A built-in desk can be an expensive project unless you have an easy built-in desk DIY like this one.  All you need are some kitchen cabinets and a few pieces of wood to create an entire wall of built-ins.  Here’s a great step-by-step tutorial.

This simple DIY desk makes a great addition to any craft room. Learn how to make your own built-in desk with these simple instructions.

built in desk for craft room with bright colors and polka dot rug

I know you are going to be surprised at this, but I have brilliant ideas every day.


I’m always thinking of them.  The challenge is that 97.25% of them don’t work out.  But every now and then—once in a blue moon an idea comes along that actually works.  Like this idea for a built-in desk.  And then? I totally amaze even myself.

This built-in desk project is even easier and simpler and looks better than I could have ever imagined.

A successful project.

A successful story.

A successful built-in desk masterpiece.

One of the 2.75% ideas that worked out.

empty utility room

how to make a built-in desk for the craft room

Here’s the before of the craft room

In its glory day, it was a tanning bedroom.  People from all over the county would come to the beauty shop for a cut and curl and a tan.  It’s a small room that measures only 6 feet wide by 11.4 feet deep.

It could be a closet.

Or storage.

But I had bigger visions.  I knew that it would be perfect for a craft room.

How much does it cost to do built-ins?

Custom built-ins can be very expensive and average $500-$1000 per linear foot.  The cost of built-ins is determined by the materials used, the amount of decorative molding, and the size and scope of the project.  In addition, finding a qualified carpenter with the vision to build it to your specifications can also be challenging.

Do built-ins add value?

Yes.  Typically, built-ins in the kitchen, living room, or closet add additional value to the home.  Built-ins add storage, create additional space in a room and add character and personality to the home.

How much space do you need to build a desk?

A free-standing desk is normally 30 to 60 feet wide and 20 to 30 inches deep.  The knee space under the desk should be between 20 to 26 inches high.  For this project, I simply used the entire length of the wall.  The key with this project is making sure the width between the desks for seating and the knee space was similar to that of a free-standing desk. It was the perfect solution to create more workspace in this closet. I could work on all my craft projects and if I had to stop in the middle of a project, I could just close the door. It is also such a space-saving option for more desk space.

What wood would I use to build a built-in desk?

For this project, we used MDF or multi-density fiberboard for the top and basic kitchen cabinets for the base.  You could also use plywood for the top if you were planning on painting the built-in desk or a nicer quality wood like oak or walnut if you were going to stain the project after you were finished building it.

primed plywood sub floor with linoleum removed

Step 1:  Start the built-in desk project by removing the existing flooring (if needed)

This step is only necessary if you are replacing the flooring.  We started the project by pulling up the existing black and white linoleum.

(total aside:  I love black and white linoleum….just not some linoleum that is pulling away from the wall and oddly smells like a tanning bed).

Next, we pulled off the baseboards and primed the floor.

(total aside number 2:  the pronoun “we” is a little misleading….I was the supervisor).

faux marble peel and stick vinyl tile on floor in craft room

Step 2:  lay down new flooring

Next, we laid down peel and stick tile in a diagonal pattern.

(total aside number 3:  peel and stick is a great option on a budget leaving plenty of $$ left over for a brilliant idea)

(total aside number 4:  a “total aside” is so much better than just an “aside.”)

built in desk from kitchen cabinets without molding

Step 3:  Install base cabinets to make a built-in desk

For this project, I wanted a built in desk area, but to hire a carpenter is so expensive and this is a budget craft room.  The room is so narrow that there is only a 15″ clearance on either side of the door and cabinets that you buy off the shelf typically have a 24″ depth.  Enter brilliant idea number 1,345,678.  We bought four upper cabinets off the shelf at the home improvement store.

These cabinets measure 30″ high x 18″ wide x 12″ deep.

Perfect fit.

Four cabinets fit perfectly along the wall with a 21″ space between each one.  These cabinets created three desk areas with plenty of storage.  Just make sure when you install them the doors are going the right way.

built in desk using upper cabinets for base in desk in craft room

Step 4:  Add top

We made sure all the cabinets were level, shimmed them where needed and attached them to the wall.

Then we simply added a 1″ piece of MDF that was cut to 14″ wide for the desktop.  This allowed a little overhang and made it look like a custom built-in.

