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IKEA L Shaped Desk Hack

by - Saturday, March 22, 2008

Who knew that installing two bookcases and two countertops would turn into a full day's work. It did... but our end product makes it all worth it. With our DIY IKEA L Shaped desk hack, we finally have a home office space for two. With a space this nice, maybe its time to start up a new home business!

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How to Create An IKEA L Shaped Desk

Let's start from the beginning - we wanted to have a home office that both Sean and I could work in  comfortably. We wanted to do it on a budget which is why our first instinct was to search for an L shaped desk at IKEA. 

But here's the problem: IKEA doesn't sell large L shaped desks. They sell corner desks with a left side extension or right side extension, but these desks are only suitable for one person. 

And so we decided to create our own custom larger L shaped desk for two using readily available countertops, legs, and cabinets. It was time for an IKEA hack!

Here's the shopping list for this room:
  • 2x Expedit bookcases
  • 2x Mikael file cabinets
  • 2 -4pk capita legs
  • 2 Numerar countertops (double sided, aluminum & white, 96") 

L Shape Ikea Desk Design

Our corner L shape IKEA desk would be designed with two floating countertops sitting against two walls. They would meet in one corner. Each end and the middle would need to be supported somehow. Above one countertop, we would also have a wall mounted bookcase to provide extra storage

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How to support an IKEA countertop

Typically your IKEA countertop will sit on top of kitchen cabinets. In our office, we wanted the countertop to be floating. This meant that we had to incorporate support beneath the counter.

We started the day by running a support strip of MDF - a "countertop cleat" - around the perimeter of the room upon which the countertop would sit. You can see it in the photo above. It sits at about 27" from the ground so that when the countertop is installed, the desk top will be at around 29" which is a comfortable height to work at.

Here's how we installed the cleat:
  • Draw a level line on your wall to indicate the underside of the countertop
  • Take 2" wide strips of wood (3/4" to 1" thick. You can use plywood or any scrap wood to cut your wood strips). 
  • Apply construction adhesive to the back of the cleat and screw the cleat into the studs
UPDATE: Here's how we used a cleat to support a laundry room countertop

Sean also installed two additional cleats: one above the countertops on the wall to support the horizontal bookcase, and a third at the left side wall to support the left end of the L shaped countertop. 

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IKEA Wall Mounted Bookcase Hack

After installing the cleats, our next step was to mount the Expedit bookcase to the wall. If you are doing a project like this, with a bookcase or hanging shelf over a desk, you want to install those first. You want to work from the top down, so that you're not struggling to install something over an L-shaped desk.

We don't think the Expedit bookcase was meant to be mounted on the wall... they didn't have any examples in the IKEA showroom and the sales person wasn't too sure. But we figured with enough brackets and support the bookcase won't come crashing down on top of our heads.

Here's how we installed the bookcases on the wall:
  1. First, Sean had to find the studs in the wall. 
  2. Then we determined where horizontally we wanted the bookcase to fall on the wall. Between the wall and the bookcase, we had about a 5" gap for a curtain rod and curtains which we'd install later
  3. Based on this positioning, Sean  measured and marked where those studs fell on the bookcase, inside the top of the cubbies 
  4. He attached L brackets at those spots inside the cubbies. The brackets sat "upside down" in the bookcase, with the bottom of the L connected to the ceiling of the cubbie and the upper part of the L screwed back into the wall studs. 

Pro Tip: Sean wanted to make sure he didn't drill too deep into the cubbie ceiling (IKEA products typically are only reinforced around the edges and are particleboard otherwise). So, he measured the length of the screw for the L bracket and put a piece of masking tape around the drill bit. He'd stop drilling once the tape hit the top of the hole.

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Floating Countertop Installation

With the bookcase up (after a few missed studs, ahem), we moved on to attaching the countertops to the wall. The countertops sit perpendicular to one another and form the L-shape desk. Here's how we did that:
  • We had a Mikael file cabinet sitting under the counter at one end so we assembled that first and put it in place to make the countertop installation easier. 
  • Turn the countertop over. Attach L brackets about every two feet, one side of the L attached to the underside of the countertop and the other side ready to be screwed into the cleat
  • Turn the countertop right side up. Rest the countertop on the cleat. Have one person hold the countertop while another person screws the L brackets into the cleat

The first counter went in easily. The second, which sits under a window, was a bit more difficult. The window had an apron (the casing part that sits at the bottom of the window) and we had to cut away part of the countertop so that the rest of it would sit flush against the wall. We had to notch it out bit by bit (not easy when the thing weighs 100 pounds). 

The counter was also too long and had to be cut to fit against the first counter. We decided to use the $5 seam cover to hide the chipped end where the countertops meet.

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You can see the white L bracket covers in the cubbies, and the cleat (painted green) beneath the bookcase. We also installed a curtain rod, and some of the pre-made drawers and doors that you can buy for the bookcase. We haven't had any issues and the bookcase feels secure and attached firmly to the wall. 

All that's left is a bit of finishing touches- curtains, paint out the radiator, install a filler panel behind the file cabinets, hang prints on the wall, and find a new lighting fixture. Oh, and a few grommet holes so we can rid of the mess of cords sitting on the countertop.

This IKEA L Shaped desk turned out better than we hoped. It's going to be great to have all this desk space to work at!

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Update: the IKEA L Shaped desk held up well! Visit this post to see more photos of how the room turned out. The Expedit bookcases stayed firmly affixed to the wall from 2008 until we removed them when we renovated this home office to a bedroom in 2014.

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  1. You have a LOVELY blog! :)

  2. Thanks design... I'm a reader of your blog too!

    Corey - the vibrant green in your kitchen may have inspired the palatte for our office space :)

  3. Hello! I came across this lovely office on DIY network and i am glad you also have a blog. I am moving into a new house and my office has the same layout as yours. Can you please tell me what color you used for the walls (i love it!) and where you bought the rug from? Thank you so much!

  4. Hi Lavinia! The green is Benjamin Moore's Brookside Moss and the white is Decorators White. I got the rug from Ikea.

  5. Anonymous5:01 PM

    Thank you for the quick response! I appreciate it! Lavinia

  6. Well, I only just found this posting, but I figure it's never too late to say a huge 'bravo' to this project. I love the look of the bookcases on the wall and wish I had the courage to attempt the same!


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