Cluttered Closet to Gorgeous Built-In Desk Space

Ok, so there’s something that has been bothering me for a while.  A skeleton in the closet so to speak.  Actually, more like a closet full of skeletons junk.  You know how sometimes you just start to feel like stuff is taking over your life?  (Queue the Greenpeace video.)  Yeah, that’s the feeling I got whenever I thought about or looked at or, god forbid, had to come into contact with this closet.  It was like an episode of Hoarders: Closet Edition.

The Closet of Doom was located in our multifunctional 2nd bedroom, which we often refer to as the guest room, but doubles as an office/study space for my doctoral candidate boyfriend, and triples as a music room.  Right next to the Closet of Doom, there was the Desk of Doom.  (See below.) That part is clearly not my fault, but I won’t name any names here.  Anyway, when guests stay over they would not only have this eyesore desk corner to haunt their dreams, but also a warning from me not to open the closet doors or they would be crushed by a toppling wall of junk, never to be seen again.  Probably not the most comfortable overnight stay.

Closet & Desk of Doom (Before):

Note the talent involved in stacking this many objects on top of each other
The $10 Ikea desk partially blocking the closet door, complete with 90’s lava lamp and empty beer bottle.

I’m not going to lie, it took an entire weekend just to sort through and find new homes for all that stuff.  I made several Goodwill trips, and more trips up and down the 2 flights of stairs to our storage locker than I want to talk about.

Anyway, I know what you’re really wondering is how do you go from Closet of Doom to Closet of Swoon…



…let me take you on the journey.

We started by removing the closet doors.  This, like almost all DIY projects, was easier said than done.  All closet doors are different, so this one you’re on your own with.  You just gotta figure it out.  Then we painted.  We went with Black Boudoir by Baer, and it took about 3 coats.

Poor quality photo, because life.

Due to the wonders of condo life, we have nowhere to cut wood, so all of the wood we got cut right at Home Depot.  It was fairly easy, and everything came out great.  Our original plan was to make a desk with two shelves, but we later narrowed it down to one shelf because of the amount of time and work it took to do the painting.

I put a lot of thought into how we were going to secure the desk & shelf to the wall.  I don’t know about you, but I hate those triangular bracket things so those were out of the question.  So in the end, I decided to use cheap strips of wood secured to 3 sides of the wall as I had noticed being used on Pinterest, and by golly it worked.  The cheap-ass wood we bought was bowed and bent, and I was having mini heart palpitations that it would not screw flush into the wall, but it was also very pliable and my worries turned out to be needless.

Here’s what it looked like in process:


As for the painting process, I followed these simple steps:

  1. Sand the rough edges.
  2. Apply water-based stain blocking primer in a thin, even layer with a paint brush.  The brush strokes should go with the wood grain, and you should be careful not to let the paint glob up around the edges.  I have heard that you can use oil-based primer even with water-based paint, but I chose the water-based because condos are not conducive to paint fumes.
  3. Wait for primer to dry and then apply 2 layers of paint, following instructions on the can.  Again, these should be the thinnest layers possible so that the paint dries evenly.  You will be SO TEMPTED to not wait the recommended hour or two between coats.  Do not give in to temptation. Trust me.  This can completely ruin your previous layers.
  4. Apply 2-3 layers of poly, lightly sanding with fine grit sand paper, between each layer.

We laid out a tarp right across our floor and painted everything there.  Trust me when I say I was ecstatic to finally get that thing out of my living room.  We were stepping over it to get to the couch for 2 weeks.  Another tip:  If you work a 9-5 like I do and don’t like doing things on week nights, it will take you several weeks to complete this project due to the drying time between paint coats.  Is it worth it?  Only you can make that call.

Dexter “helping” with the wet paint.

The other thing worth mentioning is sagging.  I have seen a number of these projects on Pinterest, etc, where you can see the front of the desk or shelves sagging under the weight of books and computers.  To account for that, I took 2 steps:

  1. In addition to the wood strips on the back and side walls, the desktop is also resting on an Ikea Kallax bookshelf.
  2. The shelf above, like the desk, is resting on 3 walls of wooden strips.  On the 4th side, or the front of the shelf, I screwed a 4th wooden strip to the bottom.  This both makes the shelf more sturdy, and also gives it a more finished look.  Plus, it allows for recessed lighting under the shelf, which I plan to do at some point.  Here’s what it looked like in process:


It was relatively easy to make it flush and sand it down so you could barely tell it was there.

And voila, we have a desk.  Here’s the before, in case you forgot:


And the after:



Not too shabby, am I right?!


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