Modular Office - Narrow Open Shelf Base

Submitted by Ana White on Wed, 08/28/2019 - 11:31
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Get the office suite you want - one project at a time!

A complicated storage desk system is broken down into simple, modular pieces, that you can tackle, one project at a time. This woodworking plan is for a narrow open base unit, and has an optional matching drawer plan.

You can view the entire collection of plans with lots more base options in the Modular Office System here.

build your own desk system narrow open base
kids desk with open storage
kids desk open storage
build your own desk open storage
build your own desk open base

Special thanks to Anne at Get Your Martha On for sharing her amazing photos of this plan.

office system open base pottery barn bedford
21" Wide x 30" Tall x 16 1/4" Deep


Shopping List
  • 1 – Sheet of 3/4″ MDF or hardwood plywood ripped into strips 15-1/2" wide x 8 feet long (scrap strips can be used throughout this collection)
  • 1 – Sheet of 1/4″ MDF or plywood (for the back, you will only need a piece 31″ x 21″)
  • 1 - 1×2 @ 8 feet long
  • 1 - 1×3 @ 8 feet long
  • You can use 1-1/4" pocket hole screws for joinery (recommended but not required), or screws and glue.
  • Edge banding to finish front plywood edges (not required if you are using MDF).  You'll need an iron to apply the edge banding and a razor knife to cut excess of the edge banding off.
Common Materials
2 inch screws
1 1/4 inch finish nails
2 inch finish nails
wood conditioner
paint brush
Cut List
  • 1 – 3/4" plywood @ 15-1/2" x 19 1/2″ (Top)
  • 2 – 3/4" plywood @ 15-1/2" x 29″ (Sides)
  • 2 – 3/4" plywood @ 15-1/2" x 18″ (Shelves)
  • 1 – 1/4 Plywood @ 19 1/2″ x 29 3/4″ (Back)
  • 1 – 1×2 @ 18″ (Top Inside Trim Piece)
  • 1 – 1×3 @ 18″ (Bottom Inside Trim Piece)
  • 2 – 1×2 @ 15 1/2″ (Top Side Trim Piece)
  • 2 – 1×3 @ 15 1/2″ (Bottom Side Trim Piece)
  • 1 – 1×2 @ 21″ (Top Front Trim Piece)
  • 1 – 1×3 @ 21″ (Bottom Front Trim Piece)
Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Kreg Jig
Circular Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
General Instructions

Work on a clean level surface. Always wear appropriate eye and ear protection. Always use glue. Predrill and countersink your screws. Avoid fastening MDF within 1″ of edges. Measure and mark out your joints prior to fastening. Check for square after each step. Keep outside edges flush.


Step 1

Build the Box. Begin by fastening the shelves to the sides, as shown above. Then fasten the top to the sides. Use the screws and glue.

Step 2

Back. Fasten the back to the bookshelf using the 1 1/4″ nails and glue.

Step 3

Inside Front Trim. Fasten the inside front trim, top and bottom, as shown above. Use the 2″ finish nailers and nail through the sides, and top shelves into the edges of the inside front trim, top and bottom pieces.

Step 4

Side Trim. Lining up with the front edge of the shelves and top, fasten the side trim pieces, bottom and top in place. You will need to use the 1 1/4″ nails and glue. Make sure you fasten the top side trim piece to both the top and the sides. This will reinforce the side joints.

Step 5

Measure and cut the front trim.  Attach with 1-1/4" brad nails and wood glue.

Step 6

Composition as shown


Betsy (not verified)

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 03:01

Ana, I don't know if you realize how many lives you are touching. Since I found your blog, I check it 3 or 4 times a day, just in case you update it with more wonderful plans or pictures! Thank you for taking the time away from your busy life to make our lives better. You are an angel! I'm saving your plans to my jump drive everyday so I don't have to worry about ever losing them! Thanks again for everything! Betsy

Barefoot Books Liz (not verified)

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 03:06

You have so many fabulous ideas here. Now I just need a bigger home to fit all the new planned furniture in!

erika (not verified)

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 05:09

Wow, I think this is just for me!! I've been stalking your blog for a week trying to decide what plan to use for my kitchen desk...woo hoo - love this!!!

Tara M (not verified)

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 05:15

Thank you! Thank you! I wait eveyday to see what I can use to plan my dream office! These plans will really help in my layout. Will you pretty please do a corner desktop???

Annalea (not verified)

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 06:16

I love it. :o)

Matter of fact, with measurement modifications and these adorable file folders, I could build a miniature filing cabinet for little stuff, like recipes, addresses, stamps, etc. Wouldn't that just be too adorable? In hot pink, on top of the Bedford collection? ;o)

Laurie (not verified)

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 07:57

Excellent! I'm pretty sure this is the desk I'm going to build for my youngest son once the warmer weather gets here. Thank you so much Ana!

sseebeck (not verified)

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 08:04

Ana I love your blog I went out the other day to buy a mitre saw and ended up having to return it as it only cut through 4.5" wood. I should have read your tool post first but found it after I returned the saw. Have you ever used a radial arm saw? I came across a few while looking up miter saws and after reading a bit about them they seem to be pretty flexible. From what I have read it can rip boards do crosscuts mitre cuts dadoes (I don't even know what these are) Rabbets (I know that one I thought that may be handy for making picture frames) bevels and complex miters as well. Just wondering what your thoughts are on this particular tool.

Yolanda (not verified)

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 08:36

I am absolutely loving this collection. I have a big plan brewing in my head to convert half of the walk-in closet in our master bedroom to a craft/workspace for me and the versatility of these pieces would work wonders. I have a feeling this is going to be our big summer project.

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