Particle Board Desk

A small victory was won this week. I finally converted our large walk-in closet to an office (before, after). Shelves were torn down, spackle was applied, red paint was purchased, new carpeting installed. It’s finally comfortable to work at home.
my desktopWhat I’m most happy with though, is the built-in desk I devised. Run a few 2x4s around half of the room, put two (for added strength), half-inch sheets of particle board on top — and you have yourself a nice solid desk. For about $20.
The key here is polyurethane — and lots of it. Four coats did the trick, as particle board acts like a sponge, soaking up anything and everything. But it’s amazing how beautful it can look with a little finish on it. Shiny and durable — but unique.
Drilling a big hole in the corner was necessary to hide all the cords — and let me just say, it had to be a pretty damn big hole to accomodate the huge Apple Display Connector. In fact I had to essentially drill two holes side by side in order for it to fit.
Now I can get some real work done. And just as I warned that this wouldn’t turn into a home improvement tips web site. I’ll leave comments on, if anyone has any other creative desktop ideas.


  1. craig says:

    that looks like a really cool desk! Any chance we could get more pictures so I can get a better idea of how it’s built? I’m thinking about doing something similar for my new apt in the fall – cheaper than a $150 ikea desk! and neater too

  2. nick says:

    For the record, I welcome HomeImprovementBits. What’s the square footage of this assumedly ridiculously large walk-in closet? Or are you just not at all claustrophobic?

  3. Jeremy says:

    Wow, that looks great. I’ve been thinking about making a few improvements around my room, but it’ll probably have to wait until I move out.
    But I love that. Looks great.

  4. joseph says:

    Kitchen counter tops from Home Depot also work quite well. Get a nice dark one. 6 or 8 feet or so and put it on top of a couple file cabinets. Voila! I LOVE mine!

  5. Todd says:

    That does look awesome. I’m with Craig…we need to see more pictures of the final office.
    My wife and I are in the process of painting our house top to bottom. As far as offices go, I’ve always wanted to convert an old door into a desktop in some way.

  6. Xian says:

    That’s funny Todd. My desk is an old door. Propped by a filing cabinet on one side, and homemade 2×2 legs/angle bracket thing on the other side. You can’t buy a desk this big and with such nice leg room. :)

  7. Peter Drife says:

    That’s just a great idea. I’m with Craig and Todd – I’d love to see more pics of the desk and the room.
    Also, if the Home Improvement Bits pertain to your workspace in any way, I say keep it up, because it’s a topic not brought up too much anywhere else.

  8. Rob Crowther says:

    I enjoy the Home Improvement Bits as well. It’s nice to see a fresh view applied to an old topic every once in a while.
    Congrats on the desk, it certainly has an intriguing texture to it.

  9. nick – square footage is– wait, let me break it down in inches :-) 70″ x 78″. Pretty tight. But it’s got a window and a tall ceiling. It’s about the size of a cubicle. What’s nice is that it frees up the room that previously housed my computer.
    I’ll definitely post some more photos to give a better sense of how the desk is put together. Stay tuned.
    Love the door and countertop ideas — right on file cabinets. Great stuff.

  10. Sam says:

    Whoah. You managed a way to have the lady of the house give up a walk-in closet??
    I think my wife is up to 3 closets worth of clothing. I feel clothing-space repressed!
    Forget the new desktop, I want a full article on how to persuade your wife to give up her clothing-space hoggin’!

  11. Sam – ha. I should mention, prior to converting the closet, we had to have a wall built in our bedroom. A side benefit to the wall was that three closets could fit along the wall. Once that was done, I could finally do the conversion :-)

  12. Todd says:

    Xian – That’s cool. The leg room must be great. My office at work is being remodeled and I might see if I can take away one of the doors and get all “Bob Vila” on it.
    And Dan, Sam is right – my wife would cut off my right arm for a walk in closet (yes you read right). You had one made into an office!

  13. Jeremy says:

    Man, that must have some great legroom. Me, I’ve got my Office Depot desk that I bought for like $100. Now I’m kicking myself…

  14. Wow. This really is HomeImprovementBits. You oughtta make a Sponsor page dedicated to Home Depot.
    Oh, and thanks for destroying my ignorance. I have never heard of a walk-in closet with a window.

  15. dr.u says:

    I also have a desk out of a door. Got mine from one of the companies that builds modular homes. They had one that had some unacceptable marks on it. Solid core door for $10. I spent some time building the legs, slapped some white paint on it and it looks like a $300 desk from Pottery Barn. WooHoo.

