This post has been 5 months in the making but if it helps you learn how to build a filing cabinet desk then we’ve done our job. We actually had this filing cabinet desk completed in September of last year, but I haven’t been able to show you the finished product, due to some evidence I will present at the end of this post.
I forewarn this is going to be a very picture heavy post.
How to build a Filing Cabinet Desk
I wanted to call this post “The deIKEAfication of my kids room” because none of the components of the desk that we put together for my daughter’s room are from IKEA. It’s a post Christmas miracle. Alas everything around it is from IKEA. So that wouldn’t fly.
It started like this. Once upon a time our daughter had a room that looked like this.
The problem was there was no desk. She had turned 5 and all she does is draw from the moment she gets up to when she goes to sleep. Our kitchen table was covered in crayons, markers, art supplies, activity books. It was time for a big kid room update and an overdue desk.
Her bedroom is a long narrow rectangle shape and eventually there will be a set of bunk beds in there replacing the existing bed. We did not want a regular desk but rather one that would run parallel to the bunk beds.
In other words a really long desk.
But we couldn’t find anything that remotely matched our needs for the shape of the room. So, time to build one.
STEP 1 – SCOURING THRIFT STORES
The first thing I did was hit the thrift stores and after much searching when I finally scored these two filing cabinets at the Salvation Army, for around $20. YAY! Now, it was time to get started on their makeover.
STEP 2 – CLEANING AND PAINTING THE FILING CABINETS
We cleaned, primed and painted them.
Make that I took photos and my husband who is a way better spray painter than I am painted them. We used Rustoleum Aqua because apparently the Queen of I love the color Purple, has a new favorite color.
STEP 3 – FINDING THE WOOD COUNTERTOP
Then we needed a desk top.
We started with a trip to Home Depot where we met a great guy named Al who worked in the lumber department (who also had his own furniture making company) who was a Godsend with his help and suggestions on how we could effectively mount an 8 foot desk without brackets holding it up to the wall.
We picked up an 3/4″, 48″ W x 96″ L (4 x 8 foot) piece of Hardwood Plywood Maple from a brand they sold Columbia Forest, as well as some scrap wood.
TIP: Home Depot always has a giant bin of scrap wood from all the cuts that customers get that you can go through to use for your projects.
From that one 48″ W x 96″ L piece of wood came this:
– Two, 3″ strips of wood (same length as the desk)
– One, 2″ strip of wood (same length as the desk)
– The remaining board was cut in half which left it at 20″ deep (from the original 48″ width/depth)
STEP 4 – BUILDING THE DESK TOP
First we stained the wood with Minwax polyurethane in a Clear coat. Then as with anything, measure twice cut once or in this case, measure twice, drill once.
PLEASE NOTE THIS TIP:
The 2″ strip of wood had a very important purpose. It added support to the wood desk top. For example, if you sit on a piece of wood when it is laid out flat horizontally, it will sag from the weight of the object on top (a.k.a. your kids that will inevitably sit on it), especially in the center of the desk.
When a desk is that long, usually you either need a bracket, a cabinet or some form of support in the center under it so it won’t cave and sag.
So that is essentially what this 2″ strip of wood flipped on its side does towards the front of the desk.
The scrap blocks of wood were also there to add support and they would be resting on top of the filing cabinets.
The bonus of the 2″ strip of wood was that it also concealed these scrap wood blocks.
See the photo below to understand that visually.
We then placed the desktop on top of the filing cabinets and marked where one of the 3″ strips of wood would go under the desk, mounted to the wall.
This strip would also be the lateral support under the desk that the desktop would also be ‘sitting’ on.
The desktop was then securely screwed down into the 3″ strip that was now mounted to the wall.
The other 3″ strip of wood was mounted on top the desk to add as a wall buffer. Half to create a more built in look, the other half to prevent markers from flying and decorating the wall on their own.
We used LePage PL Premium Construction Adhesive to glue it down.
STEP 5 – EDGES OF THE DESK
Another important finishing step we did was to put rounded trim at the raw unfinished edge of the desk. We don’t own a router to do a bevel (the nice smooth rounded finish that normally appears at the edge of desktop) so this was a cost effective way of doing so.
Same adhesive + clamps.
And this is the finished desk.
The DIY bulletin board + shelves + under mount pot lighting…that’s all coming in the next blog entry. The honest to God best part of using trim at the edge of the desk, is that the markers and crayons do not roll off the edge and onto the carpet, leaving a trail of destruction.
If we went back in time, we probably would have just gone to Lumber Liquidators and gotten a 12″ foot of butcher block, if only for aesthetics. We have them in our current kitchen and love them! This option however is MUCH less expensive.
Just in case you’re wondering the measurements of the desk are as follows:
28″ H x 20″ D x 96″ L (8 feet).
The filing cabinets on their own are 26″ H x 18″ D x 15″ W.
Eventually we want to put an IKEA EXPEDIT type of shelving unit to the left of the desk vs the TROFAST unit that is currently still there. Which for the record is still by far the greatest tool for cleaning up toys.
Which leads me back to the evidence as to why I couldn’t show a finished shot of this desk in her room for the past while. I present to you, what the month of November/December in her room looked like.
She cleans it up every night, but by noon the next day, it’s back to this.
I’m daring myself to PIN this. I call it a “real life kids bedroom”.
There was Christmas art work and decorations that I was begged not to take down before January. The toys, I think they eat after midnight and multiply. The colored fairy lights that are hanging above the desk have become a new favorite nightlight and well, that’s why they’re still up in the finished desk shot. They’re probably never coming down. I didn’t even take a photo of all the Christmas garland/crafts/cards and hanging decorations that she made which exploded when Christmas got in full swing.
So whoever tells you that their kids rooms always look like they do on Pinterest (or even in this case, the finished desk shot), they’re lying. Or maybe they just don’t have my daughter who I am convinced is going to wind up somewhere in a fashion house with a million sketches around her desk.
Or just make her sister very mad when they share a room by next year.