How To Make an Easy, Built-In & Colorful Desk from Basic IKEA Components

Apartment Therapy Tutorials

Pin it button big

One of the proudest DIY achievements in my new home was FINALLY building a desk that would work for both Ursula and myself and look homey and comfortable just off the living room. This little space proved perfect for an IKEA hack I've been iterating on for years. This desk is nice and wide (but not too deep) so that two people or kids can work at the same time, and it's low enough for both sizes to work comfortably too. Click below to see the simple instructions. Oh, and total price? About $250.

What You Need:

  • Paintbrush, etc to paint the top

Pin it button big


1. Cut Down Your Countertop
The secret of this IKEA hack is that you use their solid wood countertop, which is easy to cut down to size, takes paint well and is fixable and customizable over time.
My space above it 86" wide, so I bought the 96" countertop in beech and cut it down to fit into the space.

Pin it button big

2. Attach Your Legs (But shorten them first!)

I like desks that are not too high. This one is made to be good for me, but also good for Ursula, who is six. With this thick countertop and regular legs, the top surface would have been a touch too tall in my book, so I cut the bottom of the Nipen leg down 1 1/2" so that it came to 26" and made the top of the desk at 27 3/4". I also liked that the cut legs had a bit more of a surprising look with the dainty toe.
I attached two legs on the front sides and was going to go straight into the wall in back, but opted at the last minute to throw one more leg at the back, which makes it extra stable when fit into the space.

Pin it button big

3. Paint Your Top
I painted last, and you may not wait this long, but it was easy to paint in the space and it meant that it was able to dry in place, which took time.
I used Farrow & Ball paint, which is all natural and comes in beautiful colors, but it took a long time to dry. I would recommend a high gloss paint, but be sure to wait a sufficient amount of time between coats so that they dry. Glossy paint REALLY needs to dry between coats or else it will stay wet underneath practically forever and you'll get a sticky and soft surface (I got this and had to redo the top once).

Pin it button big

4. Voila!
When everything was dry, I loved how the red popped off of the white legs, so I left the legs white and painted the wall blue to add more color. The commercial shelf is leftover from the kitchen and is from Lamberston Industries. The amazing mirror is vintage and from BoBo Intriguing Objects. The desk lamp is also vintage and from BoBo.

Pin it button big

More posts in this series

Renovation Diary: Maxwell & Ursula