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How To Build A Desk In A Closet

Learn how to build a desk in a closet for the perfect small space solution.

One of the most important parts of my office & craft room makeover was a desk. It is first an office, and I need a place for my computer. When I first took over our old nursery, I knew immediately I wanted to build a desk in a closet in this room. There are two 5′ closets in this space.

It was a great way to add a desk without taking up much needed crafting space. Also figuring out how to build a desk in a closet was the perfect budget friendly solution since I am redoing this entire space for only $100!

DIY desk built in a closet with wood desk top, blue wall paper for backsplash shown with white apple computer and desk chair.

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Yep, you read that right! I am redoing my entire office & craft room for only $100 as part of the the $100 Room Challenge. It may seem impossible to makeover an entire room for only $100, but it it totally doable with just a little creativity. Which is why this desk in a closet was the perfect solution.

I knew I could build a desk, but the cost of wood can easily come to $100 alone. That leaves me with nothing for the rest of the room. But in a closet, I only need to build the top, no legs are needed, so the cost of wood is much less. I built this entire thing (and painted the space) for only $40.

DIY desk shown in closet with blue pattern wall paper and white apple computer on wood desk

One of the things I was worried I would miss what the drawers on the side of my desk. You know, someplace to keep pencils and such. But I don’t miss it at all. I am making a cute little desk organizer to hold the things I need immediate access to, and the rest are stored with all the other craft stuff in my room.

And I can tuck a little trash can under my desk now, where before there was no room for one.

Budget friendly desk build in closet with book shelves, computer wood desk and chair with computer on desk top

I also love that I have walls on either side of my desk. I was afraid I would be claustrophobic at first, but instead I love those little walls. My plans for the room include a paper organizer one of these walls. I also plan on doing some cute mirrors or other decorative pieces for my new favorite space.

wood desk built in a closet with two shelves, desk chair and computer with blue patterned wall paper

Since this was a clothing closet, there were already a couple shelves. I just moved them up and out of the way. I also moved them closer together and now they are the perfect place to store my paper crafting supplies.

Plus, I am planning on hanging a couple sconces from the shelves to add a little more light to my desk area, which will come in handy when I am working late at night.

Storage shelves in office closet with blue wall paper and blue painted walls

After I got the desk built, I needed to decide on how to paint the area. I had a bit of paint left over from our dining room and since I absolutely love the color, it was the perfect solution for my budget remodel. But I needed something more.

After tossing around a lot of ideas with my husband (thanks to a 6 hour flight layover on our trip to Hawaii), and looking at lots of beautiful inspiration rooms online, I decided I needed to add some pattern to my desk area.

office desk built in closet with wood desk top, two storage shelves and blue patterned wall paper

A patterned wall can be a little intense, but in a closet desk area, it adds the right amount of chic without taking over the whole room. I created a stencil that looks like the patterned tiles that are popping up all over home designs these days.

This is the best way to get the high-end look of hand-painted patterned tiles for just a few dollars and a few hours of work. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!

inside of office closet with wood desk and blue wall paper with vase of white flowers

If you want to see how to build a desk in a closet for just $40, read below for the tutorial. And to see how I am doing with my $100 Room Challenge this month, check out the week 2 update and then follow along to see all the creative (and budget friendly) projects.

How to Build a Desk in a Closet

Supplies:

  • Wood: the amount of wood needed depends on the size of your closet. My closet is 61″ wide and and 26″ deep. and my finished desk is 61″ wide by 24″ deep.
    • 2×2 boards
    • 1/2″ plywood
    • 1×3 board
  • Level
  • Miter saw
  • Table saw or circular saw
  • 3″ wood screws
  • Kreg jig & 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws
  • Nail gun & finishing nails
  • Wood glue
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood stain
    • I used natural wood stain which consists of steel wool soaked in vinegar and black tea.
  • Polyurethane
  • Drill & large drill bit
  • Cord grommet

Start by deciding the height you want your desk. A standard desk is around 30″, I made mine 28 1/2″ because my 30″ desk was a little high for spending long hours typing. It might seem really low when you are building it, it did to me, but will be comfortable when you sit at it. Using a level, mark a line 1/2″ below the final height of your finished desk.

inside of closet before desk build with patches to walls before painting

Along that line, you will need to locate your studs. I use the “make lots of holes in the wall” method. Okay, I start by knocking on the wall to figure out approximately where a stud is, then confirming it with a nail until I locate the stud.

