Office project overview: Features, tools and cost
Is your home office a mess? Do you need a
spot to organize your kids’ schoolwork and
projects? Or do you just want to get your
office stuff out of sight when you have
guests? We’ll show you how to solve all
these problems by turning a spare
closet into a super-organized office.
In this story, we’ll show you how to build
and install wall shelf cabinets, a countertop
and under-mount drawers, including
how to adjust the dimensions to fit these
projects in your closet. We’ll also show you
an easy way to conceal all those cords that
usually dangle down behind the desk.
We’ve included a Materials List (See “Additional Information” below.),
but you’ll have to adjust the quantities to
fit your closet. The project shown here is
constructed with birch plywood and
boards and cost us about $400.
This is a great project for any intermediate
to advanced DIYer. There’s no complicated
joinery—the wall shelves and
drawers are just wooden boxes that are
screwed together. We used a table saw to
cut the plywood, a narrow-crown staple
gun to attach the shelf backs and drawer
bottoms, and an 18-gauge nailer to attach
the face frames. If you don’t have these
tools, you can use a circular saw and
straightedge guide to cut the plywood, and
a good old-fashioned hammer and nails. It
will just take a little longer.
Simple Construction, Fantastic Features
- Brighten up your work surface
with under-cabinet lights.
- Hide the cords with a power strip
tucked behind a backsplash.
- Easy-to-build shelf units create
tons of storage space.
- The world’s simplest drawers
hang under the countertop.
Step 1: Measure your closet and customize the plan to fit
Start by measuring the distance between
the side walls. Keeping in mind that 32 in.
is about the maximum width for a plywood
shelf, decide how many shelf units you
need. To figure out exactly how wide each
cabinet should be, subtract 1-1/2 in. from
the total measurement and divide the
remainder by the number of cabinets. This
will leave a 3/4-in. space between the
cabinet and the wall at each end that you’ll cover with the face
frame. This 3/4-in. space makes it easy to install the shelf cabinets
in the closet without worrying about an exact fit. We
needed three 27-1/2-in.-wide cabinets to fit our 84-in.-wide
closet. We built the cabinets 47-3/4 in. tall. If you have standard
8-ft.-tall walls, the cabinets will reach the ceiling. After you do
the calculations, double-check your math by drawing lines on
the closet wall. Draw a level line 28-1/2 in. from the floor to
mark the bottom of the 1-1/2-in.-thick countertop. Then draw
another line 47-1/2 in. from the floor for the bottom of the wall
cabinets. Finally, draw vertical lines for the sides of the
You’ll also have to decide how wide to make the drawers.
You can use the technique we show here to build drawers in a
size and configuration that will work best in your closet. The
key is to build the frame and mount the drawer slides before
you build the drawers. Then you can measure between the
slides (photo 8) and build the drawers to fit.
Figure A: Office organizer
Figure B: Office drawer and countertop construction
Office Organizer Construction Details
These components are sized for a 7' x 2'-deep closet. Adjust dimensions to fit your closet.
You can download and enlarge Figure A and Figure B in “Additional Information” below. You can also download a complete Cutting List and Materials List there.
Step 2: Mount the countertop
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Photo 1: Mark the walls and attach the countertop supports
Draw level lines for the bottom of the countertop and
cabinets. Draw vertical lines to indicate the sides of the
cabinets. Then screw countertop supports to studs at the
back and sides of the closet.
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Photo 2: Fasten the countertop
Screw through the countertop supports into the
countertop. Lay something heavy on top, or ask a helper to
press down while you drive the screws.
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Photo 3: Cap the front edge
Glue and nail a board to the front edge to cover the
plywood and add strength. Wipe off glue squeeze-out with a
The countertop is two layers of plywood that are glued and
screwed together. It rests on cleats that are screwed to the wall
studs. Start by measuring the closet interior at the level of the
countertop. Use a framing square to check the corners. Deduct
1/4 in. from the length and depth to allow for the top to fit
easily. You can cover any gaps with the backsplash. Transfer
these measurements to your plywood and cut out the two
pieces. Use less-expensive plywood for the bottom if you like.
