A Simple Modern Desk

Submitted by Ana White on Sat, 02/19/2011 - 14:14
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Featuring double doors and built from a standard 1/4 sheet of MDF as a desktop, this simple plan will give you a sturdy modern parson style desk.

48" wide x 24" deep x 30" high


Shopping List

2 sets of 15″ drawer slides (as low as $3 each, depending on the quality, strength and features)
24″ x 48″ Project Panel (available at Lowes or Home Depot) OR 1 piece of 3/4″ MDF cut at 24″ x 48″ (about $30 for an entire sheet, you only need 1/4 of a sheet)
6 – 1×3 Boards (about $1.50 each)
4 - 1×4 Boards (about $3 each)
Sanded plywood 1/4″ plywood - about 1/4 of a sheet (about $15 per sheet)
1 1/4″ Nails
2″ Nails

Common Materials
2 inch screws
2 inch finish nails
120 grit sandpaper
paint brush
Cut List

A) 12 – 1×3 @ 29 1/4″ (Center of the Legs)
B) 4 - 1×3 @ 25 1/2″ (Front and Back Trim for Legs, Outside Only)
C) 4 – 1×4 @ 25 1/2″ (Side Trim for Legs, Outside Only)
D) 2 - 1×4 @ 22 1/2″ (Side Aprons)
E) 1 - 1×4 @ 48″ (Back Apron)
F) 2 – 1×4 @ 6″ (Front Aprons)
G) Project board 24″ x 48″ OR 3/4″ MDF cut at 24″ x 48″ (this would be 1/4 of a sheet)
H) 1 – 1×4 @ 46 1/2″ (Back of Drawer Framing)
I) 2 – 1×4 @ 14 1/4″ (Sides and Middle of Drawer Framing)
J) 4 – 1×3 @ 16 3/4″ (Drawer sides)
K) 4 – 1×3 @ 15 1/8″ (Drawer front and back)
L) 2 – 1/4″ Plywood cut at 16 3/4″ X 16 5/8″ (bottom of drawers)
M) 2 – 1×4 @ 18″ (Drawer Faces)

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Hearing Protection
Kreg Jig
Circular Saw
Table Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
General Instructions

Cut all your boards first and always use 2″ nails and glue unless otherwise directed. Work on a clean level surface. Square your project after each step. Most of all, have fun and work safe!


Step 1

Inner Legs. Build all four legs be first using the 1 1/4″ nails to nail two of boards A together, flat edges facing, keeping all outside edges flush. Then use the 2″ nails to nail another board A to the first 2 boards A, as shown in the diagram above. Use glue and keep outside edges flush on all sides.

Step 2

Leg Trim. Begin by adding board B to the leg from A, as shown above. Keep outside and bottom edges flush. Use glue and nail.
Then, nail in place board C, fastening to all four of the sandwiched 1×3 from steps 1 and 2. Your completed leg should look like the above diagram.
As you are building all four legs, make note taht the legs are not build the same for each corner. This is shown below.

Step 3

Building all 4 Desk Legs. Keep in mind that the 1×3 trim, or board B, will trim out the front and back of the desk, and the 1×4 trim, boards C, will trim out the sides. The diagram above illustrates this.

Step 4

Apron Sides. Add the side aprons, D, to the top, nailing into boards A as shown above. The overall width of the table is 24″. Keep board D flush with the outside edge of the center of the legs (boards A).

Step 5

Step 6

Front Apron. As shown above, nail F in place. Make sure you nail into both the side apron and the center of the legs, boards A. This is shown above.

Step 7

Tabletop. Add the project board or 3/4″ MDF tabletop, G, to the top, keeping outside edges flush. Make sure you nail into all the side aprons, back apron, and leg pieces.

Step 8

Drawer Housing. Add H and I as shown above. Make sure you add a screw at the front of the middle board I, screwing through the tabletop into the top edge of I. Cross nail and use lots of glue – these boards are going to be supporting the drawers. This is very important – make sure you add H and I exactly square. If the drawer frame is not square the drawer will not slide.

Step 9

Drawers. Nail through the drawer sides, J, into the drawer fronts and backs, K. This is shown above. Make sure you take a square of the drawer. See the HOW-TO section on how to check for square. Also make sure you cut your plywood perfectly square. This is very important. Your drawers will not slide if they are not square. Add the plywood, L, to the bottom of the drawers. Use the 1 1/4″ nails and glue to nail the plywood to the bottom of the drawers.

