A homebody that can’t get enough of making my house a home with every DIY project! You can find me snuggling with our furbabes, baking cookies, working in the garage on a project or hiking some awesome trails here in the Carolinas.
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Leaving the corporate world and pursuing wedding photography/content creation full time when we moved to SC definitely made me want my own desk/office. The new-build house we bought didn’t really have the space for a full office. We didn’t want to occupy one of the two guest rooms just for my office. We knew our families would be visiting often and need a place to stay. There was this weird corner smack dab in the middle of our house that I knew I could utilize in a really functional way. This is when I decided a custom corner desk build is the only thing that would make this space exactly what I needed it to be.
This space was literally just collecting dust and serving no real purpose, I am definitely of the mindset that all spaces in my home should serve a functional purpose. Wasted space drives me crazy. I started brainstorming what type of desk could fit there. I googled all kinds of desk shapes and sizes hoping to find one I could buy and stick in the space. That, unfortunately, wasn’t the case. I couldn’t find anything that looked like what I wanted or that was the right size. This space really is the weirdest spot in the new build and I still don’t understand why the designer put it there.
Buying a desk for that weird space clearly wasn’t an option. I went to the drawing board and for a couple days started sketching out multiple ideas. I definitely wanted the desk to wrap the inside corner wall so that it didn’t stick out and disrupt the traffic flow. This corner was next to the main central walking path through the house. I quickly realized I was going to have to build custom cabinets because I couldn’t buy the sizes in pre-made cabinets to fit the space. I immediately started researching how to build cabinets.
One thing led to another in my research on how to build cabinets and, as a result, we bought a table saw. I now had to learn how to operate a table saw safely and holy cow was I terrified. I have used plenty of power tools before but never anything of that size. It was a really intimidating tool for me to learn and I took my time and always had safety in mind.
Quickly over the next week, I learned as much as I could about using the new saw. I had my design finalized and cabinet box sizes ready to go. We all know how much plywood costs now and I didn’t want to mess up any cuts and waist material. After much planning, I began cutting my cabinet box pieces. This part took a lot of patience: measure 100x and cut once. After I had successfully cut all the cabinet panels, it was time to assemble.
Building the cabinets was really an easy process. I drilled the pocket holes I needed in the panels. Then I would glue up the edges, use a right angle clamp for the corner, and pocket hole screw them into place. I just went cabinet by cabinet until they were all built. I let the glue dry completely before I messed with them anymore. This really was a turning point for me in this project. I was starting to feel a lot more confident in what I was capable of accomplishing. I realized that cabinets really aren’t that hard to build, just tedious and time consuming to do it right.
The next step was dry fitting the cabinets to make sure my measurements were correct for the space. They fit perfectly and I was so excited. The next step was to add face frames to all 5 cabinets. The face frames seemed harder to me than the cabinet assembly. I bought poplar 1”x2” wood. This is a very common size and product used for face framing cabinets, especially if you are planning to paint the cabinets. If you are staining your cabinets, you will want to have a nicer wood like maple or oak depending on the final look you want to achieve. Maple and Oak stains better than poplar. The maple and oak can also be easily found in both plywood and framing pieces. You want to use the same type of wood for all pieces being stained so it all matches when stained. We chose maple plywood to build the boxes to be stained and poplar framing wood knowing we were painting them.
I cut all the framing pieces to size and drilled pocket-holes into all of the pieces where needed. Then, again using my right angle clamp, I started gluing all the edges and pocket-hole drilled the face frames together. I pre-built one frame for each cabinet and let the glue dry before attaching them to the cabinet fronts. Once they were dry, I glued the frames to the fronts of the cabinets and nailed them into place. I let everything dry completely before moving on to the next step.
After everything dried, I filled all the nail holes and wood seams where the framing met in the corners. Then the filling was sanded until it was completely smooth. Knowing all my wood seams and patched holes were smooth, I was able to start priming. I primed and painted the cabinets prior to installing them.
This honestly is a personal preference when it comes to painting before or after installation. For this corner desk, I knew it would be a lot harder having to cut in around every cabinet to paint and I didn’t want to mess up the stencil previously painted on the wall. (sorry I jumped ahead a bit. I will talk more about the stencil in the next paragraph). I primed the first coat, let it dry overnight, and then sanded and primed two more times to guarantee a smooth finish. After priming, I started painting using the Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black color I chose, one light coat at a time with sanding done in between each coat. I painted on three coats of the black paint to make sure coverage was 100% before install. I allowed the cabinet paint to cure for a couple days to make sure it wouldn’t get messed up during installation.
During this dry time, I went ahead and started on the wall stencil. I chose to stencil the entire wall first versus trying to cut in around each cabinet after they were installed. Yes, a lot of the stencil is covered up by cabinets but I didn’t have to worry about taping anything off on the cabinets in order to stencil the walls above. The stencil went on quick and easy this way. I will probably always do this approach when it comes to stenciling a wall if I can. Planning the steps and the order of each step prior to beginning the project will result in better success.
Once the cabinet paint was cured and the wall stencil done, we began installing the cabinets. We installed the two lower cabinets first. Then we installed the upper middle cabinet and finished up with the two smaller upper, outside cabinets. This part of the process took a lot of muscle to lift the cabinets in place and get them installed. We recruited my brother-in-law Jason who is a woodworker and cabinet builder that does custom kitchens. His height and expertise helped us so much in getting these installed. Huge shoutout to him for his help. We anchored each cabinet into studs so they are secure for a very long time.
Now it was time for the finishing touches! I added the desktop we made from plywood, glass shelves in between the uppers (we sourced the glass shelves from our local glass shop), and under cabinet lighting . The doors and wood trim finished it nicely with a two toned look. I really couldn’t be happier with how this desk turned out. It is the perfect size and function for that corner. It also looks pretty to the eye and serves as a statement piece. This part was huge to me knowing it would be in the middle of our home and guests would be seeing it all the time. I wanted it to stand out and look intentional in its function and look!
Let me know if you have any questions or comments about the custom corner desk build by leaving them below! I love hearing what you think and how this project could potentially be utilized in your home in the future! I will also leave my shopping links below of the supplies and tools I used to make this project happen from start to finish! My socials are also a great resource to check out if you want to watch videos of the entire custom corner desk build and install process!
Here is my shopping list link with the supplies and tools we used to complete this project!