Screw 1x2 cleats to the back, side and front walls to support
the top (Photo 1). Then drop the top into place and attach it
from underneath with 2-1/2-in. screws (Photo 2). Finish the
front edge with a 2-1/4-in.-wide board (Photo 3).
Step 3: Build the wall shelf cabinets
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Photo 4: Assemble the wall cabinets
Mount shelf standards on the cabinet sides before
assembly. Then screw the sides to the bottom and top with
1-5/8-in. screws. Drill pilot holes to prevent the plywood
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Photo 5: Square the cabinet with the plywood back
Use the plywood back as a guide for squaring the cabinet.
Apply a bead of glue. Then nail one edge of the plywood back
to the cabinet side. Then adjust the cabinet box as needed to
align the remaining edges and nail these.
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Photo 6: Install the cabinets
Rest the bottom of the cabinet on the ledger and tilt the
cabinet up. Drive 3-in. screws through the hanging strip at
the top of the cabinet into the studs.
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Photo 7: Finish the fronts
Nail a 1x3 to the lower cabinet edge to create a
valance for under-cabinet lighting. Nail 1x2s to the cabinet
top and sides to cover the raw plywood edges.
Start by cutting the parts from the 4 x 8-ft. sheets of plywood. If
you’re using a table saw, keep the good side of the plywood
facing up as you cut the parts. If you’re using a circular saw,
face the good side down so that any splintering or chipping
won’t show. We think it’s easier to finish the parts before you
It’s also easier to install the shelf standards to the cabinet
sides before you put the cabinet together. Make sure the shelf
standards are oriented the right way. We put a piece of masking
tape on the top of each side to keep track. Here’s a building
tip you can use for the cabinet and drawer boxes: Nail the cabinet
sides to the top and bottom before you drill pilot holes for
the screws. The nails hold the parts in perfect alignment while
you drill the holes and drive the 1-5/8-in. screws. Screw the
sides to the top and bottom (Photo 4). Then nail on the back. If
you were careful to cut the 1/4-in. plywood back accurately, you
can square the cabinet by aligning it with the back before nailing
it on (Photo 5). You’ll cover the front edge of the cabinets
with a wood face frame after they’re mounted (Photo 7). Finish
the front edge of the plywood shelves with iron-on edge banding.
See this article for complete instructions on installing edge banding
Start the cabinet installation by screwing a 1x2 ledger to the
wall to support the wall cabinets. Align the top edge of the
board with the 47-1/2-in.-high level line and drive a screw at
each stud location. Next, measure from the vertical lines to the
center of the wall studs, and transfer these measurements to
the hanging strip at the top of each wall cabinet so you’ll know
where to drive the cabinet installation screws. Hang the cabinets
by resting the bottom edge on the ledger, tipping them up
against the wall, and driving 3-in. screws through the hanging
strip into the studs (Photo 6). Secure the bottom of the cabinets
by driving a nail or screw down into the ledger. Connect the
fronts of the cabinets by hiding 1-1/4-in. screws under the shelf
standards. Complete the installation by nailing on the face
frames (Photo 7). We used a 1x3 for the bottom face frame to hide the under-cabinet lighting.
Step 4: Build the drawers
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Photo 8: Build the drawer frame and measure for drawers
Make sure your drawers fit perfectly by building the drawer
frame first. Then measure between the slides and build your
drawers to exactly this width.
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Photo 9: Mount the drawer slides
Draw a line parallel to the top of the drawer to indicate
the center of the drawer slide. Line up the slide by centering
the line in screw holes. Attach the slide with the screws
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Photo 10: Hang the frame under the countertop
Make center marks on the frame and the underside of the
counter and align them. Then use a spacer to set the frame
3/4 in. back from the countertop edging and drive the
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Photo 11: Glue on the drawer front
Starting with the center drawer front, dab on hotmelt
glue and press it against the drawer. Quickly center the
drawer front 1/4 in. below the countertop edge. Hold it still
for about 10 seconds until the glue cools. Now position the
other two drawer fronts. Drive screws from the inside.