Step 10

Drawer Faces. Add the faces of the drawer as shown above. Notice how on the inside of the drawers the overhang of the face is 7/8″ and on the outsides only 1/2″. The best way to accurately attach the face is to attach the drawers to the slides and insert the drawers into the drawer frame. Then position the face on the drawer so that it fits the opening on the aprong. Then add a couple of 1 1/4″ nails to the face. Then take the drawer out and nail through the inside of the drawer into the face.

Step 11

Optional Drawer Dividers. You can also add 1x2s as dividers built into the drawers. I suggest using a 1×2 to create a space for pens and pencils, and perhaps a second divider for small items like tacks and paper clips.

Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill holes with putty and sand with coarse sand paper. Sand well, but keep outside edges sharp and square. Then sand with medium grain sandpaper. Paint the desk as desired. To get the shiny laquer look, use a high gloss laquer and add coats until the desired finish is acheived.


Beth (not verified)

Sat, 12/19/2009 - 04:56

Hi Ana

I was brought to your site through Stumbleupon and I love it!

Your plans are very clear and the furniture is stunning - and exactly what I want for my house but can't afford. As soon as Himself has the workshop built I'm staging a coup:D

Thank you for posting the plans, keep up the good work


Mandy (not verified)

Sat, 12/19/2009 - 06:30

LOVE your site - I signed up to be a follower :)
How about the bookshelf in the background of the picture, the white one. Could you tell us how to build that?
Seriously - GREAT site!

Ana White (not verified)

Sat, 12/19/2009 - 08:32

Thank you Beth and Mandy for visiting my site. Mandy, thank you for following - knowing I have readers is what keeps me motivated!

Mandy, you are a mind reader! I am already working on those open shelves in the background - just ran out of time last night! Check your feeds - it will be there soon!

Ana White (not verified)

Tue, 01/12/2010 - 09:13

For the top, you can also use 3/4" MDF. It will be very smooth and you can laquer it up to look just like the West Elm table.

Delzonya (not verified)

Fri, 01/15/2010 - 14:40

I want table like Room & Board's Parson. Can I do this plan with slimmer legs? Will this plan support a heavier tabletop like Marble?

Ana White (not verified)

Sat, 01/16/2010 - 20:31

Hi Delzonya,

There is actually a much easier way to build the Room and board Parson Desk. I would use 1x4s from hardwood, no sandwiching, and a couple of top supports. If you would like to see this in a plan, please post in the FB discussion page.

Also, I'm not sure if marble would work because there is not much for tabletop support. Glass doesn't need the same amount of support, as shown in the photo.

Thanks, Ana

Lindsey (not verified)

Sun, 01/17/2010 - 16:22

Dear Ana,

Thank you for this awesome, awesome website!! I am attempting to build the Parson's desk, but I am having an issue with the slide-in desk drawers. This question might sound silly, but how do I fasten the draws inside the desk. I do not see in the plans, how to keep the drawers in place while closed. I look forward to hearing from you.



Ana White (not verified)

Sun, 01/17/2010 - 19:37

Hi Lindsay, you will need to use the drawer slides to fasten the drawers in place. The drawer slides are attached to the sides of the drawers and the "drawer box". Because ever set of drawer slides has different installation instructions, you will need to follow the instructions with the drawer slides. Most drawer slides are self-closing, meaning that the drawer will stay closed when closed. I will add this information to the plan. Hope this helps, if you need more assistance, I'm here to help.


Murray Fam (not verified)

Fri, 01/22/2010 - 14:51

Hi! I am in love with your blog! I have been lusting after the entire Pottery Barn Catalog for years, but I live in Canada and if you think you are paying too much in the US, you should know that up here Pottery barn is literally 2 or 3 times more expensive. I just can't justify it at all. So thank you! I will be making many of your plans in there near future!

I am wondering if this plan can be modified to make the Porter Collector's Desk from Pottery Barn?

It seems to me, like it would be a fairly similar design with the exception of the legs. Can you buy pre-made legs at Home Depot? Just curious. I just like the more traditional/farmhouse like look of the PB version rather than the more modern feel of the West Elm Version.