A DIY Floating Wall-to-Wall Desk made with a butcher block countertop is a sturdy and attractive work/study solution for small spaces.
It’s good to have the gang back together.
When we all reunited in our new Georgia home last month, it had been 119 days since Handan had seen her son. She had felt that separation for every hour of those days, especially the days when I was also in Connecticut.
When we pulled into the driveway, the dogs jumped out of the car whimpering with joy, tails wagging fiercely. Baris stepped out, and Handan burst into tears.
She ran to The Boy and wrapped him in her arms.
The dogs jumped and howled and peed.
Handan babbled at Baris in Turkish – a steady stream of prayers and greetings and well-wishes.
The Boy hugged her back, looked around his new surroundings, turned to me and asked his favorite question.
“So, what’s for dinner?”
Handan was thrilled to have her baby back at her side.
I took a more pragmatic view of the situation: I had my helper back!
But first things first. I booked The Boy an appointment at Roosters to have his hair cut. It had been been 151 days since his last visit, and he was starting to look like a New Zealand lamb that had escaped the farmer’s shears.
Up in Connecticut, everything was still shut down when we left, so I had no choice but to watch that hair grow and grow and grow.
On his second day in Georgia, a great weight was lifted from his head.
Freshly shorn, he was ready to help his dear old dad.
Our first order of business was to set up his study room. There is a small walk-in closet in one of the bedrooms – the room that is now his TV lounge. We turned it into a his study room. I’ll post about that closet-to-study makeover next, but today I wanted to share with you a really simple and (relatively) cheap DIY floating wall-to-wall desk.
In this case, the “wall-to-wall” part makes this a patented “Simple Stupid” Navage Patch DIY.
First, a word about desks.
Since 2013, we’ve bought or built, refinished or restored no fewer than twelve desks.
And here’s the thing about desks: they’re all expensive.
“But what about this $100 executive desk from Walmart??” You may be asking.
Well, it’s $100 because it is made from cheap particle board, and it will disintegrate the moment you want to move it to a new location.
Learned that lesson with Baris’s desk when I tried to pack it up for this move, and that was a $400 desk!
Even when building a desk from scratch, the materials alone really add up. Sure you can save a lot by building a pine desk, but pine is softer than a bank manager’s hands and will scratch and gouge if you look at it too hard. Once you start building with hardwoods, the cost skyrockets.
We pondered these facts when planning Baris’s new study room.
Because here’s the thing: we wouldn’t be building/buying just one desk. Nope. Our little Woobums was going to have two desks – one for studying and writing and one for computer games and programming.
Ahhhhh, to be an only child!
So Handan did her usual top-to-bottom scouring of the internet to find something we could buy.
And then she did her mental gymnastics to figure out material costs (and labor hours) involved in a from-scratch DIY.
After crunching the numbers, she declared that we would be making Baris’s two wall-to-wall desks with unfinished butcher block countertops from Home Depot.
Now, the one you see pictured above is made from birch, and it costs $219 for an 8ft x 2ft x 1.5 inch slab. Lemme tell you – this thing is heavy! It is a well-constructed countertop, and that $219 price tag is actually awesome considering that something similar from IKEA is more expensive.
One desk – the one on which his gaming/programming computer would sit – would be made just like the desk I made for my old office. In fact, the two IKEA ALEX drawers that I used for my old office desk are now up in Baris’s study. Lucky dog. I loved those drawer units!
Anyway, his wall-to-wall gaming and programming desk would be “built” by simply dropping the butcher block countertop on top of the drawer units.
His other desk would be the DIY floating desk. Pretty nifty!
By the way, before this project, I’d never heard of a “floating desk” before. Floating shelves, yes. Desk, no. My babes tells me they’re all the rage these days, and if you don’t have one, you may as well lock yourself in a closet and slap yourself repeatedly with a wet noodle.
Well. I don’t have a kitchen at the moment, so I’m all outta wet noodles. I guess I better get building!
Okay, so if you haven’t figured it out already, the reason I’m just babbling away here is because this build is just so ridiculously simple. Besides the butcher block countertops, the only other materials we needed were a 2 x 4, a couple of small pieces of 2 x 2 (you could also use 2 x 4), some stain, some wipe-on poly and screws.
Let’s have a look.
DIY Floating Wall-to-Wall Desk
Preparing the Desktops
The butcher block countertops we bought were 8 feet long, but Baris’s study was only about 80 inches wall-to-wall.
Correction: one side was 80 inches, the other side was 79 1/2 inches.
Man, I really would love to hang out for a few days in a subdivision as it’s being built. I’d be fascinated just to watch the workers as they build unsquare house after unsquare house.
Where’s the pride in one’s work?
GAH! It drives me nuts!
I’d ask each worker, “how do you sleep at night?!?”
I wonder if they slept in unsquare beds in unsquare houses on crooked streets.
Anyway, I enlisted The Boy’s help. The butcher block countertops were heavy, and I needed his muscle to help me move them up on sawhorses. Once situated, we measured and cut them to size. Since most of my tools were still packed up (and some not here yet), I used a spare oak floor plank as a saw guide. Hey, whatever works, right?
Though the countertops were pretty smooth, I wanted them more smooth, so I sanded them with 150 grit followed by 220 grit using a random orbit sander.
The next step was staining. Now, for a uniform color, you’d be wise to apply a pre-stain first.
I, madam, am not wise. You should know that by now!