  16. Tom says:

    More pictures now or suffer the consequences! (Whatever those may be…)

  17. Here are some additional photos to give you more of a sense of how the desk works — and the size of the “room”.
    full desk view
    how it’s held up
    hole for cords
    corner view
    my cubicle

  18. Chris says:

    I may have to use that idea…
    anyway, what is up with a walk-in closet with a window?

  19. Jeremy Boggs says:

    Very nice office Dan. My wife would love it if my conglomeration of stuff could be tucked away in a little room like that!
    I especially like the shade of red you used for the walls…what’s the name of it exactly?

  20. Tuomas says:

    Nice indeed. And don’t worry about the homedepoting, it is, actually, quite interesting!

  21. Wait a minute… A phone jack in a closet? I’m assuming you had that installed after you moved in.
    Pretty sweet office you got there. Let’s see how long you’ll be able to keep the desk uncluttered!

  22. dickwood says:

    That used to be a closet?!

  23. Jeremy – the color is called Infrared by a paint company called C2. Went on nice and thick.
    Hans – heh heh… that’s a cable connection that I had installed when we moved in (knowing that it would become an office).
    Oh, I also forgot to show what it looked like as a closet.

  24. Todd says:

    Excellent office there. Thanks for the exanded pictures and the before one as well. You did a great job.
    I think you should snap up and keep this going.

  25. Joel Goldstick says:

    You can skip the poly and put a sheet of formica on top.
    Nice job

  26. Eric says:

    But then you lose the coolness of the particle board texture and get the fake plastic look of formica…
    Another material that looks cool with poly is MDF – again, you have to use quite a bit. I’m thinking about using it on my floors for my future bedroom attic conversion.

  27. Tim says:

    Quick tip if you don’t have a big enough drill bit to burrow out for your large cable connectors. Just drill a half-moon out of the edge of the tabletop, along the back wall. Then you can slide the table top out, pull the wires through, then slide it back in place. Then the holes only need to be large enough to hold the wires.

  28. Anonymous says:

    “Shelves were torn down, spackle was applied, red paint was purchased, new carpeting installed.”
    What?! No caulk? I though you couldn’t get enough of the stuff.
    Btw, looks good. However it looked to me like you didn’t polyurethane inside the holes. I’de hate to see the particle board start to crumble as cords are pulled in and out a few more times. The polyurethane would really help hold it together. Of course, if the pic has deceived me, just ignore me.

  29. Kyle says:

    Can particle board be stained easily? So, I could throw a layer of stain on some and then put the layers of polyurethane on it? In my mind it looks cool.

  30. the change from before/after is stunning. love the warm feel you created there…functional and beautiful.

  31. I love the paint color, and the contrasting white trim. Very nice. I wish I owned my own place so I could paint the walls.

  32. Jeremy says:

    Dan, that is an excellent setup. I’m so jealous! :) You should publish another book called ‘HomeImprovementBits’ with ways of how to improve your at home cublicle.

  33. Jesper says:

    I, for one, welcome our new caulk gun swinging overlords.

  34. Kyle – I’m positive you could stain particle board prior to putting down polyurethane. I had thought about a dark mohagany, which might look nice. You could also experiment with different colored dyes.

  35. Yannick says:

    Nice work. Love what you did with it.

  36. craig says:

    Thanks for posting the other pics! I’m definately planning on stealing this idea after I move :)

  37. Alexander says:

    Speaking of stealing ideas … while taking the desk idea is fine, I saw that link about the portuguese site – that is a shame. while imitation is “the highest form of flattery” i don’t think the idea holds for lifting complete websites.
    oh, and for what its worth, “blatant rip” is “rasgo blatant” in portuguese.

  38. I don’t get it… you’ve been ripped twice in the past 2 months or so!
    These people either are really stupid, thinking that they can’t be noticed, or don’t have a creative mind whatsoever. Isn’t that copyright violation? I know, the images are slightly different, but…
    Whoa… Nice to see some Finns ’round here! (20. Tuomas)

  39. buyot says:

    sell it to ikea!

  40. Silus Grok says:

    Hey Dan… loverly remodel.
    : )
    Suggestion? If you ever tire of the wood staring you in the face (er, wrists), consider some nice paper under a glass top: if you’re ever down in Boston, check out Vellum ( — eventually). They’re in the Back Bay just south of the Lowes theatre on Dartmouth… very nice papers — none of that tacky shelf paper, either.
    (Wonderful site, btw, just discovered you via José Luis — — and have added you to my daily read.)