To finish the project, all we have left to do is add trim moldings to the bottom and add a piece of super thin plywood to the sides to cover the press board and then caulk and paint the built-ins.

built in desk instructions

Step 5:  Paint the built in desk

After we add the moldings to the craft room cabinets, we’ll prime and paint the entire built-in desk.

If we were planning on staining the project instead, we’d have chosen wood like oak or walnut to construct the top and add additional pieces to cover the sides of the cabinets.

The entire project took a couple of weekends to complete.

It really was so much easier using pre-built cabinets instead of constructing entirely new cabinet bases.

colored pencils

Thank goodness for brilliant ideas.

Normally my brilliant ideas take weeks or months or years.

Or never at all.

But this one was finished before I knew it.

Good thing “we” are so handy. 🙂

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  1. Image for Lisa at celebrate CREATIVITY Lisa at celebrate CREATIVITY

    Good morning Karianne, this is such a good idea. I can sort of picture how it might look, but I know your reveal will be more fab than what I'm imagining right now. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished room. What a super way to put small space to great use. Enjoy your day!

  2. Image for Susan M. Susan M.

    For sure we are kindred spirits (despite, of course, red lipstick making me look like a hooker :) because I totally think of myself as the Queen of Brilliant! Where I get in to trouble is the execution due to the fact that I'm the Supervisor and Jacqay-of-all-Trades combined into one and thus many of those Brilliant Ideas turn into a big UH OH - certainly not nearly as brilliant as in my mind's eye! Oh, as a "total aside", I'm loving this Brilliant Idea!

  3. Image for Christine Christine

    OMG You have amazing timing.....I've been thinking about using those cabinets for a small desk in my kitchen, now I can flatter you by imitation...LOL Can't wait to see the finish!

  4. Image for Beverly Beverly

    I thought I had seen a glow of brilliance in the sky coming from your direction. Either that or an extraterrestrial, but now I know it was brilliant you.

  5. Image for Angela Angela

    I just know this room is going to be awesome!! You know, supervisor is the most important job!! Be sure to wear a hard hat and, of course, red lipstick! Can't wait to see what your mind has spinning around in it! ~~Angela

  6. Image for Donnamae Donnamae

    Perfect idea for a narrow room. ( total aside #1, I've used peel and stick before...they do have their moment!). And, just so you know...when I say "we", I'm the supervisor too! ;)

  7. Image for Cynthia Cynthia

    Great story and I am sure your ideas work more then you said, you are so talented. I love what you are doing. Can't wait to see it finished. Cynthia

  8. Image for Pendra Pendra

    Can't wait to see the finished space. I went to Target and purchased the closet type cabinets with doors and put down 3 of them and then a MDF topper...it's a little taller and I need to use a stool to sit at it, but it worked great and fills a 12 ft. wall in my craft area and for under $75.00 I have a very large craft area. After all... creativity is the secret to a tight budget!!! You always take everything to a higher place, so I can't wait to see your creative space!!!

  9. Image for Pamela @ Flower Patch Farmhouse Pamela @ Flower Patch Farmhouse

    I am so with you on ideas not working out a good portion of the time. My obliging, sweet hubby has moved my greenhouse a few times because of my 'bright' ideas. It is an all day extremely taxing task and he does it,,,,all for me. I am so glad this one worked out for you....and I am glad for your worker too. :)

  10. Image for Sheryll & Critters. Sheryll & Critters.

    I have been wanting to do this for my tiny home office, but never seem to have any extra money to even purchase the plywood for the top. I have a plan... but to do it is the thing.

  11. Image for GinaE GinaE

    This is such a great idea! I thought I was the only one having "great ideas" that most of the time didn't work out. I felt a little better hearing someone as clever and talented as you, feels the same. Can't wait to see the desk finished. Hugs!

  12. Image for Regina Regina

    I can't wait to see the finished product! Stock cabinets are the great unsung heroes of brilliant ideas, aren't they? :)

  13. Image for Erin Erin

    "We" have gutted our house to the studs and refinished almost every room all by "ourselves". I think that coming up with the ideas, taking the kids to Grandma's during the execution and problem solving over the phone counts for something! We need to carve out some space for homeschooling our 4 big kids while still having play space for the little kids-I think that this idea will fit us perfectly!

  14. Image for Deanne Deanne

    Just did the same with lower cabinet for my craft room...and a leftover piece of wainscoting to the side that is exposed to give a more finished look. Love seeing your projects in development. I supervised too! I am very (insert sarcasm here) good as supervisor!

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