Basement Wet Bar to Study Desk

The next to last remaining 70's remnants in the basement was the wet bar area. When we moved in there was a fridge, lower cabinets with a sink and upper cabinets. Cool idea but not really a value-add for our family. The wife wanted a study area for the kids instead, she got one.


After removing the cabinets there were a few issues to take care of before I could start thinking about the desk design. First I needed to patch the holes and skim coat the entire area so you wouldn't be able see where the cabinets had once been. I ran a quick coat of mud over the area, sanded it well and used a full can of spray texture, that I "knocked down" with a drywall knife. I then put 2 good coats of paint on the wall.

Once the wall surface was ready I needed to deal with the water and drain connections coming out of the wall. The first thing I did was cap the drain pipe – I learned that when the water in the P-trap dries out, the odors that come from the place where the drain runs (the septic tank), will make their way through the pipe. I cut this pipe off with a hacksaw to make it clean on the end (I broke when I hastily tore out the cabinets) and capped it with a piece from home depot and PVC glue I had laying around. I also removed the on/off valves from the water connections just in case one of the kids wanted to try something funny.

I didn't want to cut into the wall and I didn't want get rid of the water – you never know when you'll wish you had hot/cold water connections – so I instead decided to build a plywood box to cover the water and drain connections, I then painted it the same color as the wall. When that was done it all looked good, I added the base moulding and began to look at desk ideas.

Above you can see the wall in it's original condition after the cabinets came out and to the right you can see it with fresh paint, added the box to cover the water and drain and the base molding soon thereafter.

As I started taking measurements, ideas began to form.

The Plan:

I often go to trusty ol' Pinterest to get motivation for projects like this, but this opening was unique because of it's length. When I looked around online I saw some small desks, lots of shelving and storage ideas but nothing that specifically pointed me in any direction for such a long desk.

I knew I wanted the desk to be of the floating type, with no legs, so to begin with I purchased 2X4's and built a basic frame. Once this was in, level and secured I talked the options over with the wife and started to see it in my mind.

The base frame for the DIY kid's desk, level and secure.

The biggest challenge here was that that length of the opening was longer than 8', standard plywood length. This meant I either needed use 2 boards and find a way to make them meet cleanly in the middle or use one board and find a way to fill in the 6 or so inches on the ends. When I consulted with the wife, she understood the issue and had zero interest in having 2 boards come together in the middle of the desk. She said some storage would be nice at the ends, a place for scissors, staplers, etc... Now I was in the money. That next weekend I made a supply list and we went to Home Depot to pick up the stuff.

The Build:

The most important part of any desk is the working surface. For this desk I went with Oak plywood, stained gray with a water-based protectant. I chose oak for 2 reasons: First being the hardness, I wanted something that would last and not dent easily. The second reason was the fact that I could buy the decorative edge trim piece in oak as well. This trim piece is what is used to cover the rough edge of the plywood on the front of the desk. Both the plywood and the trim piece being made of the same wood helped ensure the wood would take on the stain in a similar fashion.

I cut the plywood, sanded it and started testing stains. First I tested oil stains, Classic Gray Varithane and Weathered Gray Thompson's and showed them to the wife. We didn't like either of them. I then started researching a water based product that was supposed to give wood a "weathered look," like a Hampton's style wood. I looked great when it went on but it dried really purple, not good, the battle raged on, the question of "how is that plywood looking?" continued to be asked. Always nice to have a shop to work in while you're figuring out the details!!

I thought this would look cool for the kids DIY desk but it dried as Purple as Prince! In this picture you can also see the trim piece attached with wood glue and 1/4" pin nails.

After sanding and staining the top 2 or 3 times I decided to move on. I went back to the classic gray Varithane stain just to see how it would look. Worst case scenario was getting a new piece of plywood. After 2 coats I was happy, it wasn't exactly what I had envisioned, it was much darker, but the wood took it well, it was very smooth and looked like something you would pay good money for. I then added 3 coats of the water based protectant and brought inside to attach it to the frame, I used basic L brackets.

Oak plywood sanded, stained, protected and secured. You can also see the box I built to cover the plumbing here.

The only construction left at this point was the boxes for the end of the desktop. I went with 6" wide, primed pine for these, unlike MDF molding, it is flat on both sides and it paints well. The biggest challenge of pine is the way it cuts. Very soft wood, lots of flaking as the blade goes through, wood putty necessary to fix that.

I was glad to have my Ryobi table saw when I made these, when your building any sort of box like this, you need precise cuts and the only way to get them is with a table saw. Doesn't cost a ton but makes a big difference.

End boxes built, put together with wood glue and 1.5" pin nails. Inside joints fixed with paintable white caulk, outside nail holes and joints covered with Elmers wood putty.

Boxes sanded, 2 coats of paint, ready to go.

The 2 boxes came out really nice and they fit like a glove! I had to work to get them in but they aren't going anywhere. I caulked the edges where they meet the trim piece on the back and where they meet the wall on the edges.

With the boxes in, the last piece was the MDF trim piece to cover the 2X4 on the front. Nailed it up, puttied the holes, sand diligently, caulk the top edge where it meets the desktop and.....DONE!



Finished kid's study desk, just need to get the carpet patched and we'll be set!

A closer look at the color and texture of the oak top, came out nice!