New York photographer Dana Gallagher created an affordable home office with plywood and IKEA hacks. Here's how she did it.

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I've always worked out of my home, but the last few months it has felt like I've been on my computer 24/7. So I needed my space to be more efficient and easy to use. I set up my office in a nook at the top of the stairs. Space is tight, so I needed a custom desk that wasn't too deep.

home office with plywood shelves
Credit: Dana Gallagher

I bought a pair of IKEA Finnvard trestle table legs for $50 each, then asked the hardware store to cut a piece of plywood to 2-1/2×8 feet to fill the space. I also had them cut strips of plywood to top $5 IKEA brackets. The total cost of the plywood, cut to size for the shelves and desktop, was $112.

Two shelves give me ample space to store business documents in lidded boxes. I don't file those papers because I'd rather be able to grab a box and take it to the kitchen table if I need a change of scenery. Neutral raw wood finishes and creamy white paint on the walls make my office fit with the rest of the house.

A rosy sheepskin transforms the wood dining chair into a comfortable perch for longer projects. It also gives the industrial-looking raw wood finishes softness and texture. It has become my cat Lucy's favorite spot. A quartz top turns the radiator into a usable surface.

DIY inspiration board
Credit: Dana Gallagher

The display board is made from a $27 sheet of Homasote 440, a fiberboard I bought and had cut to size at a hardware store. I screwed it to the wall then covered the fasteners with grommets. I hang pieces that make me happy.

jars with studio supplies
Credit: Dana Gallagher

I raided the house for jars to hold washi tape, pencils, and paintbrushes. The glass jars are nice for being able to see exactly what I am looking for, plus they feel lighter and airier. Having my supplies out inspires my creativity.

sleek white file cabinet
Credit: Dana Gallagher

My desk doesn't have drawers, so I needed storage. The Poppin file cabinet ($250, The Container Store) was a splurge but worth it for the sleek look. It comes in a range of colors. I keep printer paper in translucent drawers so I can see when it's low.

Smart buys minimize clutter and boost focus to turn your workspace into a powerhouse of productivity. Shop the look with these office helpers:

Related Items

mint green rolling storage cart with crafts supplies
Credit: Courtesy of Michaels

Office Supplies Storage Cart

A rolling cart brings office supplies into reach when needed and tucks against a wall or into a corner to stay out of the way. This one features three tiers with mesh trays for holding papers, writing utensils, and other supplies. It comes in 17 pretty colors, so you can match the cart to your home office decor.

Buy It: Lexington 3-Tier Rolling Cart by Recollections ($30, Michaels)

set of two woven baskets with navy blue tops
Credit: Courtesy of Walmart

Paper Storage Baskets

Manage incoming and outgoing paperwork with a set of matching baskets. Made from water hyacinth and twisted paper, these baskets measure about 11 by 16 inches, so they're right-sized for holding standard-sized documents, mail, and more. Attach labels to the fronts for extra organization.

Buy It: Better Homes & Gardens Small Storage Basket ($20 for set of two, Walmart)

white metal table lamp on desk near vase of flowers
Credit: Courtesy of IKEA

Charging Table Lamp

Brighten up your workstation with this sleek table lamp. The birch wood base serves as a wireless charging station, so you can keep your devices charged without the hassle of additional cords. The adjustable lamp head and arm make it easy to direct the light where you need it.

Buy It: RIGGAD LED work lamp ($60, IKEA)

white cable box on floor with cables running through it
Credit: Courtesy of The Container Store

Cable Management Box

Control the chaos of unruly cords and cables around your workstation. This cable management box can hold a power strip inside with openings on either side to run cords through. It includes 10 cable ties to further streamline your setup.

Buy It: Bluelounge CableBox ($30, The Container Store)

rolling office chair with leather seat
Credit: Courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyond

Leather Office Chair

Choose a comfortable office chair that reflects your personal style. This chair's sculpted seat is covered in faux-leather fabric accented with saddle stitching. Rolling casters and a swivel base add mobility.

Buy It: Poly and Bark Paxton Office Chair ($129, Bed Bath & Beyond)

home office area with fold out desk
Credit: Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Wall-Mounted Desk

Opt for a compact workstation that can squeeze into a tight space and is easy to overlook when you're off the clock. Made from pine wood and steel, this fold-out table mounts to the wall for a versatile work area with a minimal footprint. Its slim profile takes up little space when folded shut.

Buy It: Trenton Fold Out Table ($299, Pottery Barn)

gray desk in corner with computer and office supplies
Credit: Courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyond

Corner Desk

Got an empty corner? Turn it into an office with this angular desk. The lower shelf can hold a computer tower or file storage, and a drop-front drawer provides a spot to stash away a laptop or keyboard.

Buy It: Leick Home Corner Computer/Writing Desk ($299, Bed Bath & Beyond)

narrow desk with wood fold-down top
Credit: Courtesy of English Elm

Fold-Out Desk

This slim desk offers a modern take on the traditional secretary. The front folds down to support your laptop and up to conceal supplies. The MDF frame comes in white, black, and natural wood finishes. 

Buy It: Safavieh Xander Modern Secretary Desk ($211, English Elm)

By Dana Gallagher and Kathy Barnes

    Comments (2)

    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    February 28, 2021
    This is a great example of mix and match approach to outfitting a home office. I did something similar recently. I used to have a big space in the spare room for my hobby desk, used for desk top computer and sewing machine. I had lots of space outfitted with shelves for all the tools and supplies. After our daughter moved in with us, I had to relocate the desk and materials. I was able to squeeze my black wood Target desk into a corner of the living room. I had similar Ikea brackets to the article ones, but in black that I had been saving/hoarding. I painted some spare boards, also saved/hoarded, in an off white. I am reorganizing the sewing and craft tools into smaller boxes and containers from Ikea onto the bottom shelves so they are neat and eye pleasing, and used the top shelf for displaying faux flowers and decorative items. The whitish shelves with black brackets compliment my black desk and neutral walls, while the decorative items and attractive containers allow the hobby area to fuse with the living space without looking junky.
    Better Homes & Gardens Member
    January 30, 2021
    The Ikea supports are a great idea, but the plywood top has severe edges even if sanded. You can buy a half-round molding at the same lumber yard and fasten it to the front edge with glue and 6-penny nails. Tap the nails below the surface with a nail set and fill the holes with wood filler. Sand lightly with 120 grit sandpaper.