Building a Custom Standing Desk Using IKEA Cabinets

November 21, 2016

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If you’ve been reading for the past few months, you’re probably at least a little familiar with the standing desk we’ve been working on for our office. Well today we’re gonna share how we did it, and it was actually pretty easy. Especially since IKEA did most of the hard stuff.

Home office with paneled walls and faux marble desk!

You may be wondering how we decided on customizing IKEA kitchen cabinets to create a standing desk. I mean, there are thousands of standing desk options out there, why not just go with something already built for that? For us it came down to the look and function. Standing desk height is as subjective as… well, how tall each individual person is. Jules and I are pretty tall (6′ and 6’4″ respectively) and after playing with some adjustable desks and measuring how tall it was once comfortable, we landed on 46 inches. We started with a 30″ tall 36″ wide base cabinet and made it ultimately 46 inches tall by stacking, to put it simply.

IKEA’s kitchen cabinet drawers are available in 5 inches, 10 inches and 15 inches. If we could get one 36inch wide base cabinet (the base cabinets are all 30 inches tall) and put in one 15in drawer, one 10in and one 5in, that would fill that up. And if we could stack two more 5in drawers on top of that somehow, that would get us the height we needed (4.5in toe kick + 30in tall cabinet + 10in tall cabinet +1.5in countertop = 46in). Bad news – IKEA doesn’t make a 10in tall kitchen cabinet with drawers. Good news – they do make a 15in “above the fridge” cabinet, and all the holes on all of their kitchen cabinetry are the same. So our plan was to cut it down to 10 inches and then the drawers should fit into it perfectly.

Building a Custom Standing Desk Using IKEA Kitchen Cabinets

After thinking it through to make sure we weren’t overlooking any details, it actually was a fairly simply process. We set the boards on top of where they would sit to make sure we cut the top 5 inches off each side piece. We then drew arrows pointing to the edge that needed to be cut, so we didn’t mix them up.

Stack Ikea cabinets to make a standing desk with storage!

We took the piece we cut and clamped it over top the new top edge of the board as a guide for drilling the assembly holes back into it.

Building a Custom Standing Desk Using IKEA Kitchen Cabinets

We then checked our drill bits to make sure we used the correct size bits in each hole, and marked the bit itself so we knew how far down to drill so we wouldn’t go all the way through the new board.

Building a Custom Standing Desk Using IKEA Kitchen Cabinets

Old holes and new holes, perfectly lined up. From there, you simply assemble per the instructions and stack the 10in box on the 30in box.

Building a Custom Standing Desk Using IKEA Kitchen Cabinets

IKEA cabinets come with metals bars that have screw holes for attaching countertops. We just used those holes in the bottom cabinet to attach the top cabinet. worked perfectly.

Building a Custom Standing Desk Using IKEA Kitchen Cabinets

You can also adjust IKEA cabinet drawer tracks to go up and down a little to minimize any gaps that may appear in between drawers and to make everything level.

Building a Custom Standing Desk Using IKEA Kitchen Cabinets

We ordered these super classic white drawer fronts from Semihandmade, as well as matching cover panels for the sides, back and toe kick. The great thing about Semihandmade is we could give them the dimensions to this new standing desk we built and the cover panels on either side would cover the weird seams without leaving a trace that they ever existed. A toe kick or base is where you can really make the height work for you. I built a base for the cabinet using 2×6 boards that I ran through our table saw to make them 4.5 inches wide (the height of the toe kick) and attached the toe kicks all around the outside using screws from behind. With the toe kick in place and our countertop on, we couldn’t be happier about the completed desk.

Stack Ikea cabinets to make a standing desk with storage!

Of course, nobody wants to stand all the time, so we found these great adjustable bar stools that get as high as 46″. You may notice they are different than the ones we shared a couple weeks ago. We talk about that pretty extensively in this week’s podcast, so you can listen to that for that full story (I think that segment starts at about 17:00). But the positive about these is they are height-adjustable which means Chris and I can both find a height that’s comfortable for us.

