrapbooking, so on and so forth.
Since we built two identical desk work spaces, note that our parts list is doubled below (except for the GALANT, which we only needed one of). If you built just one desk, cut our numbers in half.
- 1 GALANT file cabinet, black-brown ($269) 602.064.04
- 2 HAMMARP 74″ x 1.125″ oak countertop ($139 ea.) 202.749.61
- 2 ALEX drawer units, gray ($79 ea.) 002.612.95
- 4 OLOV adjustable legs, silver ($15 ea.) 702.666.71
- 2 LINNMON table top, gray ($19.99 ea.) 402.402.39
- 8 KRILLE caster leg ($12.50 ea.) 302.502.57
- 4 PRÖJS desk pads, clear ($5.99 ea.) 667.035.00
- 2 RIMFORSA tablet stand, bamboo ($15.99 ea.) 102.820.75
- 8 2″ Rubber Swivel Casters
- 8 Corner Braces
- 8 1″ Felt Pads
- 16 5/8″ (.625-in) Wood Screws
- 1 32-fl oz. Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish, Clear Matte
- 220 Grit Sandpaper
We had also received an emailed version of a $20 off $150 IKEA coupon from a friend, good July 25 – Sept. 5 to coincide with the launch of the launch of the 2017 product catalog. And, you bet your bottom dollar (pun intended) that we mapped out our $960.92 spend to get as many $20 discounts as possible. After jotting down our parts list, each time we’d go through the check out, we would return to just the marketplace to load up our individual carts again.
Example: order 1: one GALANT; order 2: two ALEX; order 3: one HAMMARP, one RIMFORSA; order 4: one HAMMARP, one RIMFORSA; order 5: four OLOV, eight KRILLE; order 6: remaining items. That allowed for five coupons and a total of $100 off of our order.
Resulting in a total final bill before tax at IKEA of $860.92, minus the file cabinet of $269 = $295.96 per “desk” build.
1) First, we assembled the ALEX drawer units, and put the included rubber bumpers on the top four corners to protect the units from the table top.
2) Turning the ALEX drawer units upside down, with no drawers installed, we attached the 4 rubber swivel casters to the bottom 4 corners of each drawer unit.
3) With the HAMMARP flat on the floor, we chose the location for the OLOV legs on one end and installed them by putting small pilot holes into the butcher block first.
4) Next, we sat the table top upright and positioned it onto the ALEX drawer unit. We recessed the unit in about 2″ from the side of the table top and evenly front-to-back about 1.5″.
5) We increased the height of the OLOV legs until we were seeing a level measurement on the surface of the butcher block top.
6) To secure the table top from sliding around on the surface of the ALEX drawer units, we installed 2 corner braces to each side, a total of 4 per ALEX drawer unit. We attempted to do all of this with precision measurements…because the tables are opposite of one another, but might not be in a future home and this will allow for the turning around of the ALEX drawer unit later in life, allowing for usage of the same installation holes. We also drilled small pilot holes into the butcher block for these screws as well.
7) These stationary desks were then moved into place by lifting the end up with the OLOV legs attached and gently gliding the desk into position with caster assistance. (These HAMMARP countertops are not light, they are solid wood).
8) Once this was done, we installed the KRILLE legs to the LINNMON table tops, on the bottom side of course.
9) We then flipped these upright and positioned them to the opposite side of each table from the ALEX drawer unit.
10) To protect the LINNMON from scratches, we put a couple of 1″ felt pads onto the installation area of the OLOV legs, to keep away from the screw heads.
11) The GALANT was assembled, and everything was moved just right into place.
12) To protect our investment, we did 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic on the butcher block countertop with an extremely light 220-grit sanding in between and before each. This will help prevent water stains from penetrating quickly, and for easier surface cleaning.
13) We added PRÖJS desk pads and RIMFORSA tablet stands as accessories to both desks. The PRÖJS serve as a nice layer between computer monitors and the butcher block countertop, for instance. (Not shown).