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Creating Usable Under Desk Storage Space

Updated on August 21, 2020
Nathanville profile image

My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.

Our under desk storage, following a major home-office makeover.
Our under desk storage, following a major home-office makeover.

Intro

Desk pedestals and other suitable drawers and cabinets to fit under the desk are a neat way to utilise under desk storage; and they are not over expensive to buy. However, where you don’t have a pedestal, and in far back corner spaces under desk, the spaces can be less accessible and either used as a dumping ground or underutilised.

In our home-office we do have a couple of pedestals (one for me, and one for my wife) and a paper cabinet which we kept from when (years ago) had a photocopier. The pedestals aren’t quite as high as the desk, so we use the top of one of the pedestals as a handy place to keep rulers.

We also had a metal tea trolley in the far corner under the desk (which was used as a dumping ground), and an Ikea computer desk that I put under the side desk. We bought a cheap Ikea computer desk years ago as a prop for a video my son had to make as part of his university degree in ‘media broadcasting’; and when he finished with it I used it as the support for the side desktop.

The Ikea desk was convenient in that our rubbish bins slid in underneath it; however:

  • The shelf wasn’t very high, so it’s access and use was limited, and
  • The desktop extended beyond the sides, which created wasted space on one side of the Ikea desk.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Using gap between one of the pedestals and desk for keeping our rulers to hand.The two pedestals in our office.The main desk area before the home-office  makeover.
Using gap between one of the pedestals and desk for keeping our rulers to hand.
Using gap between one of the pedestals and desk for keeping our rulers to hand.
The two pedestals in our office.
The two pedestals in our office.
The main desk area before the home-office  makeover.
The main desk area before the home-office makeover.

Therefore, as part of a recent home-office makeover we rationalised our under desk storage in three main ways, as detailed below:

  1. Repurpose a drawer, as a desk drawer, from a redundant pine dining table.
  2. Modify and relocate the Ikea computer desk to the far corner, under the main desk, replacing the metal tea trolley.
  3. Make a new bespoke shelving unit, from recycled wood, to fit under the side desk.

Repurposed Drawer

When he moved home, a friend of ours gave us a pine dining table which we repurposed as a sewing table in our conservatory. Recently, a relative gave us an old oak dining table, with fold down side flaps, which needed a lot of repair and renovation. Once I’d renovated the oak table we swapped it in with the pine table as a replacement sewing table; because when folded down the oak table took up less floor space.

Thus the pine table became redundant, and with our friends consent we decided to recycle the wood as part of our home-office makeover. The table top was recycled as shelving in the office alcove, replacing the old veneered chipboard shelving, and some of the wood was also used as part of the replacement desk corner unit I made during the office makeover.

The table drawer itself, I salvaged and fitted under the main office desk, above where we sit, as a convenient stationery drawer.

Stationery drawer under desk, repurposed from redundant pine dining table.
Stationery drawer under desk, repurposed from redundant pine dining table.

Rationalising Under Desk Storage in the Far Corner

This is one of the most inaccessible parts of the office, and previously had just been used as a dumping ground. I had slipped a redundant metal tea trolley in this space, to put the base speaker on; but otherwise, the rest of the trolley’s shelving wasn’t easily accessible and just used for dumping.

However, on reflection, I could see potential for the Ikea computer desk, with modifications, being a better fit; and facilitating better use of the space. It would still mean crawling under the desk to use the storage space, however the main advantages of replacing the tea trolley with the Ikea computer desk would be:

  • The shelving would be easier to use and keep tidy, and
  • If I added a base, it would be easier to keep junk off the floor; making it easier to vacuum and sweep the floor, to keep the floor under the desk cleaner.

Also, the teas maid trolley wouldn’t go to waste as it’s far sturdier to the metal trolley my wife uses in the conservatory for some of her sewing stuff; so it would make a nice replacement.

The steps I took to make these modifications were as follows:

