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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ikea Hack: Home Office for Two

I've been dreaming of a white office with a floating desk for some time. A real home office that would bring all of our office gear into one place and with enough storage options that I wasn't looking at piles of papers, computer equipment, scanner/printer cords and files every place I turned around.

Since we moved in, Ross had been setting up his laptop at the dining room table and filing his papers under the bed, while I had been working at my little desk in the bedroom. While I liked that my desk overlooked a window, I didn't like that my files and printer/scanner were on a shelf in the guest bedroom. Every time I needed to print or scan something I had to drag in the machine and cords and set it up then take it down again when I was done.

Determined to do something about this, I started looking at home office for two photos on Houzz and Pinterest for inspiration. I saw many good options that could work for us. 


Something like this, I considered, would look great in our foyer:

Pros: Easily achievable. A long expanse of wood (Ikea Numerar came to mind) with some Lack floating shelves above it.

Cons: No window or natural light. And Lack floating shelves, while spare and elegant, would not hide all the office stuff and my files would still be in the second bedroom.

Something like this could work in our living room, near the window:

Pros: Good light. Nice expanse of wall. I could float the left side of the desk in the corner and anchor the right side with a file cabinet, moving my files out of the second bedroom. We could hide equipment in a row of mounted cabinets on the wall.

Cons: The living room is already very "shelv-y" given the wall of bookcases, and mounting cabinets on the wall would start to close in the room. Also, did I really want my office out in the open in the living room? Wouldn't it be nice to have a door to close, especially on nights when one of us is working late? Or in the middle of a project, when papers pile up.

That brought me to consider our second bedroom. The logical location, it was already serving as a multi-purpose TV room/guest room/music room, though we rarely watch TV in there instead of the bedroom.

I could float a long shallow desk in the corner where the book case was and anchor the other end with a file cabinet.

Pros: We'd have great natural light coming in through the corner windows. And wall mounted storage like the Ikea Besta would look great there.

Cons: If I float the desk from the left corner and anchor it on the right with a file cabinet, the chairs would bump the sofa when you rolled out. And the sofa is so large it's occupying the only space it fits so can't be moved. The file cabinet would have to go on the left. But hold on... moving the book case to the other wall would place the TV too high for sofa viewing.

So, it was going to have to be the TV wall. Could we replace the entertainment center with some kind of solution that housed both - media and desk?

The TV was sitting on this Besta Burs media console that I had modified years ago, hacking on some Besta chrome legs instead of the short bun feet that came with and hacking in hanging files in one of the media drawers:

Ikea Besta Media Console with chrome feet hacked from the Besta cabinet collection
It had held up well and still looked great, but as I started to really think about it, this console wasn't working for us anymore. The middle sections no longer held media equipment, as we stream all our movies from our laptop to the big screen now, and the drawers were actually empty except for the hanging files.

It had been an inexpensive purchase so I was okay to part ways with it.

But wait just a minute, could I salvage that nice long expanse of glossy white surface that is the top of it? Looking at the Ikea catalog, I saw that it happened to be the exact dimensions of the Besta desk. What if I salvaged the top and floated it from a new double Besta cabinet to the windowsill? I'd have my long expanse of desk. And the white would blend right into the corner windowsills. Also, Ikea sells some frosted glass tops for their Besta units. Two of those would pull everything together with a finished look. With seating to the far left, I'd have a great view of the gardens while I worked. And I could salvage those chrome feet for the new file cabinet, and those chrome drawer pulls.

I started to sketch it out.

I'd need two Besta 24x25 cabinets, one for my hanging files and the other for Ross's piles of papers that are under the bed. That's 48". The TV could sit on top of it to the right, while the 70" salvaged top could be floated to the left as far as the corner window.

Could this really work? I would need to test it out first. I decided that whatever the outcome, I wanted the Besta cabinets and I didn't want the old Besta media center. So disassembled the media center apart, salvaging the 70" top, the chrome feet, and the chrome drawer and door pulls. Then I swung by Ikea Brooklyn and purchased two Besta cabinets and an extra set of feet to match the salvaged ones - yes, they still carry them!

I assembled the first cabinet box and I laid the salvaged top across it, anchoring the other end on the window sill. Already I liked the look of it:

But would it be stable enough? I lifted the top and it was actually quite heavy. Unless I wanted to attach it to the windowsill using L brackets, which would make pulling it out for cleaning and such rather difficult, it was going to require legs on the left side.

Okay, not a deal breaker, I could find something airy with a mid-century feel. I ordered these hairpin legs from

I finished assembling both cabinets and installed the salvaged hardware that I had taken off the Besta media center. And that's when I encountered my first problem. I could not screw in the L-brackets for the floating desktop into the Besta cabinetry. The sides of the Besta are hollow and the screws had nothing to afix to; they just kept spinning in the holes.

I first tried using little plastic anchors, but they didn't work. The pressure of the screws pushed them right in. I tried using Gorilla glue on the anchors. But it had nothing inside to hold onto.

I did a little reading up on fasteners for hollow walls, and found these metal molly bolts:

 You separate the screw from the anchor:

Hammer in the anchor:

Then screw in your L bracket using the screws. It took a lot of tightening by hand. Seriously, at first I thought I was getting nowhere. But I didn't want to use my drill because I didn't want to strip the screws. I just kept tightening.

And finally it worked!

The new Besta Cabinet (right) with glass on top 

We're already using the double-desk, even though the glass top is on backorder:

Now all that's left to decide is what to do with the wall above, which is looking distinctly unfinished. I'd definitely like some wall cabinets to stow away electronics and paper supplies. I am hesitant to block the sightline to the windows, though. The 15" deep Besta wall cabinet might be too deep, but the shallower 11" one could work over the desktop portion to the left. On the right I could lighten things up even more with floating shelves above the TV.

I'm going to live with it as it is while I decide. All in all, I'm pretty happy with the way this hack turned out. The salvaged Besta media center top, feet, and handles really look good.

The office for two is coming together!