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My Gorgeous DIY Office Built ins Reveal

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My Gorgeous DIY Office Built ins Reveal

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After what feels like years, my office built ins are finally finished.  And it was worth all the hard work and effort, because I am in love with how they turned out.  I’m dying to share it with you, and you’ve probably already seen them because of my last post/instagram, but just for the sake of this post, I’m going to go through the before/after progression.  This project was a long time coming and was a lot of effort, so buckle up for a lengthy post!

This post contains affiliate links, please read more on my affiliate disclosure.  


This was the craft room set up for the first two years.  Then I made it look slightly better…

It was okay.  I loved having my giant pegboard, and it was actually such a great space for a craft room.  But it is literally the first room you see when you walk in my house and I just didn’t want people to see the mess and clutter, which it was more times than not.

A few years ago, when I was pregnant with my fifth baby, I decided to pass the days by starting on the project of my front room.  I had always had plans to do office built ins for this room.  I made a plan, that looked like this:

Yikes…looking at that plan again, it’s kinda ugly.  Most mockup programs don’t really have the capability of doing good office built ins so there is my best attempt.  I ended up bagging the brick wall, partially due to just wanting to be done, and partially because it didn’t quite feel right anymore.  But who knows, maybe in the future I’ll add it in.

Getting Started on the Office Built ins

To get started, I moved everything out and put it in storage.  Then I pulled out the carpet.  And installed the laminate that matches the rest of my house (Mannington Historic Oak, Ash).  It was a labor of love and a real learning experience.  I did an okay job.  And it wasn’t very enjoyable…so many hours on my hands and knees while being several months pregnant.

It sat empty with the hard flooring for another two years.  I just didn’t have the time or energy with having a new baby and four other kids.  But this last fall I finally made time for this project.  It was so fun to get back into wood working, but this project was CURSED!!  It felt like everything just kept going wrong.  I made little allowances of error which ended up causing a giant headache later.  I can’t even remember all the things that went wrong.  And now that it’s all done, I’ve put that out of my mind.  I just love how it turned out and I’m not going to agonize over the imperfections.


office built ins

Tada!  Unreal.  It doesn’t look like the same room at all!  

build in cabinets
I initially was planning on doing the office built ins white, like everything else in my house.  But black, being so trendy these days, was really appealing to me.  My husband always liked the idea of a dark office space, although I’m sure he was visualizing some dark wood tone.  He’s pretty traditional in his style, but when I do things, he usually starts to like it.  After agonizing over the paint color for a couple of weeks, I chose Benjamin Moore Cheating Heart.  I didn’t want something too blue and I was nervous about going too dark, since it’s a north-facing room.  This color was the answer to those concerns.  I love it!  

black built ins
All the little finishing touches really brought this room together!  Here are the sources (affiliate links):

Room Source List

I haven’t found the right furniture for this room yet, and to be honest, I kind of ran out of funds for this room anyway.  Hopefully I can get some soon.  It is so fun to have this room be functional!

I made the design for the office built ins on Sketchup, but I realized it wasn’t going to work because of some dumb miscalculations.  My initial plan was based on the height of regular kitchen cabinets, because I wasn’t thinking about the fact that when you build a desk, it has be more like table height, not counter height.  So I completely re-did my plan.

office built ins sketchup

The Build Process

The first step was to build these two little platforms.  I usually do platforms for my cabinet boxes to sit on because I haven’t even needed a kick plate cutout.  I’m sure I will at some point.  These are simply built out of 2x6s and particle board.  You can get the cheapest stuff.  Why did I use 2x6s?  I wanted the base to be tall enough for the 5″ baseboards.  However if I were to go back and do this again, I would use 3/4″ ripped MDF or plywood boards, because they are straight.  It’s hard to work around the warped rough construction lumber.

After the platforms were secured to the wall and level (using shims), I built the base cabinets.  I built them using white Melamine board this time.  This is a pretty good option for cabinets because you don’t have to paint the inside of the cabinets.  However it was tricky because I had to really block these off when I sprayed the cabinets.  I screwed the cabinets to the wall, then I built the face frames out of poplar wood and pocket holes, nailing it on.  I used two pieces of 8 foot 3/4″ MDF for the desktop.  I also used 1/4″ plywood to cover the exposed sides of the desk.

For the upper cabinets, I did them out of melamine as well.  They were much larger because in my initial plan, they were going to be the base cabinets.  When I re-did my plan, I made sure to work around the supplies I already had cut and ready so I didn’t waste much.  I actually think this plan is better than my first plan anyway because these upper cabinets are nice and big and great for storage, including the printer!  I just stacked them on top of each other and screwed them to the wall, making sure they were level.  I also used some scraps to sit them on top so there would be space for the 1×2 face frame to be level with the bottom of the cabinet.

After the side cabinet were up, I cut some 1/4″ plywood for the backs of them, so they would look nicer.  I usually don’t bother with backs on my cabinets, but I’d never done uppers before.  Then I built the bookcases.  The middle was tricky to get to fit right, I’m not really sure where I went wrong.  I told you this project was cursed.   To hang the middle shelves, I nailed up a cleat to the wall where they needed to sit and then let the shelves rest on it while I screwed them in.  I also didn’t bother drilling the bookshelf pin holes before but I wouldn’t do that again.  It was really tricky to get them to line up.

