My son is almost 8 now, and he had a nice little Crayola desk that my mom had bought for him to do his schoolwork at, and he had an old school desk with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse on it for his computer, and he had a lot of junk in his room. With the new school year looming on the horizon, I wanted to get him something a little better than that, out of a desperate hope that he'd spend a little time in there doing his homework and projects, instead of ruining the coffee table further.
With that in mind, I consulted all of my friends and coworkers for their best ideas for a desk. It turned out that my initial thinking (largest possible broad flat surface for the given space) was a pretty popular idea. This leads me to wonder why there are so many desks with little specialized compartments out there, but not enough to actually research it.
Step 1: Go shopping.
I had about 81" of wall, my son's "Floor to elbow" measurement is 31", and his reach is 21" so I pretty much had figured on a 24"x80" door as the surface for the desk and just needed to find something about the right height for it. Lucky for me Target had these Chrome Wire Storage things on sale for $15. So I bought 2 of them.
Final shopping list was:
2x wire shelving units
1x 24" wide 80" tall hollow core door (if this was for me, I'd have gone solid core, but the hollow seemed strong enough for him)
1x bag of 6 copper pipe hangers, 1 1/4" diameter
1x box of #8 phillips head wood screws, 1" long
Step 2: Assemble the shelves and test
The only tricky part here was realizing that the top shelves needed to be mounted upside down. These shelves rely on gravity and the weight you put on them to hold in place, a slightly trapezoidal cylinder rests over these black plastic pieces that rely on the ribs of the posts and the pressure from the shelf itself to hold in place. If the top shelf were mounted according to their instructions, the top shelf would be pulled off the legs by the next step. Since it's just a few screws, it's not a big deal to take it apart if we'd move.
In the background, you'll notice an episode of Charmed on the TV, a broken fan on the right next to the doggy bed, and a length of CAT5 running across the floor.
Step 3: Attaching the door to the shelves with the copper bits.
I'd have bought steel or aluminum if Home Depot had had either in stock, but you can see here that these pipe hangers fit just right, and that I was able to bend one for each shelf to hold it on the side that was too far from the edge. Since this is a hollow door, you can't just put a screw in anywhere, you have to do it at the edge. I drilled out pilot holes first so that it wouldn't deform the door at all when I put the screws in.
3 seemed to be enough to hold it very steadily on each side, so I didn't bother adding more. With a solid core door I'd have probably used more.
Step 4: Finished product
As you can see, it's a lot larger than the desk it's replacing. The desk on top is going back to my mom's house, and the one underneath is ready for installation in his room.
Step 5: In place in his room
The walls washed out in the flash here, but you can see how much space he has now, w/ the 17" screen and the USB microscope tucked off to the side. The desk is 31" tall, so it'll be perfect counter height for him now, and perfect desk height as he grows into it. We're planning to just buy him a normal sized desk chair for doing his homework.
Total shopping time: 1hr
Total build time: 1hr, plus time to clean off the old desk