Having a dedicated home office can be invaluable for getting the bills paid and your tax done, but if you’re not using it all the time it can be a real space killer. A great way to have an office when you need it that can vanish when you don’t is to convert a built-in wardrobe by adding wall cabinets, a desktop and drawers all made from plywood.
DIY: $600 (Have it done for $1800)
SKILL: 4 (Advanced)
Time: 3 days
There’s no complicated joinery, with the wall cabinets and drawers secured together using screws.
We used a tablesaw to cut the plywood, but you could easily use a circular saw and straightedge guide.
Speed up construction by using a crown stapler to attach the shelf backs and drawer bases, and a nailer for the trim, or simply secure by hand with a hammer and nails.
Measure up the space
Start by measuring the distance between the side walls, subtract 40mm from the measurement and divide the remainder by the number of cabinets.
This will leave a 20mm space between the cabinets and the walls at each end that is covered with the face frame.
We needed three 700mm-wide cabinets built 1200mm tall. You’ll also have to decide how wide to make the drawers.
The key is to construct the frame and mount the runners before building the drawers, then measure between the runners and build the drawers to fit.
Simple construction, fantastic features
Shelves can be built to reach to the ceiling to maximise the available space, and provide ample room for organising books, magazine holders and storage baskets.
The desktop provides a place to work as well as a home for office essentials such as a computer, printer, and modem. Streamline the space by making provision for power cords.
Drawers are simple to build and hang beneath the desktop at a depth that best suits the space. Include a stationery tray in one drawer to keep small items and pens in order.
How to build an in-home office
Measure the closet interior 725mm from the floor, using a builder’s square to check the corners. Transfer the measurements to plywood, minus 5mm all around for an easy fit, to cut two pieces, joining them with adhesive and 25mm x 8g screws. Cut the 50mm wide fascia from pine, using a tablesaw.
Mark level lines for the desktop and cabinet bases on the wall, 725mm and 1190mm from the floor. Mark vertical lines for the cabinet sides then secure the back and side supports for the desktop to the wall studs using 65mm x 8g screws.
Drill 2mm pilot holes through the back and side supports into the desktop spaced at 500mm centres. Position a heavy object on the desktop or ask a helper to press down on it to secure 65mm x 8g screws through the supports into the desktop.
Apply construction adhesive to the edge of the desktop and position the fascia flush with the desktop surface. Use a brad nailer to secure the fascia using 32mm brads at 300mm centres. TIP Trim the fascia to fit between the jambs of the wardrobe doors.
Secure the shelf tracks to the cabinet sides before assembling the cabinets.
TIP Inside the back of each cabinet at the top, secure a hanging strip through the sides using adhesive and 40mm x 8g screws.
Drill pilot holes to attach the sides to the base and top with 40mm x 8g screws. Using the back as a guide for squaring the cabinet, apply adhesive then staple one edge of the back to the side. Adjust the box as needed to align the other edges and finish stapling.
Secure the ledger at the 1190mm baseline with a 65mm x 8g screw at each stud location. Position each cabinet on the ledger and secure to the studs through the hanging strip with 75mm x 10g screws. Use 40mm x 8g screws to secure the base to the ledger.
Connect the cabinet fronts using 25mm x 8g screws hidden behind the shelf tracks. Brad-nail the base trim to the lower cabinet edge to create a valance for under-cabinet lighting, then attach the top and vertical trim to cover the raw plywood edges.
Build the drawer frame first, securing screws through the stringers into the dividers, then add the upper stringers to complete the frame. Secure the dividers to two of the stringers using 65mm x 8g screws then attach the remaining stringers with adhesive and 30mm x 8g screws. Add the drawer runners flush with the base of the dividers then measure between them to find the exact drawer width.
Position the drawer sides against the front and back, securing with 40mm x 8g screws. Attach the base using adhesive and brads. Mark the runner centrelines 45mm from the top of the drawer sides and secure with the supplied screws.
Centre the frame under the desktop using an offcut as a spacer to set it 19mm back from the fascia, securing with 65mm x 8g screws. Secure faces to the drawer fronts from the inside using four 30mm x 8g screws, leaving 5mm clearance below the desktop fascia.
To keep power cords out of sight, secure the splashback about 100mm from the wall, attaching it to the cleat using 40mm x 8g screws. Drill holes in the splashback with a holesaw at the cord locations and install desk cable covers, positioning a powerboard behind the splashback to ensure plenty of outlets. TIP Drill another hole through the desktop so the powerboard can be plugged into a wall outlet.
Follow the labelled diagram to install the built-in home office. It has the name of all the parts and the measurements to help you cut the components and assemble the desk and shelving.