Child's Desk From an Old Kitchen Cabinet





Introduction: Child's Desk From an Old Kitchen Cabinet

In this project, I am making a small desk for my daughter. She tends to be very rough on furniture, so I want a solution that will be inexpensive but will also last a while. Luckily, up in the attic, there are a number of old kitchen cabinets as pictured below. If I squint my eyes a little, and dim the light, I can already see a desk, can't you? Be warned - this is no heirloom piece, but as a six year old, my daughter is convinced I'm a genius.

Step 1: Clean the Cabinet

This is the easiest step. Simply take a damp towel and some Dollar Store cleaner (thanks Jolene!) and wipe the cabinet clean, inside and out.


As you can see, the inside of this cabinet is coated with a horrific, 1951 floral print. Being as horrible as it is, it must come off.

Step 3: Scrape Contac Paper Off of Shelves

Using a razor blade, being very careful, begin to remove the Contac Paper. Starting in a corner.

Step 4: Try to Get the Contac Paper Off in Large Pieces

Contac Paper is fairly easy to remove, but it will definitely save you time to remove it in as large pieces as you can. Peel slowly, and be patient. Now is a good time for some music. Go ahead and keep the lights dimmed too, and possibly sip some champagne.

Step 5: Carefully Replace Contac Paper Once Daughter Begins to Cry Because She Likes the Flowers


Step 6: Paint the Outside of the Cabinet

I chose some old paint from a wall project we did upstairs, because it's a nice color and my daughter likes it. I did not remove the doors initially, because I am lazy, but changed my mind later. I was thinking the contrast of the already-white doors against the blue would look nicer. When I put the doors back on, I put them on upside down, so the pull knobs would be near the top instead of near the floor when the desk is in use.

Step 7: Next Comes the Worksurface of the Desk

Any peice of wood or other material would do, really, but being as my goal here is a project that is nearly all reused materials, I hit the attic once again. There were several cabinets like the one I am working on here, and I stole two shelves from one of them to create a work surface. On one side of the shelves, I applied chalkboard paint. On the other, I applied a salvaged whiteboard surface using hot glue. Though the surface comes in two peices, it is being held togerther by the glue, and by the whiteboard backing.

Step 8: Connect Worksurface to Desk Body Using Hinges

As pictured. I just eyeballed it - I did not feel the need to make precise measurements considering the linited breadth of this project.

Step 9: Just Add a Stool, and You Have Your Child's Desk

Unfortunately, I am currently remodeling the room that this desk will be placed in, so I am unable to take pictures of it in context. Once that area is finished, I can take pictures of the desk where it will go. As you can see here though, the worksurface will normally be up, exposing the chalk board. When my daughter wishes to work, she will pull the worksurface down, exposing the whiteboard/ writing surface. Inside, with the.... *sigh*.... loverly Contac Paper, she will have plenty of shelf space to store paper, crayons, books, etc.

Now I'm off to the city to buy a stool for her to sit at. Thanks for reading.



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    20 Discussions

    I love the making a desk thing. I would like to say the 50's, 60's and 70's paint contained lead. Lead based paint is found to cause mental retardation in children. I would suggest making her a new desk with the all the paint cleaned off. There are furniture restoring places that dip the furniture for you so you don't have to breath all those nasty fumes. It is a big messy job taking off old paint and the old paint needs to be disposed of properly. Don't want it contaminating your ground water. New shelve paper too. Lord knows how many times the paper had been sprayed with raid and the old plastic shelve paper had bad chemicals too.

    kept waiting to see how the desk was going to manifest, thought article was in a wrong place. finally saw it at the end. i think it's absolutely brilliant. pls post update on how it works for her.

    hilarious. but soooo cute.

    What about maybe attaching the work surface to a small riser (maybe an inch or two), then putting a tiny lip on it to keep things from sliding off. So as to have an angled work surface when down? Just ideas, it's a fairly excellent idea as is.

    it's a bit small, but i love the idea of having a chalkboard on one side! :-) I imagine it could save some room too, being able to put the top up, especially for playing kids. Nice job.

    While I know they have to first survive, but many items constructed out recycled items gone one to become heirloom items. How to predict such a thing I don't know, but it's a good a reason of any to keep one reasonably mindful of the quality of their work. Not that I have no criticism of this project, but how great it would be if it could survive so your 60 year old daughter could say old dad is a genius?

    One thing to be careful about with older furniture and cabinets is the presence of lead-based paint, which even if you paint over it is probably not something you want your kid playing around.

    Maybe some foldable legs to support the desk part?? Otherwise, awesome idea, I absolutely love it, what a great idea.

    This is a great instructable and a great idea. I love how you recycled something that a lot of people may have just tossed out. Glad to see you addressed the bracing/locking idea for the top. Too many years as an Emergency Medical Technician to not think of that one... One other suggestion. If you have an old (or new) swing arm lamp, it could be mounted to the side of the cabinet to provide spot on lighting for your daughter while she works. I know I am always telling my son he needs more light to work by :) ~C

    If you glued some long, thin wedges to the top, tapering them toward the front, and re-mounted the desktop hinges to the top of the wedges in the back it would slant downward toward the user. Put on a lip at the bottom and presto! it's a drafting table. I just know it's easier for me to work on a surface that angles toward me than a flat one.

    I would mount the cabinet to the wall, too. If your daughter leans on the protruding part of the desktop as she's climbing onto the stool, it could be catastrophic.

    2 replies

    Forgot to mention: I like the project! And I admire your creativity in recycling. And your magical attic sounds like my father's magical basement! It always has whatever you need.

    Thank you! I love the phrase "magical attic" it describes it perfectly.


    11 years ago

    That's pretty neat! My one concern would be keeping the panels upright when in chalkboard position; is there any bracing or locking mechanism? It looks easy to inadvertantly knock them down into the desk position, potentially squishing small fingers.

    4 replies

    I was just thinking about that today when I moved it and it fell down.... any suggestions? I was thinking maybe a simple eye and hook... or velcro....

    Ooh... those are nice. Thanks for the link!

    I'd say away from Velcro, and go for something that you can stably lock into place. The eye/hook or something similar would probably work nicely, and if it's up high your 6 year old would have trouble reaching it.