Do you have a small closet in your home that needs a makeover? Maybe it’s a closet that is just a dumping spot for all your miscellaneous stuff? We did a small closet makeover recently on one of our front entry closets. The closet was too small to hold coats, but the perfect size for us to build a standing desk.
The problem with the closet is that at 14 inches deep, it is too narrow to function as proper coat closets. And with our small house begging for a dedicated office space, this was the perfect opportunity to make our front closet more useful.
Below I’m sharing how to build a standing desk in a small front closet to make a bona fide mini office. Let’s start with the before photo.
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Ok, so this isn’t the true *before* photo, this is the photo we took after removing all the junk and existing hooks/shelving. The closet dimensions are roughly 32 inches wide by 14 inches deep (with an extra six inches of space on either side of the opening).
If you were to tape out these dimensions on your floor, you would quickly realize that this closet is basically TINY! The other interesting part of this closet are the two electrical outlets inside this closet. One outlet has 4 plugs, and the other outlet has two plugs. That’s a lot of plugs for a closet with nothing to plug in! We scratched our heads about these outlets since we purchased the home, wondering what their use in a closet was.
But THEN we had an “Aha Moment” with the idea that this would make a great little office space. Our main goal for this space was to make it an area that we could:
1. Drop and sort mail, bills, and school and other paperwork
2. Charge and store all of our devices
3. Use as a mini office with a standing desk
Once we decided that the closet would become an office, we got to work on a mood board to brainstorm our design ideas. My favorite part of this mood board is how the greys and woods blend nicely with the pop of teal, which is what we ended up painting the closet walls. Here’s what we came up with:
Ok, now that I’m done ooo-ing and ahhh-ing over all the pretty stuff, let’s come back to reality. We have a desk to build! Read on for the details on how we did that.
Step 1: Decide on your finishes
Let’s quickly talk finishes. For us, we did this project in the middle of a frigid Minnesota winter with two toddlers running around the house. That made using a “naked” lumber with stain/paint out of the question. Why? Well, our house is small, so my husband does his sanding and staining/painting in our garage. Our garage is not insulated. When it’s below zero outside this causes some issues. So, we avoided that by using pre-finished shelving from Home Depot.
This wood tends to be by the common boards (not in the normal shelving section), back by all the lumber. The nice thing is: it’s already finished, but you can still cut it to your custom size. For our space, we chose white prefinished boards.
Step 2: Prep your space
Now is the time to get rid of all the junk in your space. With the walls now blank, use spakling to plug old holes, if necessary, and make sure to sand out any imperfections or other issues. You’ll also want to measure your space now and decide how high you’d like your desk to be. Usually a standing desk height is between 38 and 42 inches. Ours ended up being about 42 inches. Knowing your space’s measurements will help you for the next step, which is:
Step 3: Gather your materials and tools
Here is what you will need:
- Desired lumber/boards. Consider prefinished shelving wood for the desk surface, and also the boards with the pre-drilled holes for your office shelves (you’ll see later, but you can buy shelf braces and cut your shelves to the necessary size)
- 2×4 wood (length depends on closet size)
- Screws (we recommend construction screws since they drill into the studs easier)
- Sparkling and sandpaper (if needed)
- Paint brushes/supplies
- Table or circular saw
- Ryobi drill
- Stud finder
- Tape measure
- Shelf supports (see pictures below)
Psst: Find all our favorite tools at our DIY toolkit resource page.
Step 4: Cut and attach the 2×4 support frame and paint
Good News! This is probably the trickiest part of the project. It’s not even that tricky, so that’s why it’s good. You are going to measure and mark off he height of your desktop in the closet. Measure the thickness of your desk wood and take this into account when you mark off the height.
For example, if you want your desk height to be 41 inches, and your desk wood thickness is half an inch, you’ll mark the wall at 40.5 inches. When you align the 2×4 frame, and then set the desk surface on top, you’ll end up with a desk height at 41 inches.
Next, you’ll cut and install the 2×4 frame that will support the desk surface. You will need three 2×4 pieces. To determine the sizes to cut, measure the width of your closet for your first (longest) cut. Measure the depth of your closet for the other two frame pieces.
