Eco Office Open Shelf Base made with PureBond Formaldehyde Free Plywood

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Build a modern style office, inspired by West Elm, featuring simple styling. Made of eco friendly formaldehyde free plywood, this contemporary office furniture is easy to build, affordable, and made with simple tools and off the shelf materials.

Well, we have yet another reason to DIY our own furniture. 

We build to . . . 
Save money
Get what we want
For exercise
For pride in accomplishment
For higher quality
For enjoyment
To give handmade gifts
To better our homes
To improve storage and functionality
To show our kids how to build
And now, we can add protect our health to the list.
On June 10, 2011, the government added formaldehyde to the list of known cancer causing agents. The most common formaldehyde emitters? Pressed wood furniture in homes.
While I'm not racing to throw out all the pressed wood furniture in my home right now, it's my commitment to myself and my family that any new furniture I make be made without formaldehyde and VOCs.  
Here's how you too can improve the indoor air quality of your home through building your own furniture.
Build with Solid Wood
You know them as 1x12s or 1x2s, solid wood boards are the way to go.  But there are downsides, including limited widths, often a higher price for different species, and a higher tendency to warp and twist.
Build with Formaldehyde Free Plywood
Did you know that PureBond plywood is formaldehyde free?  That it's made of soy based glues, and is made right here in North America?  It's also comparable in cost to traditionally manufactured hardwood plywood and comes in veneers from Alder to Walnut available at The Home Depot.  Today's project is built with Red Oak PureBond Plywood.
Build with Exterior Grade Plywood
Odd, I know.  But exterior plywood is made with a lower emitting type of formaldehyde.  But beware, you might be in for quite the workout sanding it  :)
Existing Furniture
And if you have furniture in your home that you suspect is damaging you indoor air quality you can seal the furniture with polyurethane (do this outdoors, and wait for the poly to fully dry before bringing indoors) on all sides, keep the humidity and temperatures indoors low, and ventilate with open windows and fans.
First PureBond Project

I'm so excited to start working with not just plywood made from soy based glues, but plywood with beautiful wood grains.  We thought we would start with my office.  I have been so fond of my Parson Style Desk
But I find as the blog grows, so does my need for storage and organization.  And also, the Ram is finding himself doing more and more paperwork for me, so we really needed my tiny 8x8 office to do more than look pretty.
Here's a sneak peak of what we are working on . . . it's a tad more masculine, but what guy wants to do paperwork, let alone paperwork in a girly office?  Definitely not the Real Alaska Man.
And here's a closeup of Red Oak PureBond plywood, treated with two coats of polyurethane.  This desk is so smooth!  We used iron on edge banding and I have to say, that stuff is fantastic and easy to do!
Has anyone else noticed a trend of light oak furniture with dark toned hardware? I am seeing and loving this White Oak | Black Hardware combo everywhere!

There's quite a few plans in this collection, but today, we'll start with the Open Shelf Base - useable for an office base, as a bookshelf, or even a modern style nightstand.

Special thanks to Columbia Forest Products and PureBond Plywood for providing me with the beautiful plywood and the backgrounds for this site.

Dimensions are shown above.


Shopping List

1 - Sheet 3/4" Hardwood Plywood
1 - 1/4" sheet 1/4" hardwood plywood
1 - 1x2 @ 6 feet long (optional, see step 3)
Edge Banding, 1 25' long roll, in matching wood grain

Common Materials
1 1/4 inch screws
2 inch screws
1 1/4 inch finish nails
120 grit sandpaper
wood conditioner
paint brush
Cut List

4 - 3/4" plywood 22" x 15 1/2" (Shelves)
2 - 3/4" plywood 22" x 26 1/2" (Sides)
1 - 1/4" plywood @ 17" x 26 1/2" (Back)
2 - 1x2 @ 15 1/2"
2 - 1x2 @ 19"

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Kreg Jig
Circular Saw
Table Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set
General Instructions

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!


Step 1

There's more to cutting plywood than a chalk line and a circular saw. First of all, you have to consider the direction of the wood grain. And then you have to take into account the saw blade width. And then it's about conserving plywood for future projects and cutting tight, square corners - without having to finish the cuts with a jigsaw or handsaw. For plywood projects, I still like to treat pieces like "boards" - it makes the project that much easier and your wood grains will match right. You can use the scraps above to build a drawer (we'll get to that) or door, or even a desktop organizer. Save your scraps - it's the silver lining.

First rip your plywood into two 22" wide strips, 8 feet long. And then from these strips, cut your sides/shelves, treating the strips like boards.

Step 2

Build your cabinet as shown above. If you are using the Kreg Jig, use 1 1/4" pocket hole screws and wood glue, drilling holes set for 3/4" stock. You can alternatively use countersunk screws and wood glue.

Step 3

Adjust your shelf for square and attach the back. Make sure you attach to shelves too.

Step 4

From your scrap plywood, you can rip a 1 1/2" wide strip, and then use these for the base, or buy 1x2s and build the base that way. Your call.

Step 5

Step 6

Apply edge banding according to manufacturer instructions - it's easy to do.

Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth.

It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.


Guest (not verified)

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 10:32

I am usually excited just to see the new projects (it causes soo much inspiration) BUT, in this post, I was just more THRILLED to see that they labeled formaldehyde as a carcinogen!!!!!! I did a little dance, which is out of my character, so I really was excited about that. Now I am just waiting for the turn in the cosmetics and other chemicals to take place. It's already exciting that they are changing certain products w/o the HFCS. The consumer really does have more power than we think and I am thankful for those who do not turn the blind eye and stand up for our health! :)
LoL, I am done raving now...and now I will actually read the rest of the post as was intended.

