DIYdiy projects

diy project: maggi’s minimalist oak desk

by Grace Bonney

today’s first diy project (of 4!) belongs to brooklynite maggi pattillo. she created this simple but stunning desk with a few boards from lowes and a whole lot of crafty-ness. her instructions are easy-to-follow and make for a fantastic weekend project if you’re looking to create a custom desk area. click here for maggi’s instructions or just click “read more” below. [thanks, maggi!]

Maggi’s Minimalist Oak Desk


* two 6-ft. oak boards cut into two 5-ft. long sections and two 5-in. long sections
* three 4-inch metal L brackets
* stud finder
* electric drill with drill bits and screwdriver bit
* twelve 2 in. long wood screws
* (optional) tung oil


1. I bought oak boards from Lowe’s and had them cut them to size and cut smaller pieces for the sides.

2. I drilled pilot holes for the screws in the top and bottom board (see picture below) and then screwed each side to the bottom.

3. I mounted the top to the wall using the L brackets brackets screwed into three studs (see picture below).

4. I then screwed the bottom and sides to the top and it was finished.

5. Afterwards, I rubbed it down with tung oil to protect it, which darkened the wood slightly but retained the matte finish.

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  • Oh, it’s gorgeous :) I had a bolted in cupboard fall on me once…. probably had it too full of canned goods though…. but I don’t imagine you’ll have any problems with this delicate piece of work!

  • that’s beautiful! i’d love to have something like this in our bedroom or something. i wish my studio area could have one of these, but all the stuff i work on takes up a lot more space than something like this could offer. i’m going to keep this in mind for when we buy a house, though!

  • This desk is fabulous! It is such a great idea for a small space. Which of course, since I live in LA, “small” is the only kind of space I have.

  • i love it! perfect for my fossil and shell collection. another product to use is: restor-a-finish. i use the maple “color” because it has minimal stain, but makes the grain more obvious.

  • This is fabulous. I’m doing it! Possibly even *this* weekend.

    How deep did you drill the pilot holes?

  • This is the best thing I have seen in a while…I love it. So simple and yet so beautiful and functional.

    I think it would also make a great sideboard in a small dining room.

  • Sorry, we had a comment glitch so I’m posting a few comments that were mistakenly posted under the center advertisement:

    OpenHouseRichmond: how cute! way to go Maggi! you’re so creative.

    Colleeen: really, really great. great-looking and very space-efficient.

  • Wonderful desk!
    I am thinking about moving my bedroom around. If I do it, this desk would work great in the area my bed is currently in!

  • Hi guys,

    I was out of town until tonight and didn’t realize my desk was on the site! Thanks for all the great comments! To answer your questions:

    The boards are 5 feet long and 10 inches wide. (The mid section pieces are 10″ x 5 “). I drilled the pilot holes about half an inch in. You just need to get the screws started so they don’t split the (fairly thin) board.


  • This is wonderful! My partner is alot taller than me and always finds desks too low so this would be a great idea!

  • I’m in the middle of a bathroom reno and had the idea to install a built-in make-up counter but was trying to decide what style I wanted and how I was going to go about building it. NOW I KNOW! This will work perfectly, and the best thing is, I only need to make it about 3 feet wide and have enough wood in my garage already!

  • What a great idea! I love this look. I am going to do something similar and paint it black and add some wall-mural stickers in silver or white, or maybe some cool silver stamps on it and then line the inside with gift wrap paper in a stripped black/silver/white pattern. I’m very excited about this. Thanks loads for sharing!

  • This is so nice, would it be possible to use a desktop computer on it such as an iMac? It weighs about 20 pounds. Thanks!

  • Also, could the width be extended another 5 or 6 inches? Or will that send it flying to the ground?

  • can this project be extended to 8 ft. long? I have four children! I woulsd lobe to make this 8 ft by 18 in.. is that possible?

  • Does anyone have info on about how much weight this shelf/desk should hold because i’m wanting to use it as a small laptop desk in a small apartment to save space from a big bulky desk?

  • I use it for my laptop computer but you could probably put an imac on it. Be sure to put it in at least 2 studs with screws. I used toggle or molly bolts on the other brace.

    I think the boards should not be more than 15-17 inches.

  • To keep the underside from sagging in the future, you might want to add a center divider to hold the two long sides parallel. You could probably glue it in and it would hold, though pocket screws would be better. You just don’t want to screw down through the top.