Still, unwise as I am, in this case, we wanted a more rustic and unrefined look (like yours truly!), so I skipped the pre-stain and went straight for the Minwax Special Walnut.
You all know by now how good Handan is at discovering cool and useful products.
Remember her trick to paint french doors in the easiest way ever?
And her discovery of how to finish raw wood without changing its color?
Well, she did it again with this DIY floating desk project!
Stain can be a tricky thing when working with big pieces. You want to get it on your project piece as quickly and evenly as possible.
Staining a piece as big as these butcher block countertops would be grueling work if done by the old rag-on, rag-off method.
Normally, I’d skip the rag and go straight to the brush – it’s much quicker for large surfaces. But the big downside to applying stain with a brush is the mess. Stain is a non-viscous liquid, and it tends to splatter everywhere whenever the bristles flicker.
Handan found a better way.
And she found it not only for stain, but also for polyurethane. These foam applicator pads are marketed for automotive polish, but hey, DIY is all about working with what you’ve got or finding new ways of doing old things. By the way, last I checked, the ones I used pictured below are unavailable. Here are essentially the same ones in yellow.
These applicator pads made staining a breeze. I finished each countertop in about a minute.
The next day, I applied wipe-on polyurethane with the applicator pads. I poured the poly right onto the wood and then wiped it in and smoothed it out with the pad.
Wow, I thought those pads made the stain easy, but they really work wonders on polyurethane! A desk that size might have taken 15 minutes applying wipe-on poly in the traditional manner, but the pads brought that time down to about 2 minutes per slab. They’re a real time-saver for large poly projects!
The next day, I sanded the desk with a 2000 grit disc in my random orbit sander. This got rid of all the tiny bumps that poly leaves behind. I then wiped the desk down with a rag soaked in mineral spirits to remove the fine white sanding dust.
After that, Baris and I carried the two desktops up to his bedroom.
Building the Wall-to-Wall Floating Desk
We first assembled Baris’s computer desk. I already told you how easy that was – we just plopped the desktop on the drawer units and called it a masterpiece.
The other desk required just a bit of work, however.
The plan was simple: attach a 2 x 4 cut to 80 inches to the long wall and two smaller pieces of 2 x 2 to the adjacent walls. The desk is 24 inches deep, and we wanted all the support pieces hidden, so we cut the 2 x 2 pieces to 18 inches.
Now, with a desk this heavy, it is imperative that the supports be screwed into studs. Drywall anchors won’t cut it for this one.
While we were at Home Depot buying the wood, Handan remembered about the studs and said, “We need to buy a stud finder, my babes. I don’t think yours has arrived yet.”
Oh, c’mon, you know what I said next!
How could I not? If she’s gonna serve up meatballs like that, I’m gonna swing at ’em!
“No need, my babes!” I said. “I’m right here!” I flashed my biggest cheese-eating grin and flexed my fat-encrusted muscles.
She just smirked at me and pulled a stud finder from the shelf. “Keep looking, my babes,” she said and slapped the stud finder onto my chest.
“Ouch! That’s cold, woman!” I called after her as she strode towards the checkout line.
Back in Baris’s study, I handed him the stud finder, showed him how it works, and then we marked where I’d be securing the 2 x 4.
We wanted this desk to be the same height as the other – 29 inches – so we marked the wall at 27.5 inches to account for the 1.5-inch thickness of the desk.
Next, I held the 2 x 4 against the will and transferred the stud marks to the board. I then drilled through the middle of the board at each marking. This would make it much easier to install.
With a level placed on the 2 x 4, Baris held it against the wall while I drove in the first screw. I used 2 1/2 inch deck screws, as their heads don’t strip as easy as phillips heads do.
Checking the level again, I drove the second screw. After that, Baris let go, and I drove the rest of the screws. Since both The Boy and I were busy (and Handan was doing some other task), we all forgot to take pictures of the 2 x 4 installation. It happens a lot – especially during critical parts of our projects, lol!
Anyway, Handan remembered the camera while I was installing one of the shorter side supports.
After screwing in the two side supports, we carefully lowered the desktop in place. It is heavy enough that I felt there was no need to attach the desktop to the supports, but you could certainly do so underneath the desk with angle brackets.
Here’s a better look underneath it all.
And here’s the other side. Notice anything weird?
Yep, after all of our calculations and corrections to mitigate the effects of an unsquare room, it turns out ‘Ol Doofus-head here picked a warped 2 x 4. I played around with the side support a bit and got it perfectly stable. It just looks a little wonky form below. But the desk is perfectly level in both side-to-side and front-to-back. That’s the important part!
Once the two desktops were in place, Handan sprung into action, climbing under the desks and attaching power cords, routing computer cables hither and yon and generally squeezing her body into all the shapes and spaces that my worn-out husk could never dream of.
Here’s Baris’s gaming/programming desk sitting proudly on two IKEA ALEX drawer units.
Turning around in this very tiny room, here’s his DIY floating desk.
I think the two desks are a perfect use of the available space in here.
It’s a good thing he’s not totally into clothes, or this room may have needed to remain a closet. As it is, all of his wearables fit nicely in his dresser and in his small bedroom closet.
You’re getting a sneak peak at his study, but it’s kinda hard to hide the rest, lol!
“How do you like your new study?” I said to The Boy.
He cast his eye around the room.
“It’s good,” he said in typical teen detail. “Hey, Dad,” he continued, “what’s for dinner?”
Yep, it’s good to have the gang back together.
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