Since this is a two part post, be sure to go back and read Chapter One about installing the cabinets before you read on, otherwise a few things won’t make sense!
Hallelujah! We had countertops. I actually kind of liked the look of the raw wood but knew since we were going to put in dark hardwood floors someday, I wanted to stain it dark. You can also see we hung our monitors and hid the cords (the left one has skewed to one side in the picture above, but it just rotates back into place. Here’s the mount we used, and here’s the cord hiding mechanism. Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually against code to put any sort of regular plugs behind a wall because it’s a documented fire hazard. I’m glad we spent the extra money to do it the right way.
We used our Kreg Jig to attach the two pieces of countertop together, which I wouldn’t recommend. Kreg attachments are great for smaller pieces of furniture, but this was way too big of an application. It worked okay, but there are better ways to do it. Once attached to each other, we put them on our work tables close to where the countertop would eventually rest and slid them into place, meaning they were never unsupported risking the integrity of the two pieces being put together.
Finally, it was time to stain. Unfortunately, we ran into a problem. The original stain we bought was a bad batch and came out a lot more red than I had anticipated. I took it back to Home Depot, and they replaced it, no questions asked. I had to do another coat or two to cover up the red, but it never really went away. Someday I’d like to re-stain it again and come up with a better color, but it’s close enough for now. I used Polyshades and was really happy with the application, but was a little disappointed in the discoloration in the first batch. The second one was much better though, and I plan on using it again in the future.
We were finally in the home stretch! Hardware time! I didn’t really fall in love with any of the hardware options at IKEA, so I got some cheap ones from Home Depot that worked just fine. They feel solid, look nice, and were pretty easy to install. I created a template using this tool, and then installed them one by one. I’m happy to report they are COMPLETELY even and aligned, which blows my mind. They look so professional, but I saved a ton of money by doing it myself.
Finally, we were in the home stretch. I got to do the super fun part – styling and accessorizing. A few faux flowers, some of my favorite books, and a candle took this from a project in progress to a finished double desk. It’s amazing how all the little tchotchkes around the house really make it feel like home. I love the mirror effect on the countertop and have spent so much time here in the past year and a half. I’d still like to add some sort of accent wall behind our monitors, and I need to install the finishing trim on the exposed faces of the cabinets, but I’m really happy with it for now.
We added new lamps (similar), which really help with task lighting. I had originally thought about putting in under cabinet lighting, but since you would be able to see it from where we were seated, I decided against it. I added a tray on my side, but Aaron keeps his pretty bare bones. He lets me put some pretty things on his side though because he’s a wonderful husband.
Hanging the monitors on the wall and routing the cables behind was one of the best decisions ever. It keeps the desk super clean, and there are no ugly cables to deal with. Everything is just tucked behind the wall, with nothing to clean or get dusty.
I still want to put in a shelf above the monitors to ground it all a little more. I tend to spread out when I’m working and often run out of space. HOW does that even happen on a desk this big? I have no idea. I think a nice, chunky, floating shelf just above the monitors would be really nice, and I might be able to put in even a little bit more task lighting. Maybe inset something in the wood and be super fancy? I don’t really have a plan yet. Just dreaming.
Our chairs fit wonderfully in this setup, and the keyboard trays I built work fantastically! I love that there’s nothing on the top of the desk, and the keyboard and mouse are tucked nicely away. I just haven’t found any keyboards that I like design wise, and since I tend to use them pretty heavily, they wear out quickly. I like the look of Apple keyboards, but don’t want to pay that much. Aaron has a super ugly gaming keyboard, but he loves it so I’m not going to make him get rid of it. He and I just tuck it all away, and when you push the chairs in, you can’t see them.
In conclusion (thank you for sticking with me…this is a long post!), I’m super happy with what we accomplished. We spent less than $2000 for a custom look and sturdy, beautiful built in cabinets. I would absolutely do it again, and really feel like we’ve gotten our money’s worth out of the investment. I adore this spot in our house, and we spend SO much time here. It took awhile (probably around 2 months) to get it completed, but since we tend to work in small spurts on big projects like this I’m okay with that. If you really put your mind to it, you could probably get it done in two weekends without any distractions.
Let me know if you have any questions about this project – I would love to help in any way I can!
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