If you put your holes next to the level line, they will be hidden by the final desk.

closet wall shown with nail as marking for desk placement

Next build a frame for your desk using the 2×2. Start by securing 2×2 boards (cut to the desired desk depth minus 1 1/2″) on the sides of the closet. Line them up along your level line. Make sure to attach them to your studs using the 3″ wood screws.

Then measure the space between the two boards. Cut a 2×2 board to that measurement, add pocket holes to the ends. Secure it to the walls with the 3″ wood screws and then attach it to the side boards with pocket hole screws. If you put the pocket holes on the top of your frame, they will be hidden with the desk top.

desk frame built into closet prior to painting

For the front of the desk frame, measure the space between the front of the two side boards. Cut a 2×2 board to that measurement and add pocket hole screws to the ends. Attach it to the front of the side boards with pocket hole screws. Make sure it is level with the two boards.

desk frame shown attached to closet with 2x2 boards and pocket hole screwed to the ends.

Now add some center braces to your frame. This especially helps if you put a lot of weight on your desk (like a computer or printer). And since you have a few extra feet of inexpensive 2×2 boards, it doesn’t cost anything to add this extra support.

Measure the space between the front and back boards, cut 2 2×2 boards to this length and add pocket hole screws to the ends. Attach these evenly between the two walls with pocket hole screws.

inside of closet shown with desk frame and center braces to the frame

Once your frame is built, cut your plywood to fit over the top of it. Cut it so it is the width of the desk and the depth you want your desk minus 3/4″. Dry fit the plywood to make sure it fits in your closet (this is why I don’t paint the walls before installing the desk, it can scrape up the walls).

If your walls are not perfectly straight, you can scribe the plywood once you dry fit it by running a pencil along the line where the plywood touches the wall until it runs off the wood where the plywood is gapping. Trim along this line with your saw and dry fit again.

wood desk top unstained with hand holding mint green pencil to measure center of wal

Once you have the desk top fit. Cut a piece of 1×3 board to the length of the front of the desk. Secure it to the front of the plywood with wood glue and finishing nails. Sand well.

To attach the desk, add wood glue to the top of your frame. Add the plywood desk top. Tap the corners down with a hammer to ensure they are laying flat. Secure with a couple finishing nails around the edge/back. Fill nail holes.

desk top shown inside closet prior to staining and unpainted walls

Finish the desk. I used a natural stain. Start by soaking a ball of steel wool in vinegar for 3+ days. Then wipe the desk with a barely damp cloth to clean off the sawdust and open the wood up to get it ready to receive the stain.

Then brush on a coat of strong brewed black tea. Immediately, finish by brushing on a coat of the vinegar solution. You have to do this quickly so you don’t get streaks (the wet wood from the wipe down and black tea also help reduce the streaks). The wood will immediately start to oxidize and will continue to deepen in color for a few hours.

wood desk top shown in collage of four photos being stained with foam brush

Let the stain dry completely, then finish the desk off with 3 coats of polyurethane. Sand between the coats to get a smooth finish.

dark stain wood desk top inside of office closet

After the sealer is dry, cut a hole for your cords to go through. Then fill it with a cord grommet.

close up of stained wood desk top in closet with hole being cut out with ryobi tool to place cords through

Now all that is left is to decorate! Since this desk is part of my $100 Room Challenge makeover, I have to keep the budget as low as possible. This desk was my most expensive splurge (at a whopping $40). I decided to paint the inside of my closet with the blue paint left-over from my dining room. It’s such a soft beautiful blue color.

finished office in a closet shown with blue painted walls, wood stained desk top and office chair

But then to add my chic pattern, I made a stencil using my Silhouette cutting machine like I did for my son’s bedroom focal wall. Then I used some left over navy blue paint to create this faux patterned tile design. I couldn’t be more excited with how it turned out.

office in closet shown with finished blue patterned wall paper, wood desk top and computer