BTW, you really have inspired me to really make my own products. I have a power tools savings jar and hopefully, with the possible renting of a house next month, I can get to work! My husband is excited too it seems and I think it'll be a blast. I love that you make the rendered drawings easy for us. Keep it up!! I am very grateful :D

UTDrea42 (not verified)

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 12:22

Was really excited at the prospect of formaldehyde-free plywood so I could build a headboard that wouldn't try to kill me in my sleep. Even more excited when the Pure Bond website said Home Depot had PureBond! Not only does my local Orange not carry it, they also had never heard of the product, and refused to put in a request to add it to stock. Big time bummer.

In reply to by UTDrea42 (not verified)

Ana White

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 12:50

Totally understand where you are coming from . . . up here in Alaska, same problem, begged my local Orange, and actually the plywood ended up getting shipped directly from Columbia Forest Products. Check out the PureBond website at to see about special delivery. Another thought, if enough of us bug The Home Depot, maybe they will stock it everywhere! We ALL deserve reasonably priced beautiful Formaldehyde free plywood.

UTDrea42 (not verified)

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 14:17

I checked out the Columbia website again, and it looks like the Pro Desk at Orange could special order it... according to them, no minimum quantities either! I will investigate and see what I can figure out. Also, I just want to say thanks to you, Ana! I never would have considered building my own furniture or finding greener alternatives to pressed-board furniture if it weren't for you and this amazing website.

Jackie (not verified)

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 14:41

I am sitting at an old, falling apart, pressed board desk, drooling over this project! I will definitely be visiting the Special Order Desk at Home Depot & putting in a request for the Pure Bond to be on the shelves! I can't wait to see the other components :)

jenny lisk (not verified)

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 08:45

Hi Ana - love this! Am in the process of making a desk for my daughter inspired by yours. It's smaller, of course, and has bookshelves on each end that are turned 90 degrees to face the outside, and has a center drawer under the desktop.

My question is about the floating top. (If you posted the instructions somewhere I apologize, I could not find them.) How wide did you rip your plywood for the spacer pieces? They look narrow, perhaps 3/4 - 1"? Also how far did you set them in from the edges of the lower cabinet?

Thanks so much for all you are truly an inspiration!

Jenny - Bellevue, WA

Guest (not verified)

Sat, 07/16/2011 - 13:46

Hi Ana
Love the new desk plans, but I also have a question about the floating top? Did you just not post that piece yet? I love the newest plan with the file drawers, but I can't ask my husband to make it without knowing how to do the top!


Mon, 08/08/2011 - 11:23

Hi everyone- Ana's new desk plans here for the eco office pieces are fabulous, but there's nothing for how to do the desk top. Anyone have an idea? SO want to build this for our new desk, but I don't want to go forward without knowing how to finish it!

Ana White

Mon, 08/08/2011 - 11:34

Hi TiffG, sorry, been meaning to post, but just haven't got the photos quite yet! I'll give you a quick rundown, since it's super easy.

Basically, for every piece you have, build a base like the one in this plan, from 1x2 material (can be actual 1x2 boards measuring 3/4" x 1 1/2" or 3/4" PureBond Plywood ripped into 1 1/2" widths) for the top. Attach to tops, as you did the bases. I'd go from the underside of the bases to hide screws.

Then rip a piece of PureBond Plywood to a 22" width and any desired length (mine's the full 8 feet) and attach to the tops. We used pocket holes to hide all joints, but finish nails would be easy to cover.

I'll be adding the plan, sorry to make you wait!

Thank you so much, and good luck.


Sat, 08/13/2011 - 06:13

Thank you so much Ana! Now that I can show him how to end the project, we can start :) You're so awesome, and so are your plans. It's so fabulous of you to share your expertise and experience, and give us a place to share as well- good luck with the momplex!

LindseyinAK (not verified)

Tue, 09/13/2011 - 21:01

I just found your page and I'm so excited. I just started the home ownership journey as a single girl with her father handyman living thousands of miles away. I have some basic building skills thanks to my dad, and your designs make sense to me. Nothing too scary, but still beautiful end results! I have a feeling I'll be a repeat visitor. Random question. I love your paint color in the pictures of your desk. Do you remember the brand/color name?


Fri, 10/21/2011 - 13:25

If I plan to paint my desk, do I still need edge banding?

I have never worked with plywood as the main wood in a project. I am a beginner. I have used plywood for drawer bottoms and cabinet backs only.

I think this desk can be adapted to work perfectly in my daughter's room. I will be painting
it white.

Ana, you are amazing! I had never built anything before finding your site. Never dreamed
it was something I could (or would want to) do. But now I have built 4 projects from your site and I'm having soooooo much fun. I am about to build all new furniture for my daughter's room.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!


Fri, 10/21/2011 - 17:36

Edge banding is one option, but another is solid wood facing. If you use a good grade of plywood and face it with pine or poplar, it will look great painted or stained. Solid wood facing is also more durable than edge banding.

When my parents were first married my parents made a couch with a plywood base and pine facings. I had that couch until I was married, thirty years later, and it hadn't worn. It was also still ugly and uncomfortable, which is why I don't have it now.