  • To strengthen the desk I would recommend:
    1) using glue in addition to screws when you attach the sides
    2) to add length, width, and/or strength to the desk, add an upright board in the middle of the opening. In fact, add as many as you like to make cubbies
    3) You could attach it to the wall using a “cleat” which is how cabinet makers attach cabinets to the wall. You can buy them, or search for diy instructions on building a “wood cabinet cleat.” Cleats are boards (or metal brackets) that you attach to the studs in the wall before you hang your cabinet; then you attach your cabinet to the cleat. It’s easy to make the whole thing level. To use a cleat with the above project, just make the whole box, put up the cleat, and then attach the desk to the cleat.
    By the way, this is pretty much how all kinds of cabinets are made. Stick a door on it and you have a cupboard.

  • used oak stair treads from home depot or lowes, miter corners to make it really omph!

  • If you are just buying stock lumber, you probably won’t find it in widths greater than 12″. What you could do instead if you wanted it longer or deeper is to use 5/8″ or 7/8″ thick plywood. Most home DIY stores will pre-cut the wood if you give them the sizes you want. WORD OF WARNING: If you are making this deeper, say 15″-18″ you will need much deeper L-brackets, so the 5″ height on the sides will also need to be increased to accomodate the bigger brackets. I would suggest finding the brackets first, then determining how high the sides need to be so the brackets will be concealed within the box. Here’s another hint if you are wanting to use this for a laptop or iPad: Drill a 5/8″ hole in the top and bottom boards so you can route your power cord through the box down to the receptacle and not have to drape it over.

  • Such an AWESOME idea. I work from home and was looking for a fun, personalized desk. I created my own version in turquoise–made the cubby a little longer so I could use bigger brackets to support a deeper desk–and I raised it up higher on the wall so I could stand and work as well. I bought a bar stool and recovered it to match the turquoise. I wouldn’t have thought of this on my own!

    Thanks for the idea–it helped personalize.

  • I am making one of these as a COUNTER in the small space I have for my home office! Thanks for the INSPIRATION!!!

  • I just moved into a too large for me empty house. I can’t find ANY furniture I like other than Ikea and refuse to pay the shipping. I’m pretty handy with carpentry thanks to my ex-father-in-law (that’s how we bonded, installing a real hardwood floor) but he taught me everything he knew. I am going to make a few of these. I’m thinking a desk such as yours, new nightstands, shelving for display, plus this would be great to replace that horrendous (rusted) metal shelving unit in my bathrooms that are over the toilets. I love color and these will all be painted brightly! What a beautiful way to display towels in my guest bathroom!!! Thank you SO much for this idea, you’re saving me tons of money and I may just put some legs on a few for end tables with some modifications!!!!!

  • Hi Maggi – How high off the ground did you mount this? 30″? Making this beautiful desk in our bedroom — should be gorgeous once complete.

  • about how much weight can this desk hold? I really wanna make it, but if it can’t hold like 30 lbs then it would break on me… Love the desk by the way!

  • What screws did you use to screw the l-bracket to the top board? I was in the process of making this project this weekend and realized that I needed much shorter screws for this. This should have been obvious but unfortunately I ended up drilling through my $50 oak board from Lowes. For anyone planning on doing this project – BE SURE TO GET 3/4″ SCREWS FOR ADHERING THE TOP BOARD TO THE L-BRACKET.

  • These are a perfect! I think I’m going to do three (vertically) on a large wall in my bedroom for books, etc.

  • Hey this looks lovely. I would like to do it in my room but I have some questions left.

    How thick are the boards, how long are the screws?
    Do you have a smooth surface or are the scerws going through the whole board?

    Thanks :)

    • This is awesome, almost what I looking for, “floating” desk, on question: Can I add drawers to something like this, right? Because I REALLY need drawers. Thanks for sharing!

  • Very nice! Took inspiration from this to build a floating nightstand on my wife’s side of the bed. Super simple project and very quick to assemble. Took about 10 minutes from start to finish.

  • How wide are the oak boards? I cant find anything more than a foot, which looks about what you have here. I was hoping for 16″ to fit a laptop. Just curious…

  • That is awesome I have a tiny room with a twin bed and a rack of clothes and a closets and a door on the same side and aso a big thing for my TV I need more space please help

  • I like this simple desk idea. I’ve been wanting an adjustable height desk without spending a fortune. I’m going to look into mounting this on some type of sliding rail. Thanks for sharing!

  • This is so cool! I would love to try to do build this as a make up and hair vanity but I’m hopeless with tools.