And all this only cost me $40! Can you believe it (I still can’t sometimes). Here’s the breakdown of where I spent it:

  • Plywood – $31.20
  • 3- 2×2 boards – $5.20
  • Screws & sandpaper – $0 (already had)
  • Steel wool, vinegar and black tea stain – $0 (already had)
  • Polyurethane – $0 (already had)
  • Cord grommet – $3.60
  • Paint – $0 (already had)
  • Painting supplies – $0 (already had)
  • Stencil supplies – $0 (already had)

office in closet shown with wood desk, office chair, blue wall paper and office computer

Now I have $43 (and a half a sheet of plywood) to finish the room and a lengthy list left on my to-dos. I’m hopeful I can get it all done!

Make your own wall stencil with your Silhouette Cameo to add style to any space for cheap. This Patterned Tile Wall Stencil DIY transformed the closet desk area into a beautiful focal point for the entire room. Includes the free cut file for the patterned tile design. Housefulofhandmade.com | Silhouette Creators Challenge | How to Use a Wall Stencil | Focal Wall Ideas | Patterned Walls | Electronic Cutting Machine

How To Build A Desk In A Closet

Yield: 1 Desk
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Intermediate
Estimated Cost: $40
Learn how to build a desk in a closet for the perfect small space solution and it's budget-friendly.

Materials

  • 2×2 boards
  • 1/2″ plywood
  • 1×3 board

Tools

  • Level
  • Miter saw
  • Table saw or circular saw
  • Kreg jig & 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws
  • 3″ wood screws
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood Glue
  • Wood stain
  • Polyurethane
  • Drill & large drill bit
  • Cord grommet

Instructions

    1. Start by deciding the height you want your desk. A standard desk is around 30″, I made mine 28 1/2″ because my 30″ desk was a little high for spending long hours typing.
    2. Using a level, mark a line 1/2″ below the final height of your finished desk.
    3. Along that line, you will need to locate your studs.
    4. Build a frame for your desk using the 2×2. Start by securing 2×2 boards (cut to the desired desk depth minus 1 1/2″) on the sides of the closet. Line them up along your level line. Make sure to attach them to your studs using the 3″ wood screws.
    5. Measure the space between the two boards. Cut a 2×2 board to that measurement, add pocket holes to the ends. Secure it to the walls with the 3″ wood screws and then attach it to the side boards with pocket hole screws.
    6. For the front of the desk frame, measure the space between the front of the two side boards. Cut a 2×2 board to that measurement and add pocket hole screws to the ends. Attach it to the front of the side boards with pocket hole screws.
    7. Now add some center braces to your frame. Measure the space between the front and back boards, cut 2 2×2 boards to this length and add pocket hole screws to the ends. Attach these evenly between the two walls with pocket hole screws.
    8. Cut your plywood to fit over the top of it. Cut it so it is the width of the desk and the depth you want your desk minus 3/4″. Dry fit the plywood to make sure it fits in your closet. Once you have the desk top fit. Cut a piece of 1×3 board to the length of the front of the desk. Secure it to the front of the plywood with wood glue and finishing nails. Sand well.
    9. To attach the desk, add wood glue to the top of your frame. Add the plywood desk top. Tap the corners down with a hammer to ensure they are laying flat. Secure with a couple finishing nails around the edge/back. Fill nail holes.
    10. Finish the desk. I used a natural stain. Start by soaking a ball of steel wool in vinegar for 3+ days. Then wipe the desk with a barely damp cloth to clean off the sawdust and open the wood up to get it ready to receive the stain.
    11. Then brush on a coat of strong brewed black tea. Immediately, finish by brushing on a coat of the vinegar solution.
    12. Let the stain dry completely, then finish the desk off with 3 coats of polyurethane. Sand between the coats to get a smooth finish.
    13. After the sealer is dry, cut a hole for your cords to go through. Then fill it with a cord grommet.

Notes

*Wood: the amount of wood needed depends on the size of your closet. My closet is 61″ wide and and 26″ deep. and my finished desk is 61″ wide by 24″ deep.*

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

-Kati with picture of blog author Kati

 

two photos showing a desk in a closet with blue wall paper, office chair and wood desk top

 

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