Ikea Hacks

If there’s one fundamental constant in our household, it’s that I’m a cheap bastard. I don’t like spending money on things I need, so I can save money to buy things I don’t need. Unfortunately, “things I need” has been dominating the past year, with expensive house repairs, dental work, and car repairs rounding out the top places I’m spending money. I am disappointed to find yet another “things I need” knocking at the door and begging to have money spent on it.

I don’t think I’ve ever owned an actual desk. I do have an Aeron chair (which I highly recommend, if you have the cash or come across one) I acquired from the previous company’s liquidation, because I’d be too cheap to pay full price for something like that. But my desk has always consisted of a six foot folding table and a five foot folding table, arranged in an L configuration, showing here, though rarely this tidy:

Hackintosh Workstation

I’ve gotten along OK with folding tables, but when you put drinks, electronics, gun parts, etc, on a surface that’s basically a laminated printout of wood backed with paper, and then glued onto particle board, the surface tends to go pretty fast. At some point, I turn the table around so the crappy parts are in the back, but about once every three years or so, it’s time for another folding table. Yesterday, I had a big piece of “laminate” (i.e. paper) come up, and extended my tape job another foot or so to patch it. I’ve looked at the polymer folding tables, and they feel flimsy to me. Cable channeling would also be more difficult without the steel supports. If you look at solid wood or high quality laminate folding tables, you’re now talking real money. So it is time for the madness to end. I looked online to find better solutions, and I’m struck by how much office furniture either sucks, or is expensive. I’ve always liked Ikea as a cheap, not quite sucky solution, but nothing they had was big enough for my desk space requirements. The trend today seems to be for smaller workspaces, which I would quickly have piled a foot high with crap. So Bitter helped me go through Pinterest and Ikea Hackers, and I found the perfect solution:

Ikea Hack Workstation

Perfect idea for solving my problem! I don’t much like the red, but it comes in black. The butcher block countertop they use, made of solid oak, is a little rich for me, but Ikea offers a much cheaper alternative in a solid Beech. They make it in lengths of 96 inches, which can be cut to size. It’ll work fine for making two desks I can arrange nicely in an L shape. I’d also pick up some storage space, since they also have drawer and cubby modules for this desk. I can stick the server that runs the blog in the cubby, alongside its UPS, if I don’t install the middle piece.

All this can be done for under 300 bucks. That may be double what I’d spend on a new pair of folding tables, but I think solid Beech is going to hold up a lot better than laminate, and if it gets rough, I can just plane it, sand it, and refinish it. If you have a look around that Ikea Hackers site, it’s pretty amazing what people are doing with some of their furniture.

16 thoughts on “Ikea Hacks”

  1. I prefer to spend my money with companies that respect my second amendment rights. IKEA is not on that list.

    1. Unfortunately, Ikea is pretty much the only player in the space they are in, and they are cheap. To be honest, I’ve never been a very good activist on the boycott front. For products where I can find a reasonable substitute, like jeans when Levis donated a bunch of money to anti-gun groups, or Hallmark, when they did the same, I’ll do so. But when I can’t find an alternative that works, I’m not much of a boycotter.

  2. When I went looking for a new desk the best one I found was this:

    It has a very large amount of space (U-shape means it’s like 3 desks worth), is much better quality than you expect for the price, and the price is just under $300 shipped. The only tricky part was figuring out where to put it so that I could still see the TV without blocking all the routes through my living room.

    1. Ideally, I’d probably like a U shaped desk, but it unfortunately doesn’t work for my workspace down there. Actually, ideally what I’d like is a circular pit o’ technology, that I am lowered into and out of on a chair. But that’s for a future house :)

  3. Floating monitor arm?

    So, going down the wood top idea..If you’re willing to trade time for money, you can do your own top out of construction pine, face glued and planed flat. I’ve done that for lightweight workbenches, looks good, quite strong. My heavy workbench is face glued MDF, quite heavy and flat. The frame is made of face glued 2×4. Not what I’d want in a desktop, though.

    Either way, you save more over the Ikea top. Full disclosure, I own a jointer and planer, so a little easier for me. That’s why we have friends, right?

    1. I should have put more into this comment. I took from your post the part about guns, computing, etc to mean a multiuse surface, so my thinking went down what kind of top could be cost effective and strong enough to dump parts on, but yet remain decent enough that it wouldn’t look like crap when you are doing a day job. The more I think about it, I could do the pine as a desktop, with a good thick poly finish.

    2. Floating monitor arm, yes. I should note that the office is actually my basement. I don’t have a whole lot of room for any kind of workship, which I’m lamenting now that I’ve been a homeowner for a while. I won’t make that mistake with any future homes.

      My dad has a decent workshop, but it would cost me as much in gas to head out there to make anything.

  4. Are you running some manner of Hackintosh? Or is that a rebodied Mac mini or similar?

  5. Everywhere I’ve lived there has been some outfit selling surplus used office furniture, and there is generally something on Craigslist if you wait long enough.

    I’ve seen complete cubicle sets from Hon or Steelcase for less than your $300

    1. When my previous company liquidated, their furniture that went in the auction that was of the type you described, but they lotted it in such a way I’d have to buy a whole bunch of shit I didn’t want for shit I did want. Given that winning the bid was an agreement to haul it all off, I didn’t want to go that route for the furniture.

      I think what I like about this option is I can make it the exact size I’m looking for.

  6. Beech is generally a better choice for workbench tops than oak. It has a much tighter pore structure, and thus is less absorbant.

    Where maple is the usual choice for workbench tops in the US, in Europe they use beech, and it works just as well. I don’t know anywhere that they use oak.

  7. Used office supply outfits can usually outfit someone with a full office for about the same price as an Ikea desk. Mine cost me $300 for two executive desks, two Steelcase bucket chairs, and two leather covered executive chairs. I like to kid that I have a bit of Enron – because I do.

    The dozen file cabinets I bought for $20 each came from a bankrupt drilling outfit – but I will never have to buy another Pendaflex.

    You might look around for a used office furniture outfit, and take time to shop.


  8. Door on shelving worked for many years parents. I’m currently using a wood slab on metal supports that I got at ikea for cheap, same line that desk top came from, but different trestle supports, which I can’t find on their website. The whole thing ran under $100, because I got the short desk top.
    I used to use an older model Galant corner desk (same top as the current line, but different and incompatible supports), it’s down in the basement as my workbench.

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