Here they are with their face frames on.  This is where I screwed up a little.  I forgot to put on the 1/4″ plywood to cover the seam of the side cabinets and so I had to put it on after the face frame was on.  So it’s not super pretty right there, even though I sanded and caulked it with the hopes it would blend in better.  You live, you learn.  Then I messed up again somehow by not getting the measurements perfect on the face frame so it didn’t end up lining up with the top of the bookshelves.  Man, writing this up is giving me traumatic flashbacks.  It was such a headache.  It really made me feel like such an amateur…which I guess I still am.  But you learn with each project.

building office built ins

I had to close up the top, which I did with some more MDF.  The middle was fine because the bookcase extended up beyond the top, so it provided something to nail it to.  The sides didn’t have anything though, so I had to build a little frame.

This was tricky, but I got these to fit perfectly between the cabinet and the ceiling.  I screwed them in and then nailed the MDF to the front.  This was not my favorite part.

After they were closed up I added some finishing trim to the top so it wasn’t so basic.  I finished it all off with crown molding, which is like doing it for the first time every. single. time.  I freaking hate crown molding.  I couldn’t do any of it with the Kreg Crown Pro.

Last step in the office built ins…doors and drawers!

unpainted office built ins

I opted to order the doors this time.  I built them last time, but it does take some time and care and I was running out of time.  I really wanted to be finished by the end of November, and it was almost the middle of November.  I also wasn’t sure if they would work well not being in a climate-controlled shop (my garage) because doors have to have the right amount of pressure when they are being glued and the temperature can really affect it.  Anyway, I ordered the doors from a local company and they did a great job.  They weren’t cheap though.  If you have time and are willing, it’s so much more cost effective to make your own.  I had them drill the holes for the hinges as well.

As for the drawers, I wanted to do these myself since I’d never done drawers before and they are really basic boxes.  I was pretty confident I could do it, but you have to be pretty precise with the measurements.  I ordered these drawer slides from Amazon and they were straight forward to install.  I used the handy Kreg Shelf Jig which I’m sure saved a lot of frustration and it was much easier than I thought.

unfinished office built in drawers


I built simple boxes with a 1/4″ plywood bottom nailed on.  I installed them on the slides and then closed them.  I nailed the fronts on in place and then screwed them in from inside the box.

I opted to do plain drawer fronts because 1) it was WAY easier and 2) I liked the simple modern look.

Painting the Office Built Ins

After I had sanded, filled nail holes, and caulked, it was time to paint.   I knew for this job I wanted to use a really good paint sprayer.  This is something I should have bought YEARS ago, since I’ve done so many heavy painting jobs.  I just couldn’t ever decide which one to get and ended up being intimidated by the whole buying process.  This time around I knew which one I wanted, and it worked like a dream.  I bought the Graco Magnum x5.  The only thing I had to learn by trial was that it eats up paint VERY quickly!  It does a great job with great coverage, but I went through about twice as much paint as I initially planned.  I loved using it though.

I first painted everything white, including the walls and ceiling of the rest of the room.  I did those first, with a higher quality paint, then got some basic primer for the office built ins.  I sprayed just one coat of that on them.

After the white was done, I took the French doors off and painted them black.  They were gray before which I loved, but I knew the black would look more elegant when all was said and done.  I just sprayed them with my Home Right sprayer because it was a smaller job.  Then I used a spray bottle with a little vinegar to spray on the glass windows and the paint scraped right off.  I forgot to take a picture of that, whoops!

After a few days of letting that dry, I taped and masked the room so the rest of the room wouldn’t get black paint on it.  To paint the cabinet doors, I didn’t have a ton of space inside, so I tried this little trick I saw somewhere.  You drill little holes in the top of the doors and screw in C hooks.  Then you can hang each door on a hanger and hang that on a clothes rack.  I bought two of these on Amazon and used them in the office.  Then when I sprayed the cabinets, I also sprayed the doors.

These pictures were taken at night with my husband’s phone so sorry for the crappy light!

painting the office built ins

I made another dumb mistake though and put them by the window.  This means that when I sprayed them, the overspray went onto the plastic covering the window, which was the only natural light coming into the room.  I didn’t even have overhead light because I had painted the ceiling and we hadn’t installed the new light yet.  So basically this meant my lighting during the day was very poor and at night it was non-existent.  When I finally got some light, I could see that I hadn’t done a super great job on the doors.  I had to sand quite a few down and respray and they were better when I finished but there’s another lesson learned.


Finally Almost Ready…

After a few days of drying, I installed the doors on Euro Hinges purchased from Home Depot and then installed the gold pulls which I love.  It took me forever to decide on them, but I love what I chose.  They look so good with the black cabinets!

office built ins with french doors

We moved the piano back into the front room, rolled out the rug, and I styled the shelves.   My husband also installed some Hue lights under the shelves like he did in the family room.  They really add so much ambiance to the space!

office built ins with lighting

Can’t wait until I get my chairs and other stuff in here, but that won’t be for awhile.  I want to get going on some other fun projects so the money won’t be there for a bit.

modern black office built ins

My husband agonized over buying this huge computer monitor.  He wanted to find a pretty one that would fit that space well.  It was kind of spendy, but we are happy we chose it.  It’s going to be a place where anyone in the family can go to use the computer, along with some hookups to make it easy for me or my husband to use our laptops with that monitor.

Whew!  That was a super long post, and here’s a trophy for you for reading all the way to the end.  I’d love to hear any questions or comments you might have and I’ll do my best to respond!

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