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In My Home Tour

The fancy DIY desk – using quartz counters for your desk

When we renovated our basement waaaaay back when, we had little money, and yet the need to create a functional work space for as I ran my shop. I came up with a DIY desk that cost me under three hundred dollars – and the desk served me well over the years. Using base cabinets from a big box store as the base, I purchased pine boards from The Home Depot and created a desktop that was really, one of the most economical DIY I’ve ever done. If you’re looking for a really great way to have a custom desk with little investment, or commitment – I still recommend this route and lots of you have followed suit like John & Sherry over at Young House Love. My brother has done it in his apartment, and my best friends husband did something similar although he went the route of a live edge piece of wood. Making your own desk is really an economical way to fit a workspace into your home with little investement.

Stage 1 - Basic desk using big box store base and Home Depot wood planks for the top.  Stage 1 – Basic desk using big box store base and Home Depot wood planks for the top.

Over the years my office changed (which I’ll get into another post and reveal.) But some things have stayed the same. My need for an office space, and, a comfortable work area. My work area hasn`t changed dramatically since I moved into the home however I was finding it rather DARK in my office.  Although my wood desktop was economical, it was sucking light from my small office.

I debated painting the top in white, but I use my desk a lot, and I knew that this would have been a temporary fix and it would eventually chip. I could get glass cut to go over the top of it, but the wood is uneven, and the glass (which is completely flat) would have wobbled on an uneven surface. I had been using the office for so many years that I was completely comfortable with the layout and, where I worked, so I started researching investment updates. Like quartz. Having installed quartz in our kitchen, I immediately thought – why not use a kitchen countertop product in an office. Its bright. It’s a hard surface, great for working on. It reflects light, which is perfect in a small space.. It is a perfect update.

Stage 2 / Increasing the storage space - adding more wood for the top from home depot.  Stage 2 / Increasing the storage space – adding more wood for the top from home depot.

I approached The Home Depot about the project and they shared my enthusiasm for updating this pretty popular DIY project that many of you have pinned, saved, and recreated yourselves. The countertop was provided to me from the team over at the Home Depot because they shared my love of the idea of showing you, how you can use materials, like a kitchen countertop material – quartz – in unique ways. Like your own desk.

Stepping back a bit, I didn’t want to get all crazy, and start over with my office. From a economical standpoint, the base cabinets were still working. Aubrey thought perhaps I could go with custom cabinetry for the base, but as much as I love new projects, why fix something that isn’t broken? The top was irritating me, but the base cabinets were still quite fine.  So off to Home Depot I went to look at their quartz samples. Here are the stages to the project…

We knew that we wanted to do the desk + extenstion that I had added on since the original project. We measured, and brought those measurements to Home Depot Kitchen department for them to quote. They will need to know things like if you need a joint (which we did, because a full piece with the L shape wouldn’t fit down into our basement) With the measurements, you can start pricing out different quartz samples. There are different levels of pricing, classified into groups A, B, C, D and things like the edge / profile of your counter all play into the cost.

I ended up picking Silestone Yukon – which funnily enough, was one of my countertop options for our kitchen, back in 2012. for the top that was definitely white, but has some variation in the slabs. I was terrified about my choice. The Silestone didn’t work in my kitchen, but it was the best option for my basement. So knowing that, here’s how we proceeded:

The next step was that someone from a third party installation service, arranged by The Home Depot kitchen department, contacted us to set up a time for someone to do a proper measurement. When the “measure guy“ came, they ask things so be prepared to know what you want. Here are some tips.

  • Know where you need holes drilled. I needed one right behind my monitor for where the cords go.
  • Know where you want the countertop edge to go to. I didn`t want an overhang by my chair. I wanted the edge of the counter to go flush with the cabinets.
  • On the wall to the right of where I sit (the extention that we added) weve added doors to the cabinetry since I last wrote. They recommended I make the counter go right over the doors. Typically people have handles on doors (like, duh) but I knew I wasn`t adding handles ever, so asked that the countertop go just to the cabinet, not over the door, so I could open the door by pulling on the top of the door. This is a scenario where I knew how I worked, and I was really comfortable going against their recommendation.

Once you`ve gone through all this they show you a revised quote of the project. It will likely vary ever so slightly from the first quote, as you may add more holes that you hadn`t expected, or, changed something. But the quotes were very close and we signed off on it.

This process takes a few tweaks from when we originally created and hacked my desk. We now needed to be able to support the weight of the quatz countertop prior to the installation. (wood is WAY lighter) Aubrey started installing braces along the wall. In a kitchen, your cabinetry would go to wall. But since we’re using big box store bases that aren’t designed for this, we have to “hack” it a little. Here are some things you should know if you’re going to go this route.

You need to have the cabinetry attached to the wall so it doesn’t move. The installer said they wouldn’t install unless this was done, and I get it – you don’t want to mess with a big piece of quartz. So for any cabinetry against a wall (like the ones in the background) we actually drilled the cabinets to The wall. For the free floating cabinets where there was space between the back of the cabinet and the wall, we installed a wall brace (which was needed for the weight anyways) but we attached the cabinet to the braces – which meant the cabinets, were attached. Problem solved!

