IKEA standing desk

In the spring of 2011, I converted to a standing desk. At that time, I was unsure that I’d want to stick with the setup, and thus I didn’t want to spend the money on a proper standing setup. So my conversion to standing was effected by a motley collection of milk crates, thick books, and other implements of heightening culled from the corners of my apartment. More than half a year later, I’m still using and loving the standing desk, so I made the decision to get something a bit more permanent.

“Proper” standing desks – those that are built for the purpose – tended, in my research, to fall short in a couple of ways. The first is cost. Decent standing desks seemed to start around four or five hundred bucks, and go (way) up from there. The vagaries of New York living mean that I didn’t want to lay out huge amounts of cash on something that might not fit in my next place. I wanted something cheaper. The second shortcoming of manufactured standing desks is size. It’s pretty easy to find what they call “workstations”, which have a surface of about two feet squared. My 27″ monitor by itself requires nearly that much space, and I wanted surface area for writing, a second computer, coffee, etc, yet full-size tables seemed pretty hard to find. Lame surface size is related to my third problem with existing standing desks, which is the paltry storage underneath. I wanted lots of it, and commercially produced standing desks seemed, at best, to dedicate vertical storage to a printer (BOOO PRINTERS).

So I needed something fairly cheap, fairly big, and with a lot of storage underneath. A bit of trawling turned up this hack, which made a desk by combining a few different kinds of Ikea bookshelves. Unfortunately, that desk was too big for my space (I have about 66″ of horizontal space to deal with, and that setup requries a minimum of 73″). But it made me think I could do something similar using IKEA bookshelves.

Here’s the finished product:

And here are the details:

  • 3x BILLY bookcase – Two of these bookcases serve as the ends of the desk. Since I knew I’d have a bunch of additional space underneath, I bought a third, which is just slid underneath for extra storage.
  • 1x VIKA AMON table top – They didn’t have this in the same wood tone of my BILLY bookcases, so I got bright red instead.
  • 1x BILLY wall shelf – I needed something to raise my monitor and laptop up to eye level, and this gives me some nice desktop storage to boot. I couldn’t find something that spanned the full width of the table top, so I just centered this one, and used the extra space for speakers.

Total cost for these pieces was, as of yesterday, about $230+tax.

One of the big bonuses of using bookshelves as table legs is that I don’t need to worry about stability (like I would with regular table legs). The only fasteners I used were the four drywall screws I drove up through the bookshelves to keep the table top from sliding, and the two I drove down through the wall shelf to keep it in place.

If you’re looking to do something like this yourself, make sure you think carefully about height. I chose this combination in large part because the resulting table height (about 43″) works for me: in bare feet, standing on my anti-fatigue mat, my elbows are at almost exactly a 90 degree angle while typing. I’m between 6’3″ and 6’4″, so your ideal desk height may vary.

13 thoughts on “IKEA standing desk

  1. Ozh

    I think your original hack/pile of stuff was pretty cool and insane 🙂

    But, honestly, what’s that new trend about standing desks? Seems to be the worse and stupidest idea ever to me, I can’t imagine standing 10 hours a day to type on a computer….

    1. Boone Gorges Post author

      Yeah, I lose some cool cred with the legit setup 🙂

      I guess a standing desk isn’t for everyone, but for me, it’s nice. *Sitting* 10 hours a day felt awful, especially when I would then proceed to sit on a chair in the evening to read or spend time with my family.

  2. Maura Smale

    Nicely done, Boone! I like the extra storage w/the shelves, and the red top adds zing. I’m still too chicken to invest in a proper standing desk at home but keep on w/the makeshift one at work.

    1. Barbara Walters

      Hmmm. Actually, I didn’t like the red top or dark brown shelves, aesthetically speaking (it’s all about personal taste here), but otherwise see some great ideas for creating a wonderful stand-up desk from existing furniture. I’m the right age and XX genotype to appreciate the importance of truly getting off your duff as often as possible.

  3. Douglas Noble

    I recently moved from two bookshelves balanced on some flight cases to an Ikea FREDRIK workstation assembled in the wrong order so that there is one shelf above and one below the desk.

    I am liking your split keyboard!

    1. Boone Gorges Post author

      I looked at the FREDRIK but the dimensions didn’t work quite right for me – glad it’s working for you, though.

      The keyboard is http://www.kinesis-ergo.com/freestyle.htm. Last year, within the course of about six months, I made three big changes: (1) sitting to standing; (2) QWERTY to Dvorak; and (3) Mac chicklet keyboard to the Kinesis Freestyle. By the end of those six months, I had no more strain or fatigue in my wrists, arms, or shoulders. The great thing about the combination of the standing desk and the Kinesis is that I can have each forearm parallel to the ground, and nearly straight out in front of me (instead of slanted inward to a small keyboard). Highly recommended for the ergonomically inclined.

      1. Mac

        I used the Fredrik at my last workplace and it was perfect for me… I was planning to get one for home as well, and have just discovered they’ve discontinued it and replaced it with a desk called a FREDDE which can’t be used as a stand-up. Soooooooo frustrated. Which is probably why I’m trawling the Internet looking for alternatives. ;D I’m really hoping I’ll be able to buy a used Fredrik off Craigslist or something though, the space I’m working with is quite small and some of these (completely awesome) ideas with bookshelves and stuff I don’t think would even fit. 🙁

  4. Beau Lebens

    Very nice setup! I actually looked at ikeahacks when I was considering my move, and thought about doing something similar. In the end I went with the approach I built (http://dentedreality.com.au/2012/08/standing-desk-the-64-edition/) because it saved on space, and it turned out my girlfriend and I didn’t really need both sides of the closet between us.

    I would love to have a bit more space though, as yours does. Something to keep in mind for next time! Also interesting that we’re around the same height, but my desktop is about 4″ higher than yours. I guess I have freakishly long legs or something 🙂

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