An Awkward Space-Turned-Homework Study

Hand-built desk for two children. A Cozy Homework Study Area

Hand-built desk for two children. A Cozy Homework Study Area

This here is an awkward space. Too small to be a room…. too large to be simply a landing area in our basement where the stairs meet the bottom level. The previous homeowners had nothing more than an extra refrigerator in the space. The tile made the area feel cold and it was overall deemed useless by all measures.

Our home is perfect for us but it was not built for the children to spend a great deal of time in their bedrooms - they’re small. Too small for a desk if the bed is larger than a standard twin. So we ended up needing a designated homework area for the kids to do their work (because otherwise they would spread out over the kitchen table… or worse, their beds). So we put an old Ikea desk our neighbor gifted us down there… and it also ended up being a landing spot for all the odd furniture we had laying around that didn’t fit nicely in our new house. Sigh. It was just a mess.

So I started looking around for some desks that fit the space nicely but also matched the decor downstairs and came up empty handed.

So I built the damn thing myself. My husband got the flu and while he was in bed barely hanging on to life (man-flu, you know how bad it gets!!), I piled our four children into the car and off to Home Depot we went! (Hubby sick = asking for forgiveness later rather than permission… another thing I’m really good at. ha).

I’m more of a “figure it out as I go” type. So I measured the walls before we left so I knew how much space I had to work with and then figured out rough plans in the aisles of Home Depot, on the fly. I always figure: what’s the worse that can happen? I hate mulling over options, making a plan, a budget - bah. Too much time spent (wasted), in my opinion.

Anyway, so I went through the aisles of lumber… did on-my-phone research as I looked at various options, calculated prices, etc. 3” wood planks vs 6” wood planks vs 5” wood planks… how many I would need, if they’d fit in my minivan, the length of screws I would need. I quickly calculated the wood I would need, screws… bought a miter saw… some wood glue, threw it all in my minivan and went home. It was Friday night.

Ultimately, I decided on:

2”x4” standard lumber for the legs and desk frame
5” x 8’ Pine ‘Common Board’ for the desk top
5” x 6’ Pine ‘Common Board’ for the desk top (I didn’t need them all super long, only the longest pieces)
Pocket Jig
Miter Saw

It was SUPER easy to build this desk.

All I did was calculate how long and deep I wanted the desk to be. I then figured that I wanted the ‘top’ of the desk to hang farther over the under-structure (that’s what I’m going to call it because I don’t know what it’s actually called. ha) in the front side of the desk than the back, wall-facing, side so I just calculated that into my measurements.

The best thing I thought to do ahead of time - let’s be honest… when you do things and figure it out along the way you don’t always know the best way to do something until you’re done and think back that you could’ve done a number of things differently or more efficiently. But this time, my brain was working and I was being frugal… so I planned my cuts. First I calculated each board I would need, the length I would need and the angle (if it would be mitered) - I actually sketched this all out, after I bought the wood (lol) - and labeled each piece like Ikea furniture: “A”; “B”; “C”; etc. Then, with my list of all the ‘cuts’ I needed, I tried to maximize the boards I bought by fitting as many cuts I could on each piece.

So I made a second list that looked like this:

8’ Board - A&G
6’ Board - C&H
2x4 Board - L&N&M&O

Anyway, and I had my list of cuts to reference. I went through and measured all my cuts, drew a straight-line where they needed to be cut and labeled them with the proper letter I had assigned that particular cut… and then, when I went to assemble it, it was as simple as following store instructions and following the sketch I made. Below are some progress pics.

Things I would do differently:

  1. I cut all my wood outside and then brought it into the basement. I knew that there was 0% chance that I could get the desk in the basement once it was assembled. BUT, that meant that I had to assemble, sand, paint and stain the desk in the basement… in our house… in that little area. And, whoa. I almost died. It wasn’t as bad as the man flu (but really, is there anything worse than the man flu??). But, I thought I could stain this in our house and never thought about the ‘off-gassing’ that occurs which TOOK OVER our entire 3-story, 4,000sqft house. We had to open every window and door for an entire day and leave the house. It was awful. Anyway, so I would sand and stain the top pieces outside. I think I probably could’ve done a lot of it outside - it may not have been perfectly smooth (from plank to plank on top), but it still would’ve worked, I think

  2. I think I would’ve built in some under-desk storage. My kids have a lot of books. Perhaps a drawer or two…

Overall, I’m quite happy with how it came out. It’s sturdy, it matches our style/decor, it works well and, most importantly, my kids love it and are excited to use it!



Sketches.jpg
desk_progress2.jpg
Desk _ Progess 1.jpg
Katie Weaver