Wall Desk and Bookshelves




This is my first instructable on how I made a wall desk with bookshelves for my young son's room. It was inexpensive, fairly easy and does not involve bulky furniture. It is adjustable so as he gets bigger, the desk top can move up. The project cost was approximately $90 and I did on a Saturday. I put finish on the wood after installing it on a Sunday. Total time about 4 hours. The only power tool needed is a power miter saw. Borrow one if you don't have. Many have these now. You don't need a table saw. Just get it cut down at Home Depot or Lowes. The cut panels are easier to bring home in a small car too.

Why make an instructable on this?
I got the idea after seeing Wall units by Elfa at The Container Store, but Elfa is very expensive and out of my budget.
Also, Ron Hazelton has a similar wall unit DIY project, but requires lots of work and custom jig making.
Hopefully this will help others in looking for desk alternatives to furniture.

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Step 1: Get Your Materials

While Home Depot or Lowes sells premade shelving, they do not have shelves that are 20" wide, which you will need for the desk. Also, I wanted to have a thicker edge to give the appearance of of thicker desktop and shelf. The 3/4" thick shelves look a bit flimsy and cheap.

But a 4x8 sheet of melamine plywood and have it cut down as follows:
(1) 20" x 5' piece
(2) 12" x 5" pieces
1st 2 cuts free + 2 cuts x .50 = $1
Total Cost = $28.76

- Buy the double slot closet maid wall mounts 48" (part #107716). Closet maid makes 3 kinds: 1 for garage (dark gray), 1 for closets (white) and 1 economy style. I chose the economy style. It is just as solid as the others.
- Buy (3) 18.5" brackets (part #239969) for the desk and (6) 11" brackets (part #107941) for the shelves.
- Buy (5) pieces of 1x2x6 select pine
Total cost = $61.42

You may need to buy (4) wall toggle bolts for the middle wall mount.

This is the wall where the shelf will be installed.

Step 2: Set Up Miter Saw for 45 Degree Cuts

Cut some scrap pieces and check against edge for tight miter joint with no gaps.

Step 3: Add Wood Support and Fence to Miter Table

In order to make really clean cuts with no tearout, attach a plywood platform and fence to your saw. Make sure everything is square, straight and aligned. Mount solidly to saw. This will allow you to know exactly where to position the cut on your pencil line too.

This way, you won't have to change the saw angle each time. Set once at beginning and use for all your cuts. I had my 45 degree set up on the left side. Just make sure your pencil lines on the wood are correctly positioned.

Step 4: Measure and Make Cuts

I held the wood up to the plywood and marked where I needed to make the miter cut. Check twice before cutting.

Step 5: Glue and Nail Wood On

I used yellow glue and a Portable Cable air nailer with 1.625" nails. Next time I would use regular nails. The nailer is nice, but sometimes it comes through on the surface or underneath. The nail hits the composite plywood with such force, it curls the nail a bit. It nails it solid as a rock though. I thought it might not be enough to glue and nail and edge piece on, but it is on there very strongly. It is not going anywhere. If using regular finish nails, pre-drill the wood facing only with a finish nail in your drill (with nail head cut off).

Note: I made sure to use a wet sponge to get all the glue off the melamine and wood edge before hardening. It would be tough to clean up later and you may damage the melamine.

Step 6: Finish Up by Planing, Sanding and Routing Edges

After the glue is dry, I used a plane to make sure the wood edges were flush with the top. I went light to not cut into the melamine. I sanded the wood then routed with a 1/4" round over bit on the top edge. I sanded lightly again. I filled the nail holes with homemade filler of yellow glue and wood dust. After dried, I sanded that too.

Step 7: Install Wall Mounts, Apply Finish

The two outside wall mounts must absolutely go into wall studs. Use a stud finder to locate. I used (4) 2.5" deck screws for each. The middle mount had no stud. I used heavy duty drywall toggle bolts which were made to handle heavy weight. Get heavy duty. Don't use the cheap plastic insert. Make sure it can hold 100+ lbs.

Space the shelves and desk for any equal overhang on each side. Drive screws to secure the brackets to bottoms of shelves and desktop.

I applied 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic waterbased urethane finish to wood. If you want an amber finish, go with an oil based finish. I used water based to cut down on the smell as it was too cold in my garage to finish the wood out there. I had to do inside.

That's it. Good luck if you plan to make this. It worked out great and provides and nice solution that does not involve adding furniture to a small room. Reasonable in cost and not much equipment needed to make. The adjustment feature is great too.



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    13 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I took inspiration from this when I replaced by cheap, flimsy desk with a space saving one that was made sturdier by being attached to the wall. My Dad looked at my ideas, went shopping with me, and built it for me in the course of a couple weeks. He'd have probably been able to do it in 2-3 days if he'd hadn't other projects and a long work schedule, and most of that was waiting for paint and sealant to dry. Heavy-duty drywall anchors were used to secure it. I just thought I'd share mine for some additional ideas. :)

    (Before this desk was built, we also put a very long bookshelf over my door and closet, with pine board and the same shelf brackets, but with the brackets installed on top of the board instead of below, so that spacing them with the doorways wouldn't be an issue.)

    And yes, I'm in my 20s. And that's a rabbit pen next to the desk. I *think* the desk was around $30 in materials.

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Step 7

     Great idea and plan. I bet it would work with fir strips on the edges butted on the corners as well;  I think I'll use some plywood for mine.


    10 years ago on Step 7

    well done!!! i like this idea, im planning on combining this with another instructable i saw called table for electronic dreams... i'm planning on doin dis on my room, d desk will have d electronic dreams thing... im also planning on covering the space between shelves with some whiteboard or bulletin board or something, wood... etc... so the metal things wont be viewable and for giving it a nicer view... i can also decorate it :P nice done! good idea! i will deffinitely do this in my bedroom :P


    10 years ago on Introduction

    finally! I have been searching for this type of desk for ages! i would like something like this to put my piano and books on. in the beginning of your instructions you mentioned something about that you could buy something similar at Elfa. do you still know the link for that exact desk? do you know anything similar that i could buy? thanks, lode

    1 reply

    11 years ago on Step 7

    excellent idea. I will be using this when I move into my first house. I have a desk now that I use and I hate it. the adjustability is fantastic. excellent instructables, only thing I need is a router, or maybe substitute some moulding like quarter round or wainscotting cap moulding for the sides of the melamine, what do you think? Caesar

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Step 7

    Great. Sure, molding would work fine. I would recommend using something at least 1" to give the appearance of a thicker board. Also, make sure you get the double pronged brackets and wall mounts. Mine is solid as a rock. I can sit on my desktop and I am 165 lbs! The single prong brackets are not strong enough.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Wonderfully simple design. Though, I can't help but imagine myself falling asleep from hours of homework, slumped over the desk when all of a sudden the whole desk snaps off from my bodyweight leaning on it.

    2 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    It is much stronger than you would think. Remember, the double pronged supports are being used. The single pronged version would be a bit too flimsy.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I agree it looks nice but I think it may not be strong enough for many people to utilize.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Really awesome job.
    I just recently put a desk in my room because I needed it to work and stuff, if I do just the desk in this Instructable, off with my desk!
    Awesome job.