DIY Mid-Century Modern Desk & Desk Chair

With all my free time this summer, I have decided to embark on a new journey: furniture making. It has definitely not been as easy as I thought it would be. I mean, I look at furniture in a store and think, “Oh, I can make that, no problem!” Well, I have come to find out that it is time consuming and much harder than it looks. Despite all the ups and downs, I have really enjoyed making furniture that I will be able to keep in my house for years to come.

I am really liking the mid-century modern look right now. I love the clean lines and the simplicity of it all. It’s simplistic and funky all at the same time. I scoured the internet for desks with this style. I found a lot on etsy that I really liked. However, they were like $600-900! As a poor grad student, I do not have this kind of money to spend on a new desk and desk chair. So, I decided to make my own! I searched the web for directions and used this website ( as a rough outline. I did not follow this to the T, but I think mine turned out just fine. The box part of my desk is made out of birch that I picked up from Home Depot. I bought two birch boards and used those for the top and the bottom and had extra that was used for the sides, back and middle panel. I sanded all of the wood for the desk and attached the bottom piece to the sides, back and middle piece with brad nails and wood glue. I then stained the entire bottom piece (along with the sides, back and middle piece) with an Espresso wood stain. I varnished this entire section with semi-gloss varnish, rubbed it lightly with steel wool and added another top coat of varnish. I made the drawer out of a cheaper plywood material and painted it white. Once the drawer was finished as attached properly on the bottom piece. I added plywood wood strips to all of the edges that were showing on the outside to make it more cohesive after it was all stained and varnished. They came pre-glued and all I had to do was use an iron to heat the glue and place those on the rough edges. Once that was all finished, I sanded and stained those strips as well as the top board. I attached the top board to the rest of the desk with more brad nails. I applied two coats of semi-gloss varnish to the top board, with a light steel wool treatment between coats. Once the main part of the desk was finished, I attached the tapered legs to the desk with angled top plates and screws. I bought the tapered legs from Home Depot’s website. They do not carry these legs in store so if you’re interested in making a desk with tapered legs, you’ll have to order them online. The legs I bought were 28in tall with about another inch or two when combined with the top plates and the things on the bottom of the legs that prevent my desk from sliding all over the place (called a stopper? maybe?)The main part of my desk is approximately 5 in tall, making my desk around 35in tall. As many of you know, I am shorter than most. A 35in desk is way too tall to sit at comfortably so we had to cut off the legs a bit to make my desk more comfortable for me to work at. All in all, it is approximately 31in tall (all together), 44in long, 20in wide and the box part is 5 in tall. I am abosultely in love with it. My Dad and I put a lot of hard work and sweat into this desk and I know it will last for many years to come!

The chair was much easier. I have been on a flea market kick lately so when I saw one at the Iowa State Fair Grounds in early June, I knew I had to go. I bought my chair there for $5.00. It is also the mid-century modern style. Before I refurbished it, it was stained a light tan with a heinous seat cushion. I sanded the entire thing, which took so long that I wanted to give up half way through. It was harder to sand than the desk because it already had varnish and stain on it and if I wanted my chair to look good, I needed to get all the old stuff off before I could stain and varnish it. Once it was as perfect as it was going to get, I stained the chair the same Espresso color as the desk and applied two coats of semi-gloss varnish to the top board, with a light steel wool treatment between coats. I already had the seat cushion material from a pillow project from last summer so I cut the cushion and the material to size and nail-gunned it to the wooden piece and attached it to the seat with screws.

Overall, I feel that it turned out fantastic! I spent approximately $200 (upper approximation probably would be about $250) on all the building materials and it took about a three weeks of working on it off and on in the evenings and the weekends. I am very thankful for all the help and direction that my Dad gave me throughout this project. He did a majority of the cutting and nailing while I did much of the sanding, staining and varnishing. It was definitely a group effort on this one. I know this post isn’t very exact with all the measurements and the directions, so if you’d like to make one yourself, you can always contact me directly for more details or use this website that I based my design off of. There are a lot of little steps that I am sure I forgot to mention so feel free to ask me about them or refer to the website for help!

Keep an eye out for my next summer furniture project coming to a blog near you: a wooden pallet coffee table.


I attached a lot of photos of the progress!

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