Parson Tower Desk

Submitted by Ana White on Sun, 10/17/2010 - 19:35
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This is the desk that this very blog was built on. I love it because of the large top surface, ample storage, but clean simple modern design that begs to stay clutter free. You can also use this desk as a console table.

Well, I got a new desk.

There was nothing wrong with my previous desk. It just that I'm spending more and more time at my desk, and need something bigger.  That, and I'll admit it, I don't need much of an excuse to build something  :)

What do you think?  Not bad for scraps, eh?

Oh, and the finish is scraps too!  I used leftover (from Grace's Bookshelves) Antique White by Valspar in flat, two coats, brushed on.  I wanted the wood grain to show through slightly.  Then I painted on two coats of satin polyurethane.  It's now got a sheen but it's not goopy or glossy and you can see hints of wood grain.  My favorite finish.  Also, the Antique White is such a softer more pleasant color than traditional white.

And here is one unstaged.  I'm always amazed at how beautiful a few 2x2s (well, more than a few for this desk) and some MDF can be.  And strong, functional and sturdy.  I put this one together completely with pocket holes (I use a Kreg Jig).  It's worth the investment.  You will make your investment back if you build just this desk.

Another bonus of building something yourself is the freedom to modify it to suit your needs.  You can't tell, but my desk is actually 2" shorter than the plan calls for because I'm short, and wanted my keyboard to be at the exact height of the armrests on my chair.  All I had to do was take two inches off the legs and adjust the middle shelf down an inch.

Now it's your turn.  Want to make my desk yours?

Dimensions are shown above. Resist making the desk much narrower, or there won’t be room for your knees. As discussed earlier, you can shorten the desk quite easily be taking length from the legs and adjusting the middle shelf accordingly.


Shopping List

1 Sheet of 3/4″ MDF or Plywood cut into 15 1/2″ widths, 8′ long (referred to as 1x16s)
7 2×2 boards, 8′ long
2″ pocket hole screws
1 1/4″ pocket hole screws

Common Materials
120 grit sandpaper
wood conditioner
paint brush
Cut List

1 – 1×16 @ 57″ (desk top)
4 – 1×16 @ 15″ (Shelves)
10 – 2×2 @ 15 1/2″ (Trim perpendicular to desktop)
8 – 2×2 @ 15″ (Trim parallel to desktop)
8 – 2×2 @ 28 1/2″ (Legs)
2 – 2×2 @ 60″ (Desktop Side Trim)

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Kreg Jig
Circular Saw
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set
General Instructions

Pocket Holes

Go through the entire set of instructions and drill all pocket holes first. Basically, you need pocket holes on both ends of all the 15″ and 15 1/2″ 2x2s, one pocket hole on the tops of each leg, and then pocket holes on all sides of the shelves and desktop. Remember to set your jig for 1 1/2″ stock for 2x2s and 3/4″ stock for the MDF.


Step 1

Shelf Trim

With the tops flush, glue and screw the shelves to the trim as shown above. Use 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. Drill pocket holes set for 3/4″ stock. Make sure you have already drilled one pocket hole in each end of all of the 2×2 trim pieces. The pocket holes in the 2x2s need to be for 1 1/2″ thick stock.

Build four of these.

Step 2

Mark legs for the center shelf. Then glue and screw through the pocket holes into the legs. Remember – the tops of the legs should each have a single pocket hole to attach the top. If you don’t have a right angle drill, resist the urge to place the pocket hole on the inside where it won’t be seen – you also won’t be able to get your drill in there. Build two of these.

Step 3


The tabletop is super simple. Begin by attaching the end trim to the top. Then attach the front and back trim (the long ones) to the top and the side trim. Done. Keep the bottom edges flush.

Step 4


I choose to leave the glue off to make for moving the desk easy. Simply lay the desktop on top of the tower and screw through the pocket holes into the underside of the desktop. Remember, the towers are not perfect squares, so you may need to rotate the towers to get the perfect fit.

Good luck! And PS – if you are intimidated by this project, don’t be. My desk was done in a few hours Can’t wait to see yours!



Mon, 08/22/2011 - 21:23

I see that the 1 1/4 are to attach the MDF to the trim, but nothing in the plans mention where to use the 2 inch pocket screws? Am I correct to assume they are to attach the 2x2 to the 2x2?



Tue, 02/04/2014 - 20:30

I am sorry to say that I know nothing about anything, but I was just wondering if it is normal to apply satin polyurethane to paint? I am about to make this desk and some book shelves and am looking for a really super shiny finish. Is this a good way to achieve a smooth and shiny finish?


Wed, 04/29/2015 - 13:36

Hello! I love this design and actually want it to be double the length. What would I have to consider when building it at that length in regards to weight load on top of the table? Do I need a support in the middle to make sure nothing bends/snaps the table if there is every too much stuff on the middle of the table? or will the plywood hold? Thanks!


Tue, 03/08/2016 - 18:17

Hi Ana,

I was wondering about how sturdy this desk is, especially if I make it longer (77") and deeper (37"). The sturdiness is necessary because it is going to be a recording studio desk for my boyfriend so will hold lots of equipment. I saw that a previous person extended the desk by adding a second set of shelves - unfortunately my boyfriend is insistent on lots of leg room (so demanding!). I have managed to convince him to make the side shelves 20" per side, so that will provide a little extra support. What do you think? Mostly, I'm worried about sturdiness and also the desk top sagging. Any advice would be appreciated!!


Sat, 08/29/2020 - 08:07

Used this plan to build a desk for my son. Due to covid we are having school at home and this desk was so wonderful considering the shortage of desk right now. This was a great project!