Stack Ikea cabinets to make a standing desk with storage!

The office is still a work in progress–we’re still waiting on hardware to arrive for starters–but there is a lot of progress and it has provided us a place to work efficiently and quietly during the day. (Three cheers for being able to close a door!) We did finally settle on this simple pendant light from Ikea, no less, that we swagged over the center of the desk. We hung this clock that I originally ordered for the Pittsburgh kitchen (sadly, it didn’t fit above the doorway in there like I thought it would) and although we have the time staring at us from all devices, it’s actually motivating to have a real clock in here–and if nothing else, eye candy.

I don’t think these walls need art, but I couldn’t resist hanging this piece by Angela Simeone, a fabulous artist out of Nashville. I love the movement (and almost rebellion) in her abstracts and I thought it was a good juxtaposition with the formality of the wall treatment.

Art by Angela Simeone in CLJ's office

We’ll share a lot more pictures, before and afters, and full shots of the room as soon as we finish it up in the coming weeks. We had a really positive response to the Lowe’s Christmas post we did where the sources were tagged and shoppable on the image, so I included one below–we’re open to hearing your favorite way to get sources from us.

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What do you think?

  1. Camille says:

    What is holding the desk up on the side opposite the drawers? Is it mounted into the wall?

    • Chris says:

      I built a wooden support that screwed into the studs in the wall that the top of the desk sits on. We also drove some short screws through it into the desk to keep it stable.

  2. Absolutely love the DIY aspect of this. Not sure if we are quite there yet :-) . Sharing an office with a MAC individual and a windows computer (honking CPU) is daunting. This could work!

  3. Danielle says:

    Everything looks great! I’m wondering if I missed the final reveal, tho, since this post is from back in November..? I’ve tried searching your ‘Tour our House’ link as well as a Google search and haven’t had any luck.

  4. Michelia says:

    I’m looking to get new drill bits. Do you use any that you really recommend?

  5. Kate says:

    The shoppable image is pretty cool. In Feedly, it just looks like an image, so if you are going to do it that way, just make a note so we know to click through.

  6. abby says:

    I noticed this is where the chair landed from the reading room. When I link out from the “shop our house” page, it just takes me to the wayfair chairs generally. Any direct link or more information on the brand? Thanks!!!

  7. I love that this post was written by both of you and starts off with a “Jules and I” and ends with a “Chris and I”. It reads seamlessly like you are one, though. :-)
    It’s nice that you were able to customize this for yourselves! In my office I got to do the same although for the opposite reason. You wouldn’t really think it, but at less than 5′ tall, even sitting at a standard height table and dining chair can be too tall for me (and make me feel like I need a booster, which no adult likes to feel). We built a wall to wall desk with a Formica top for easy cleaning and I was able to customize the height so I was comfortable and so was my 5′-10″ husband. Not the tallest people out there, but goes to show you “standard” really doesn’t work for everyone!

  8. Madeline says:

    I love it! What is the countertop material?

  9. jessica says:

    oooh! great idea. i’m 5’11” and i know what you mean by finding the right height.

  10. Winnie G says:

    The new tagged sources within the photos are very nice. **Also, I love your problem solving on getting the right height level for the Ikea cabinets.

  11. Maria says:

    I like your new stools even more and this light fixture is amazing for that prize! I wonder which side is whose, and why you have a TV on the shelf ;) Do you consider to show us how things are organized in there? Can`t wait for the reveal!
    Also, this armchair and art get all the heart eyes.

    • Julia says:

      My side is by the window, and Chris’s is closest to the shelves just because I’m in here a lot more than him and I didn’t like my back being toward the door. That TV is actually a monitor Chris used at his previous job. He said he still would like to use it, so I stored it there for now. And on reveal day, I’ll definitely show you the shelves. There’s a lot of function packed into them.

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