Turn a Closet Into a Desk

This instructable shows how to build a desk in a closet.

Tools: table saw, cross cut saw, scroll saw, drill, hammer, countersink drill, level, router, screwdrivers, sander, sandpaper, ruler, pencil.

Material: 3/4 MDF plywood, mahogony trim, draw slide hardware, wood screws, finishing nails, tung oil, wood glue, keyboard drawer, electrical wall outlet, ethernet outlet, electrical wall switch, ethernet cable, electrical wire, paint.

Author's Comments: (06-Dec-08)
1) Added a few more pictures.

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Step 1: Clearing the Work Area

Start with an empty closet. Remove closet doors, rugs, and trim. This closet is approximately 2 feet deep by 8 feet wide. Its easiest to work with a nice clean workspace.

Step 2: Create Desk Mount Points

Cut a strip of 3/4 MDF and attach to back wall of closet. The top of strip should be 3/4" below the top surface of where you want the top of your desk to be. Do the same along the front edge of closet as shown. Locate the studs behind the sheetrock using a stud finder. Drill holes throught MDF strip, countersink the holes, and secure with wood screws. Use a level to make sure the top of the strip is level all the way around the closet.

Step 3: Cut and Test Fit Desk Top

Take measurements of the closet. Using these dimensions measure and draw the shape of the top of the desk on a sheet of 3/4 MDF. Use scroll saw to cut. Test fit the desk top in the closet by letting it sit on the strips installed in step 2. Do not fasten the top to the strips at this time.

Step 4: Cut and Test Fit Desk Bottom and Desk Interior Beams

Remove the top that was being test fit in the last step. Cut the bottom of the desk out of 3/4 MDF. test fit the bottom of the desk in the closet. It should fit against the bottom of the strip of MDF installed in the closet.

Cut interior beams from MDF and test fit them on the bottom of the desk as shown. These interior pieces will be sandwinched between the top and bottom of the desk to form drawers, cable trays, and tool wells.

Attach interior pieces with wood glue and countersunk screws from the bottom. Make sure you drill holes prior to inserting screws to avoid splitting the wood.

Step 5: Let There Be Legs

Cut 3/4 MDF legs. The legs are inserted in dato slots cut in the bottom of the desk. The fit should be snug. Eventually the legs will be attached with glue and screws, but don't do this yet.

Step 6: Reinstall the Top

Set the top back on for a test fit to make sure everthing lines up correctly.

Step 7: Wire It Up

Find a good location behind the desk and install electrical switch and outlet. I also installed ethernet and telephone wiring. Keep the electrical wiring separated from the phone and ethernet wiring as far as possible to avoid electrical interference in the data lines.

Step 8: Close Up the Wall

Test wiring for proper operation. Cut sheetrock to match the hole. tape and mud the seams and apply texture as desired.

Step 9: Time to Paint

Remove the desk and paint the closet. Install cover plates over the new electrical outlets.

Step 10: Reinstall Desk

After the close has been painted and the electrical wiring has been installed it is now time to reinstall the desk. This time glue and screw all joints for the final time. Make sure all surfaces are level. Be careful not to damage paint on walls when reinstalling the desk pieces.

Step 11: Drawers

Install drawer slides in the cutouts on the front of the desk.

Step 12: Feet and Shelves

Cut feet for the bottom of the legs and cut shelves. Attach shelves to wall in the same way the desk top was attached to the walls. Attach shelves to leg in a dato groove cut into the side of the leg. Slide feet under the legs from the front. The feet have a dato groove cut in their top side. You might need to use a rubber mallet to install the feet... the fit should be snug.

Step 13: Tool Wells

Sand the edges of the tool well to match the interior beams.

Step 14: Keyboard Tray

Cut the bottom of the desk to accept a keyboard tray. Sand all surfaces smooth and clean up the work area. Get ready now to install the top shelves.

Step 15: Install Top Shelves

Cut 3/4 MDF to create shelves. Glue and screw all joints. Use dato grooves in the vertical shelf support to hold horizontal shelves.

