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If you lack a dedicated spot for paying bills and stashing loose stuff, a good desk is a must. And you can make one yourself with basic materials. To simplify construction, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva came up with a compact, drawer-free design. The desktop, made of plywood topped with acrylic sheeting, stands on turned legs. "Choose legs at least 29 inches tall for a comfortable working height," says Tom. To make the free-floating hutch, he simply used a small cabinet laid on its side and repurposed the door to create shelves. A cubby tucked under the desktop holds a basket for yet more storage. See how to make it yourself on the following pages. No guarantees, but it should make tackling paperwork more inviting.

  • Hutch: ClosetMaid 3-Shelf 12-inch Wood Laminate Storage cabinet.
  • Table legs: Waddell 29-inch-long by 2¼-inch-diameter country pine traditional wood table leg from HardwareAndTools.com.
  • Paint: Valspar's Cliveden Pasture.
  • Paint, lumber, and above-mentioned stock parts available at Lowes.
Step 1

Overview for Making a Desk with a Storage Hutch

Photo by Allison Dinner

Half-inch plywood is plenty sturdy for our desktop, which is 27 by 48 inches. If you want a wider or deeper desk, opt for ¾-inch plywood, or affix stringers to the underside of the desktop to prevent sagging.

Cut List

  • You can use the cut list below or download the cut list to build a desk with storage hutch here.
  • Acrylic tabletop: 1 @ 27 by 48 inches. Cut on your line, rather than beside it, to the outside for a slightly easier fit within the molding.
  • ½-inch plywood desktop: 1 @ 27 by 48 inches
  • ½-inch plywood back: 1 @ 7 ¾ by 41 ½inches*
  • ½-inch plywood sides: 2 @ 7 ¾ by 20 ½ inches*
  • *Measurement may vary with leg style. To determine the height of the back and sides, measure the square post portion at the top of the leg.
  • ½-inch plywood cubby sides: 2 @ 7 ¾ by 12 inches
  • ½-inch plywood cubby top and bottom: 2 @ 12 by 13 inches
  • 1x3 apron: 1 @ 27 ½ inches
  • 1x2 cleat: 1 @ 41 ½ inches
  • 1x2 cleat: 2 @ 20 ½ inches
  • 1x2 cleat: 1 @ 27 ½ inches
  • 1x2 cleat: 6 @ 6 ½ inches
  • 1x2 cleat: 2 @ 1 ¾ inches
  • 1x2 strip: 1 @ 14 inches
  • Hutch shelves: 2 cut to size between the vertical dividers and depth of the hutch
  • ¼x5 vertical dividers: 3 @ desired height; make them at least 4 ¼ inches tall to accommodate a standard envelope. Cut to the depth of the cabinet.
  • Hardboard: 1 cut to the height and width of the cabinet.
Step 2

Cut the Parts

Photo by Allison Dinner

Cut the desktop, back, sides, 1x3 apron, 1x2 cleats, and cubby pieces to size. Cut the cabinet's door into shelves for the hutch, as per the cut list. Use a utility knife and a straightedge to trim the acrylic top to size.

Step 3

Install the Cleats

Photo by Allison Dinner

Lay the back, side, and apron pieces flat. Set the cleats on edge and position them flush with the top and sides of the flat pieces, as shown. Secure the cleats with glue, followed by 1-inch nails through the plywood and into the cleats.

Step 4

Assemble the Cubby

Photo by Allison Dinner

Glue and nail the cubby's top and bottom pieces between the shorter side pieces. Nail a 1x2 strip across the back of the cubby, flush with its bottom edge, to keep contents from sliding out.

Step 5

Attach the Base

Photo by Allison Dinner

Position the legs 1 inch from each edge at the corners. Glue the back, sides, and apron in place, their cleats flush with the inner faces of the legs, as shown. Drive 1-inch screws through the cleats and into the desktop; use 2-inch screws to go through the cleats and into the legs.

Step 6

Attach the Cubby

Photo by Allison Dinner

Glue the cubby to the underside of the desktop between the apron and the leg. Secure the cubby with 1-inch screws driven through its inner faces into the apron cleat, and 2-inch screws into the leg. Turn the desk rightside up.

Step 7

Trim the Desktop

Photo by Allison Dinner

Cut molding to size, mitering the corners. Place the acrylic on the desktop, and position the molding so that its top edge is flush with the acrylic surface. Secure the molding to the desktop with 1⅝-inch nails spaced a few inches apart.

Step 8

Make the Hutch

Photo by Allison Dinner

Turn the cabinet box on its side and nail through the top and bottom to secure its shelves as vertical dividers. Glue and nail shorter dividers to one horizontal shelf cut in Step 2. Nail it and the other shelf into place in the hutch.

Step 9

Trim the Hutch

Photo by Allison Dinner

Cut trim to size, mitering the corners. Nail trim to the top and bottom edges of the hutch's front and sides. Nail hardboard to the back of the hutch. Attach self-stick cabinet-door bumpers to the hutch's underside before placing it on the desktop.


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