  41. Phil Baines says:

    Nice! I like that.
    My desk is an old school headmasters desk that I managed to convince an old boss to give me.
    The wood still needs a little work, but it is good old fashioned strong stuff. Loads of top space, good feet space, and big draws that I have managed to fill with rubbish and floppy disks I will never use.
    Another vote here for HomeImprovementBits!

  42. buyot says:

    yeah, HomeImprovementBits. since everyone here are experienced or at least experienced something with some furniture building, why not have a community just for it?
    who’s with me??? =)

  43. Brent says:

    How does the polyurethane work with an optical mouse?
    It looks great!

  44. Kyle says:

    How are the edges of the desk on your arms? I tend to lean back in my office chair, and forearms rest on the edges. Particle board seems like it could be painful.

  45. Giles says:

    Yep that looks cool. Do you know you’ve won best design for a Blog?

  46. Kyle says:

    I just wanted to add that a HomeImprovementBits site in the style of ALA would be downright awesome.

  47. Brent – seems to work fine with an optical mouse, although I do use a mouse pad. You get away without using one.
    Kyle – The edges aren’t too bad. Because of all the poly, they aren’t sharp anymore. You could add rounded, pine trim to the edge. Something I thought about doing. But it’s not painful as is.

  48. Darrel says:

    For the record, I’d LOVE to see a HomeImprovementBits blog. Are there any like that out there? There really aren’t any sites dedicated to the more ‘modern, practical’ DIYer out there. You either have the HGTV watching suburbanite or the This Old House rich upper-crust person. Where’s the IKEA-centric DIYer resources (sans too much actual IKEA furnishings ;o)?

  49. Darrel says:

    Oh…the one exception being readymade magazine…though not really a blog, of course.

  50. Michael Nutt says:

    If you ever decide you want to clean up the hole for the cords, you could always cut it a little bit rounder, then get one of those black plastic pieces that wraps around the cords and the hole to prevent the cords from wearing.
    On the other hand, black plastic might ruin the look.

  51. mBoszko says:

    Cool! I love the desk and the red room. Definitely will be doing something similar when we finally get a house (though I’ll need more space, as I’m a video editor, and I’ll need somewhere to put all my gadgets).
    Plus, another vote for HomeImprovementBits!

  52. Michel Lefou says:

    Number 1, the new cabinet looks great, Dan! Two thumbs up for the desk and all the arrangements you made in the closet-office:)))
    Number 2, just wanted to add my vote to! I found this SimpleSite ;-) via some erraneous CSS reading on the Net and it became one of my favourite places to visit. Keep it going this way!
    …Oh, and No.3, I always read with interest your small bits about home improvement:)

  53. Michael Nutt says:

    Are you able to write on paper that’s directly on it? If you aren’t, it might help if you used some fine-grained sandpaper to sand out the bumps.
    I came here for the CSS too, but the home improvement posts are definitely interesting.

  54. I have been needing to add some desk space to my home office for some time now. Not a lot, just enough to set some things on as I come and go.
    Yesterday I had a look at what you did, and today I have just what I have been needing. Thanks for the great idea.
    P.S. I also think homeimprovementbits would be great.

  55. Krissy says:

    That room looks amazing! Well done.

  56. lor says:

    what a great new office! well done. i’m still drooling over that monitor of yours though;)

  57. Brooke says:

    Awesome job, Dan! I *love* the use of the particle board. Who knew it could look so good?
    This entire home improvement thing is really making me want to get started on my own “office” space.

  58. andy says:

    Beautiful transformation!!

  59. Heidi says:

    Can’t believe I came across this. I am looking for ideas to build a desk for my daughter’s room in this little nook that she has. I was thinking of using formica but I like the natural look of your desk much better. The practicality is also appealing! Thanks for the clever idea.

  60. Dan says:

    I don’t have a desk suggestion, but I do have a chair suggestion.

  61. Floy Schwilling says:

    I would like to have a pattern to build a computer desk in a closet. Where would I be able to find the pattern. I have seen it on “In A Fix,” and “While You Were Out.”

  62. Christine says:

    Awesome job. I’m in process of making a corner desk myself. The 2×4 gave me a great idea for support in the corner. I think I even have enough p.b. to use as support. Home Depot is great for DIY jobs. They’ll cut your material for you. I making a 8′x4′ desk for about 70. Cubicles under the desk included.

  63. Looks lovely, are your offices open to the public?

  64. Evan Scott Smith says:

    hey dan how did you connect the lower piece of particle board and what kind of stain did u use?