Build a Midcentury Modular Desk Unit (for Less!)

Get a sleek, retro-look desk using off-the-shelf hardware store materials. Dabito of Old Brand New fashioned this affordable modular unit that can be easily customized from inexpensive plywood and shelf brackets.

Create a display space that's completely customized to your collection of favorite accents. Dabito, the founder of Old Brand New, crafted this wall unit, complete with a built-in desk area, for just $230. Brass-color spray paint spiffs up the metal brackets; for shelves, he used particle board by Rubbermaid rather than staining plywood.

  • Working Time 2 Hours
  • Start to Finish 1 Day
  • Difficulty         Projects Kind of Easy
  • Involves Drilling, Spray Painting

What you need


  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Power drill or driver
  • 1/4-inch drill bit for the anchors
  • 1/8-inch drill bit for the shelves
  • Hammer


  • Rustoleum primer spray paint
  • Rustoleum gold metallic spray paint
  • 70-inch twin tracks upright by Rubbermaid (x4)
  • 11-1/2-inch twin track shelf brackets by Rubbermaid (x17)
  • 18-1/2-inch twin track shelf brackets by Rubbermaid (x3)
  • Twin track hardware packs by Rubbermaid (x5)
  • 12 x 24-inch shelf by Rubbermaid (x4)
  • 12 x 48-inch shelf by Rubbermaid (x3)
  • 3/4 x 20 x 48-inch plywood (x1)

How to do it

Step 1 Paint Tracks

Spray-paint tracks and brackets outside or in a ventilated workspace. Apply a layer of primer first, then two layers of gold paint. Let dry.

Step 2 Mark and Measure

Mark holes for the tracks. Place the track vertically 21 inches off the floor. Use a level to make sure the track is straight. Mark the seven holes with a pencil.

Move on to the next track. Use a tape measure to measure 22 inches from those marks. Place the second track vertically, 21 inches off the floor, with a level to mark holes. Repeat this step two more times.

Step 3 Install Tracks

Use a 1/4-inch drill bit to drill marked spots on the wall. Gently hammer anchors into the wall. Line up each track over anchors, then screw it in. 

Editor's Tip: The type of hardware you use to attach the rails will differ based on the material of your wall and if you are attaching to a stud. Drywall, plaster, and brick walls each require unique hardware.

Step 4 Secure Shelves

Pop the shelf brackets into the tracks to your desired shelving configuration. Place the wooden shelves on the brackets. For standard desk height, measure 29 inches from the floor. There are countless ways to configure the shelves, so it's really up to you if you want to include a desk or just shelves.

Use screws to secure brackets to shelf. Dabito first used an 1/8-inch drill bit to create a hole for the screws. You can also spot-treat the screws by dabbing on some gold paint with a brush.

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