The third party installer calls back with an installation day which is a few weeks after you sign off on the measurement and project. You confirm a date, and a window of time and they arrived on the dot. Really, you sit back, and come down for the reveal. It`s delightful.

No words the excitement when I came downstairsd and saw this. This is where I`m sitting now as I write this post. And, write other posts you read. I`ve been using my office since February like this, tweaking elements. It`s always a work in progress, but I wanted to finally show you the “AFTER`in all her glory.

You can see that the edge goes straight to the edge of the cabinetry.  You can see that the edge goes straight to the edge of the cabinetry.

I LOVE THE QUARTZ. It`s amazing. It`s solid, bright, relects light, and my coffee doesn`t leave any stains! WHEEEE!!!

Ps., Stay tuned for a full basement reveal. We have done a few changes!

Products Used: Silestone Yukon Quartz Counter from The Home Depot 

This post was made possible thanks to The Home Depot Canada. They provided the Silestone Countertop to me for this project. All other elements of the office are my own. 🙂

In My House

kid space + work space

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Without going into a long spiel, I wanted to blog some quick updates from the basement. Back in 2011 blogged that the basement was “completely done”. Scratch that. The 2 minute version of what is going on is that as Oscar has gotten older and my business gets busier – we’ve been “competing” for our own unique spaces in the basement. The whole open concept / beautiful combined work / play space just wasn’t working for us – so we’ve started to make some changes. I was having a hard time separating work from family time too – so not only visually is the differentiation between rooms important, but psychologically it’s helping as well. The first change was creating false walls and diving the basement into two separate areas. A play / family area and a “Mommy’s office” space at the back.

Take a look at this post to see what it looked like before. I haven’t done a great job of showing you the layout in this post but I really just wanted to bring the blog up to date on where we’re at. What I’ve found really interesting in this whole process is that this process of breaking one huge room into two – without any construction / drywall / doors – easily translates to a great project to someone living in a bachelor apartment. Take a cabinets and create “walls”. It’s awesome, inexpensive and – not permanet. But I’m getting off track. Basically I wanted to bring this blog up to date on what we’re doing – pretty much in limbo as our finances recuperate from taking a vacation. But…if we had a million dollars* – What would we do?

We’re hoping to get a super long couch to go here, that would go from the Ikea cabinet on the left – all the way over to where the new false wall is. There is a bump out that we have to account for, but based on my measurements of some couch depths, we have room to put the couch infront of the bumpout and not block a walkway.

Next up, we’d like to install a TV on a bracket above that dresser, where Oscar’s photo is. We could pull out the TV when we’d want to watch, and push it back onto the wall when we’re done. Brilllliant!

Anyhow, that’s where we’re at right now with the basement. Total chaos.

*Ok, so this project wouldn’t cost a million dollars, but I had to play that song because of “I would buy furniture for your house. Maybe a nice chesterfield or an ottoman” 

In Updates

diy desk updates

I’m trying to organize and decorate my office a bit better – One thing is, I’m not overly happy with this wall of bulletin board and have considered taking it down. But taking it down would perhaps damage the wall, so I’m not sure whether to live with my design mistake or succumb to my OCD about it. Anyways, apart from the look of the office, one of the things I needed to address was organization.

A month ago I decided to make the DIY desk  slightly larger.  I needed more space to store orders waiting to be shipped. To give some background in how I run my shop, I use these dollar store stackable baskets to organize orders. When an order comes in, I place items in the basket. Sometimes orders have products that have different production times (stamps take 14 days to make, whereas I have gold glitter ribbon in stock) so in order to make sure things stay together an gets it’s own basket. If you’ve ordered from me, your order has likely been in one of these baskets. It’s an amazing little system that has meant that orders get shipped faster, there is less product wandering around my office and order mistakes have 99% dissapeared. Little steps that help me as my shop is shipping out more orders on a weekly basis.

How we designed this desk was was similar to how we did my desk, but it actually was a lot easier. More after the jump.

1. Shelving unit – out of kitchen cabinets

We needed to find shelving that was less deep than the cabinetry we used for the main desk portion (Ikea Besta cabinets), as we have a door to the storage room that isn’t visible in the photos above. So instead of the base cabinets for the main desk,  we used Ikea upper kitchen cabinets (Akrum) that are 12″ (which is standard for upper cabinets) These were shallow enough that allows for the storage room door to open but deep enough to store my order baskets.

2. The top – Pine from Lowes

We did the same design as we did for the main desk. I used the same stain but we bought the wood from Lowes (Home Depot’s wood cutter was broken) I also skipped the sanding step that I had done meticulously for the main desk as this part of the desk wasn’t going to be where I was resting my hands – so I didn’t mind the “rough” feel that I would have without sanding. I’m not sure what happened but we used the same stain but the wood tones are a different. It’s kind of weird but not enough for me to worry or redo anything.

3. Leveling it

Aubrey raised the cabinets using scrap wood under the cabinetry to get it to the same height as the other cabinets, factoring in the new wood top. To hide the planks of wood we placed to raise the cabinetry up, we slid in a baseboard, to hide the makeshift legs.

I appreciate that 99% of you don’t have a need for a space for order processing. But the same design can be  done for a living space. Get Ikea kitchen cabinets, don’t buy the doors, install the shelves and add a wood top. Ta-da! Awesome “built in” bookshelf/consolve table.