You can buy drawer slides that mount directly to the underside
of a desk or countertop, but we’ll show you another method
that allows you to use high-quality, side-mounted drawer
slides. We bought these full-extension ball-bearing slides at the
local home center. They cost about $15 per drawer. But you can
substitute less-expensive epoxy-coated slides to save some
money. You’ll have to measure your closet to figure out the
drawer sizes. Just make sure the drawers clear the open closet
Building the drawer support frame is straightforward. Start
by laying two of the stringers (J) side by side and marking the
location of the drawer dividers (K) on them. Ball-bearing slides
are not very forgiving, so measure and attach the drawer
dividers carefully so the dividers are perfectly parallel when
the frame is assembled.
For our 24-in.-deep countertop, we used 20-in. drawer
slides. We cut the drawer dividers (K) 20 in. long and built the
drawer boxes 20 in. deep. If your closet is shallower, use
shorter slides and adjust these dimensions to match. The
drawer slides have two parts. One mounts to the dividers and
the other to the drawer. Remove the part that attaches to the
drawer according to the included instructions. Then screw
the part of the slide with the ball bearings to the dividers,
aligning the bottom edges. The center dividers will have
drawer slides on both sides. Screw through the stringers (J)
into the drawer dividers (K) to build the frame. Be careful to
keep the front of the drawer slides facing forward. Then add
the second layer of stringers (J). Check the frame against a
framing square as you screw it together to make sure it’s
square. When the frame is complete, measure between the
slides to determine the drawer sizes (Photo 8).
Build the drawers by screwing through the sides into the
fronts and backs, and then gluing and nailing on the plywood
bottom. Nail one edge of the bottom to the drawer box. Then
use a framing square to square the drawer box before nailing
the other three edges. To attach the drawer slide to the drawers,
we first drew lines 1-7/8 in. down from the top edges of
the drawers (Photo 9). (You may have to adjust this distance
to match your drawer slides. The dimension isn’t critical as
long as there’s about a 1/4-in. clearance between the drawer
and the stringer when the drawer is
mounted.) Then sight through the
screw holes in the slides to center
them on the line before attaching them
with the included screws.
Finish the drawer installation by
attaching the frame to the underside
of the countertop (Photo 10) and
installing the fronts. Hold the drawer
frame back 3/4 in. from the back of the
countertop edging. Install the drawers
by lining up the slides and pushing
them in. Photo 11 shows a tip for aligning
the drawer fronts. The hot-melt
glue holds the fronts temporarily.
Attach them permanently by opening
the drawers and driving four 1-1/4-in.
screws through the drawer box into the drawer front from the inside.
Step 5: Finish it off with a cord-concealing backsplash
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Photo 12: Hide cords behind a tall backsplash
Attach the backsplash with cleats, holding it about
4 in. from the wall. Then drill holes where you'll have cords
and install cord grommets.
Here’s a handy method to hide cords
and still have easy access to them.
Simply mount a backsplash board
about 4 in. from the back wall to create
a cord trough. Figure B shows how we
used a cleat to attach the backsplash.
Drill holes through the face and install
cord grommets to allow cords to pass
through. We found 2-in. cord grommets
at the home center, but since
they were a loose fit in the 2-in. hole,
we held them in place with a dab of
silicone caulk. Lay a multi-outlet power
strip behind the backsplash for extra
outlets. We drilled a hole through the
countertop so that we could plug the
power strip into a wall outlet. You can
also nail backsplash boards to the end
walls for a more finished look.
Wiring Your Closet – Get Help Online
We’re not showing how to wire your closet office
here, but chances are you’ll want to add at least one
electrical outlet and possibly cable, phone or network
wiring. We’ve got tons of how-to information
at our Web site to help you add an electrical outlet.
in mind that the new National Electrical Code requires
that closet outlets be arc fault protected. This means
you’ll have to either connect to or add a circuit that’s protected
by an arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI). While
you’re adding wiring, check out this article on adding a light.
And for information on how to install coax, phone and Cat5e cable, check out this article.