  1. Empty and remove the teas maid trolley from under the main desk.
  2. Empty and remove the Ikea computer desk from under the side desk.
  3. Accurately measure the height under the main desk and shorten the Ikea computer desk to fit e.g. the worktop for the main desk is about ½ inch thicker than the worktop used for the side desk; plus it had to be a little lower to clear the support beams for the desktop.
  4. Making a base for the Ikea computer desk. Using one of the old veneered chipboard alcove shelves, replaced with pine shelving from the redundant dining table (as part of the office makeover).
  5. Using a piece of recycled 1” x 2” timber as the front kickboard, and side supports, for the base shelf.
  6. Gluing and screwing the kickboard, and side supports, to the base shelf.
  7. Using the side supports and clamps to glue and screw the base board to the base of the Ikea computer desk.
  8. Recycling one of the old office alcove shelves as a back stop to the newly created base shelf; fixing it to the outside of the back of the cupboard to create a gap large enough to thread cables through as part of cable management.
  9. Slide the modified Ikea computer desk into position under the main desk; leaving a gap at the back and far end for cable management; and then rewire the base speaker in position on the top shelf.
  10. Finally, store things, that don’t need frequent access, neatly in the new under desk storage shelving.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Original dumping ground, in the far corner under the desk.Old teas maid trolley removed, to make space for the modified Ikea computer desk.Marking up to cut an inch off the base of the unit, so that it will fit under the main desk.Measuring and marking wood, recycled from the old office alcove shelving, to make a base shelf for the Ikea computer desk. Cutting scrap wood to size for a kickboard for the base shelf.Gluing and screwing the kickboard to the base shelf.Screwing and gluing the base shelf to the Ikea unit.Using recycled veneered chipboard as a half height back stop for the base shelf; leaving a gap for cable management.Sliding the Ikea unit in place, and wiring up the base speaker on the top shelf.
Original dumping ground, in the far corner under the desk.
Original dumping ground, in the far corner under the desk.
Old teas maid trolley removed, to make space for the modified Ikea computer desk.
Old teas maid trolley removed, to make space for the modified Ikea computer desk.
Marking up to cut an inch off the base of the unit, so that it will fit under the main desk.
Marking up to cut an inch off the base of the unit, so that it will fit under the main desk.
Measuring and marking wood, recycled from the old office alcove shelving, to make a base shelf for the Ikea computer desk.
Measuring and marking wood, recycled from the old office alcove shelving, to make a base shelf for the Ikea computer desk.
Cutting scrap wood to size for a kickboard for the base shelf.
Cutting scrap wood to size for a kickboard for the base shelf.
Gluing and screwing the kickboard to the base shelf.
Gluing and screwing the kickboard to the base shelf.
Screwing and gluing the base shelf to the Ikea unit.
Screwing and gluing the base shelf to the Ikea unit.
Using recycled veneered chipboard as a half height back stop for the base shelf; leaving a gap for cable management.
Using recycled veneered chipboard as a half height back stop for the base shelf; leaving a gap for cable management.
Sliding the Ikea unit in place, and wiring up the base speaker on the top shelf.
Sliding the Ikea unit in place, and wiring up the base speaker on the top shelf.
Job complete.  Modified Ikea computer desk repurposed as storage under main desk.
Job complete. Modified Ikea computer desk repurposed as storage under main desk.

Making Bespoke Shelving Unit Under Side Desk

The existing Ikea computer desk under the side desktop didn’t make the best of the space because the top shelf was quite small (restricting its access and use), and because of the wasted space between the left hand side and the wardrobe.

Therefore, I decided to:

  • Relocate the Ikea computer desk to the corner under the main desk, where it would be better suited for storage, as described above, and
  • In its place, make a bespoke shelving unit for under the side desk to better meet our requirements.

The main criteria for the new bespoke shelving unit being:-

  • The top shelf would be high enough to be able to store files and folders upright, and
  • The left hand side panel would be dispensed with, to maximise storage space.

The advantages of the modifications being:

  • A taller shelf under the desk makes it easier to see and access; and
  • By having a wider storage space on the floor under the side desk also meant we could have two matching square black waste bins; one bin for general waste, and the other for confidential waste e.g. the blue waste bin we’d been using isn’t as wide as the black bins.

To complete this part of the project I used wood recycled from the old veneered chipboard shelving in the office alcove; which as part of the office makeover, I’d already replaced with pine wood recycled from the redundant pine dining table.

As I was using veneered chipboard for the shelf, and because it was 2 ½ feet wide, to provide extra support for the shelf and prevent it from bowing under weight, I added a middle shelf divide to the shelving unit to distribute the weight.

The steps I took to make and fit the bespoke shelving unit were:-

  1. Empty the Ikea computer desk shelf, and clear the side desk desktop.
  2. Remove the side desktop out of the way, so as to be able to remove the Ikea computer desk.
  3. Measure up the available space and draw a sketch plan of the new unit with measurements; so as to work out a cutting list.
  4. Gather together all the scrap and salvaged wood I’d need for this mini-project.
  5. Measure, mark and cut all the pieces to size.
  6. Assemble all the pieces with glue and screws.
  7. Fit in place, using shelf support screwed and glued to the wardrobe; to support the shelf and side desktop.
  8. Screw the shelving unit to the side desktop to secure in place.
  9. Put everything back in place.