Step 16: Mahogony Trim Work

Use some exotic wood for trim pieces. Cut trim pieces to length for each exposed edge of MDF. Use a router to round off the edges. Glue and attach trim pieces with finishing nails. Sand smooth and finish with tung oil, paint, or some other stain.

Step 17: Lights

Create light boxes and install on the roof of the closet. Wire these light to the switch installed earlier. I used some flourescent lights and build these boxes around them.

Step 18: Drawers

Build drawers. The front of the draws were cut from the front trim of the desk so that they are flush when closed. The back edge of the desk has a well that opens up to hide computer cables, telephone wires, etc.

Step 19: Some Additional Detail Photos

This steps shows a few details of the completed desk.

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    23 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 12

    Be careful not to damage paint on walls when reinstalling the desk pieces!! ;)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great Idea !, found 2 of these.
    Thanks !


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Agree with many other comments.

    Recommend LED lighting, not Flouroescent. Could even light up individual shelves to remove shadows.

    I would need many more power points, some above and some below the desk.

    I'd put in more ethernet too, but that's me.

    Why did you put in a keyboard/mouse tray when there's no computer? Do you set up a laptop there sometimes?

    There are mounting systems to fasten an LCD monitor to a wall or under a shelf, saving precious desk space.

    Good idea using a rolly chair on the hard floor. That would be much harder if there was a bottom sill or tracks for a door.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Material Listing:
    3/4 MDF plywood,
    mahogony trim,
    draw slide hardware,
    wood screws,
    finishing nails,
    tung oil,
    wood glue,
    keyboard drawer,
    electrical wall outlet,
    ethernet outlet,
    electrical wall switch,
    ethernet cable,
    electrical wire,

    I'd say $100-$200 (plus your time) depending on what deals you can find on the above materials.


    Love your ideas here. I was considering turning my closet into a desk area some time ago, but I tossed the idea... your instructable has re-sparked that possibility. I'm digging the tool well idea especially - I'm a jewelry artist and stuff gets in the way all the time :)

    Out of curiosity, do you remember how many MDF sheets you used for this?

    How did you finish the MDF surfaces? Any particular reason you didn't paint?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comments. I love the tool wells too. Its great to have my tools where I can see them and get to them easily yet still have them out of the way. I seem to remember using about 3 or 4 sheets of MDF. I finished the surfaces with sealer & tung oil because I like the look of stained wood better than painted surface. Also it would have been a waste of the expensive mahogony wood trim pieces if I would have painted over them. Painting would have been easier and quicker but it wouldn't have produced the look and feel I was going for.


    9 years ago on Step 19

    I had the idea of cutting out a little in the middle of the desk. It would be just big enough to slide the chair into. You could then slide the chair in, close the doors (which you would have left on) and have a Hide-away Office.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    All the tools required I might as well get someone to do it for me.

    Table saw, cross cut saw, scroll saw, drill, hammer, countersink drill, level, router, screwdrivers, sander, sandpaper, ruler, pencil + my time.

    whats that like $1000? And dont tell me to get some cheap Chinese made pos table saw from harbor freight for $40 that could kill me first time using it.

    Im going to make a instructable .. How to build a rocket ship... Tools needed: 2 SRBs, Launch pad,  Vehicle Assembly Bay ~3,665,000^3 meters, dont forget your APCP!  EASY DIY!

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    well actually i have all that stuff for work already  ind its probably something you could do over a weakened 


    9 years ago on Step 19

    Impressive desk! I'll be tempted to try this one day. If the closet doors could be fitted in place with a lock, then you could have your own, private multimedia station.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    You know, on the thumbnail, it looks like a desk flush against a wall. Great instructable!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    it's awesome, but what happen with your closet?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Love it.. I dig on custom furniture. Good use of the space too.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Thats great as I was reading it I kept waiting for the part where you put the bathroom fan in to get rid of the solder smoke. WHen my kids move out this is will happen