Cut the 2×4’s so they fit snuggly against the interior walls of the closet (corner to corner). Here’s a little peek at our 2×4 frame, doing its job supporting the desktop in our closet. It sits right above our DIY rolling storage cart, which you can read more about here.
Now, with the desktop height already marked, use the stud finder tool to mark the studs in the closet (and try to ignore your hubby when he holds the tool by himself and says “it works! it works!”). If there aren’t any studs in the closet, consider creating and using support braces, or 2×4 “legs” under the surface to support it.
Now, screw your 2×4 pieces them into the studs. Make sure the top edge of the 2×4 is level and aligns to the height you measured and marked off, taking into account the addition height the piece of wood for your desk surface will add. See the picture below for how this should look. The ultimate finish will be to set the desk surface on top of this and attach.
Step 5: Measure the necessary length of the desk surface and shelving
You can cut the wood while the paint dries, so it’s a good idea to do this before you start painting.
Step 6: Paint the space
Once the wall is prepared and 2×4’s are attached, go ahead and paint it with your chosen color. We used the Behr Dragonfly color in a matte finish. This is a closet, not an entire room, so we chose to do something more interesting and fun. Depending on the paint you use, two coats should be fine. We use the “middle of the road” Behr paint from Home Depot.
Step 7: Measure, cut and install desktop and shelving
While the paint is drying, mark your desktop wood to the necessary size to fit the space. If you use prefinished wood, make sure that you don’t cut off the prefinished edge! My husband caught himself from making this mistake. Whew!
Now to the shelves. If you use vertical shelving boards with pre-drilled holes, and your space is as tiny as ours, they are too wide for your space. BUT fear not because there is a solution. If you cut the board down the middle between the pre-drilled holes, you can cut strips off the inside edge to essentially make these more narrow without losing the utility of the predrilled holes. This is what we ended up doing. We would suggest waiting until everything is installed to measure and cut the shelves.
Once the paint is dry and the wood is cut, it’s time to install the desktop. Slide it into your space, and it should sit snuggly on top of the 2×4 frame you installed. In the corners around the edges, insert screws to hold the surface in place.
Now it’s time to install the shelves. These will be screwed to the wall, flush with the front and back wall of the closet interior. Use a stud finder to see if there are studs you can screw into. If not, just use enough screws so that the sides are securely in place. Once these are screwed into place, measure the width of the shelves so you can cut your shelves from another piece of the prefinished wood. We used shelf supports to set these on (these shelf supports can be bought at Home Depot for about $1 per 12 pieces. Cheap!). Check it out:
That’s it! Now it is time to make this space pretty and useful! We decided to add a mail caddy to the other side of our closet, which works really nicely for holding loose papers, my planner, and devices. We also added Target storage bins to our shelves, and they hold mail supplies, cords, pens, scissors, and other random craft supplies.
I love how neat and tidy they keep the space. Here is how our finished space turned out. We love love LOVE it. Triple love. Don’t mind the fingerprints on our computer screen. That’s just a bit of extra “charm” added by our toddler.
To save a bit of money, we opted to build our own rolling storage cart and use a stool we already owned. The cart serves to hold craft and office supplies, bigger devices, and of course all of my Amazon returns boxes (I know, I know, I have a problem, ha!). We’re also planning to paint or stain the stool this spring when the weather is nicer.
But what I really LOVE about this space is how efficient and functional it is. I can stand at this desk and do a few things in between cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, etc. OR I can sit down and bust out a blog post (like I’m doing right now). But the real mega genius part of the standing desk? My kids can’t reach the desk height so the space stays organized. Let’s just all stop what we’re doing and do a little happy dance together.
How amazing is that!? Forget about any ergonomic efficiencies the standing option gives you. I would recommend a standing desk for the childproofing alone.
Last but definitely not least, we added a floating shelf to our space. It holds pretty things AND serves as the mount for our little push lights. The closet doesn’t have a dedicated light installed, so this is our clever work around. We may decide to install a sconce or pendant light later, but for now, for less than $10 in total, these little push lights work fine.
I hope you enjoyed this post about our cute little mini office. If you did, use the button to pin this to your DIY board:
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