Part of the design of the new shelving unit was to fix a half-height back panel to the shelf to give accessible space behind the shelf for cable management.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Original storage under side desk; using the Ikea computer desk.The Ikea unit emptied; ready for removing.Desktop also cleared; ready to remove, so as to access the Ikea unit for removing.With desktop removed; the Ikea unit can now be lifted out.Space cleared; and ready for installing the new bespoke shelving unit.Three of the old veneered chipboard shelving from the office alcove clamped together for measuring, marking up and trimming to the same width.Using a circular saw to the cut the shelving to length.All the required pieces cut to size and ready for assembly.Shelf support on the right hand side panel glued and screwed into position.The shelf glued and screwed to the right hand side panel.The middle divide screwed and glued in place.The two fixing brackets, for securing the desktop to the shelving unit, fixed into place; and the half height back stop fitted; leaving a gap for cable management.The bespoke shelving unit fitted into place, and the desktop secured to it.Bespoke shelving unit, showing the space left behind and above the backstop for cable management.The new shelving in place, and in use.
Original storage under side desk; using the Ikea computer desk.
Original storage under side desk; using the Ikea computer desk.
The Ikea unit emptied; ready for removing.
The Ikea unit emptied; ready for removing.
Desktop also cleared; ready to remove, so as to access the Ikea unit for removing.
Desktop also cleared; ready to remove, so as to access the Ikea unit for removing.
With desktop removed; the Ikea unit can now be lifted out.
With desktop removed; the Ikea unit can now be lifted out.
Space cleared; and ready for installing the new bespoke shelving unit.
Space cleared; and ready for installing the new bespoke shelving unit.
Three of the old veneered chipboard shelving from the office alcove clamped together for measuring, marking up and trimming to the same width.
Three of the old veneered chipboard shelving from the office alcove clamped together for measuring, marking up and trimming to the same width.
Using a circular saw to the cut the shelving to length.
Using a circular saw to the cut the shelving to length.
All the required pieces cut to size and ready for assembly.
All the required pieces cut to size and ready for assembly.
Shelf support on the right hand side panel glued and screwed into position.
Shelf support on the right hand side panel glued and screwed into position.
The shelf glued and screwed to the right hand side panel.
The shelf glued and screwed to the right hand side panel.
The middle divide screwed and glued in place.
The middle divide screwed and glued in place.
The two fixing brackets, for securing the desktop to the shelving unit, fixed into place; and the half height back stop fitted; leaving a gap for cable management.
The two fixing brackets, for securing the desktop to the shelving unit, fixed into place; and the half height back stop fitted; leaving a gap for cable management.
The bespoke shelving unit fitted into place, and the desktop secured to it.
The bespoke shelving unit fitted into place, and the desktop secured to it.
Bespoke shelving unit, showing the space left behind and above the backstop for cable management.
Bespoke shelving unit, showing the space left behind and above the backstop for cable management.
The new shelving in place, and in use.
The new shelving in place, and in use.
All the modifications done, and the new storage units ready for use.
All the modifications done, and the new storage units ready for use.
The new shelving unit under the side desk; giving plenty of height for filing on the shelf, and ample space underneath for the two waste bins.
The new shelving unit under the side desk; giving plenty of height for filing on the shelf, and ample space underneath for the two waste bins.

Recycling and Repurposing

When doing a major makeover, do you salvage, recycle and repurpose what you can or do you buy new?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Arthur Russ

Your Comments

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    • Nathanville profile imageAUTHOR

      Arthur Russ 

      11 months ago from England

      Thanks Jo.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      11 months ago from Tennessee

      You evidently put a lot of thought into this project. Well done.

    • Nathanville profile imageAUTHOR

      Arthur Russ 

      11 months ago from England

      Thanks Danny, I hope my article does give you some inspiration and ideas.

    • Danny Fernandes profile image

      Danny 

      11 months ago from India

      Arthur this is a very nice article. Actually I have a computer table and its too small. I was thinking of extending it by finding some ways. Your article seems to be written at the right moment. Thanks, Arthur.

    • Nathanville profile imageAUTHOR

      Arthur Russ 

      11 months ago from England

      I've just got a couple more mini-projects to write up, from doing our major office makeover, and then I've got a video to process for publishing on YouTube for a short day trip we made to Ashton Court Estate, Bristol yesterday for a Victorian style picnic.

      My wife got stir crazy from the 15 weeks Covid-19 lockdown in the UK, and needed a break e.g. its only our 2nd venture out since the social and economic lockdown in the UK on the 23rd March.

      As regards DIY, my next planned project is to make some matching wooden stacked paper filling trays to replace the assortment of plastic ones on our office desk; which, now that we've done the major office makeover, look a bit tatty.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      11 months ago from UK

      This looks like another job well planned and well carried out. What is the next project on your list?

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