I recently finished a complete bedroom makeover for my teenage daughter. As I mentioned in that post, I created a special piece of furniture to fit her needs in the room.
She had requested a desk to do her homework and a vanity to do her hair/makeup, plus she needed a small dresser for storage. But her room is not huge so there wasn’t enough space to put three separate pieces of furniture. My solution was to combine all three pieces into one. I unintentionally started calling it ‘the desker’ (desk + dresser) for lack of a better name.
This single piece of furniture allows her to do her homework, do her hair/makeup (she has a tabletop vanity mirror she uses) and store clothes as well as desk supplies, all while taking up a small amount of space in her room. Now please don’t think I’m claiming to have invented this piece of furniture. I have seen similar pieces in hotels before. This is just my own take on it.
My plan was to purchase an affordable used dresser and then add a wood top and side leg creating a waterfall effect. This would give the piece a clean modern look which would work well with the style I was going for in her room.
My first step was to find an affordable used dresser, but it had to have certain features…
- It needed to be about the same height as a desk (about 28″-30″).
- It needed to not be too large (30″-40″ long was ideal) so that proportionally it would look right and there would be enough space to fit the desk area on the side.
- It needed to have a minimal modern style.
Turns out it was harder than I thought to find a used dresser that matched that criteria. The few pieces I found were either way too expensive or very cheaply made and not very attractive. I literally looked for a dresser at various places off and on for a YEAR!!!!
Finally, last fall I came across this baby:
This is a Conant Ball mid century modern, solid wood dresser that I was able to snag for $80. I liked the clean lines and it generally fit all the dimensions I was looking for. I wasn’t expecting to find such a nice piece of MCM furniture and was actually a little hesitant to alter such a great dresser. There was a part of me that wanted to restore it to its original glory and use it somewhere else in my home. But it was not in the best condition plus I’d waited so long for a dresser that would work for my ‘desker’ project, so I moved forward with my original plan.
top of dresser
The dresser had an unattractive eggplant colored paint job that was not in good condition so I couldn’t just paint over it. Instead, I had to sand the whole thing down which took awhile because there were multiple layers of paint on there. Then I primed it and painted it white.
already looking better
I also had to fix a broken drawer and a messed up furniture pad on the bottom of one of the legs.
There were multiple layers of contact paper inside the drawers that I didn’t care for either, so I ripped them off which left a sticky film on the bottom of all the drawers. I realized I’d need to add new contact paper in order to cover up the stickiness and prevent my daughter’s clothes from snagging on the wood. I went with this faux marble:
I finished it off by installing these gorgeous matte brass hex drawer pulls.
the updated dresser
Now that the dresser was fixed up, it was time to turn my attention to the wood top.
I decided to use 1.5″ thick wood to make the top and leg because it looked the best proportionally—not too light or too heavy looking. I chose to make the top piece of wood 68″ long because that would give enough room for a desk area to the side but would still be small enough to fit in the space I planned to put it in her room. The side leg would need to be the same height as the dresser, and the width of the whole thing would be just a 1/4″ wider than the dresser so that there would be a really small lip on the edge.
So with all the dimensions determined, off to the specialty lumber store I went. I chose to go with maple because it’s fairly durable, it’s generally a pretty grain, and it’s not too expensive. The overall width of the piece was going to be 18 3/8″. I knew I wouldn’t find any pieces of wood that wide, so I was going to need to join some planks together. The planks would all need to be connected with biscuit joints so that all the joints were concealed (pocket holes won’t work for this since you’ll be able to see both the front side and back side of most of the wood). Since I don’t currently own all the tools needed to make biscuit joints, along with the fact that my time was limited and I was in a hurry to finally finish this project, I decided to pay the woodworker at the shop to assemble the wood planks for me. It was a big timesaver!
I picked up this 100″x18 3/8″ assembled piece. I gave it a good sanding with a belt sander, and then cut it into two pieces—one for the leg and one for the top. I measured out the height of the leg (31 5/8″) and then made a 45 degree angled cut. The piece of wood leftover was right around 68″ so that would be the top. All I had to do was cut the same end I had just cut the leg from at a 45 degree angle in order to create the waterfall joint.
So now that I had the top and the side leg cut out, it was time to focus on the waterfall joint. I decided to use 5 evenly spaced dowels to strengthen the joint. I marked where the dowels would go on the angled end of the top piece.
I drilled the holes at a 45 degree angle, using a drill guide to help me keep the holes straight and directly perpendicular to the angle of the wood. I also marked my drill so I wouldn’t drill any deeper than necessary.
I then used dowel centers to locate where to drill the corresponding holes on the angled end of the leg piece. I again used a drill guide to help me keep the holes I drilled on the leg piece straight and perpendicular.
I installed all the dowels in the top piece with glue and let them dry.
Before I connected the top to the leg, I chose to attach the top piece of wood to the top of the dresser. This way that piece would be secured exactly where it needed to be before attaching the leg and setting the waterfall joint.
I attached the wood top to the dresser using the same process I used on my vanity wood countertop. I drilled eight 1/2″ holes in the top of the dresser. These holes are larger than the screws to allow for any expansion of the wood over time. Then I installed a fender washer and screw from the bottom side of the dresser top (you obviously have to remove the top drawer to do this). The screw was long enough to bore about halfway through the thickness of the wood top.
one of the screws installed through the bottom of the dresser top
With the top securely connected to the dresser, I now attached the wood leg to create the waterfall joint. I made sure everything lined up correctly and the leg was sitting at a 90 degree angle. Then I applied extra strong wood glue and used painters tape and a clamp to hold the joint tight while it dried. Once it was dry I had a nice waterfall joint…
And now my pieces were all connected!
All that was left was to stain the wood. I wanted to keep the color fairly light so I chose Minwax Fruitwood and then a coat of Minwax Classic Gray that I thinned down to a wash. I added the gray wash to minimized the reddish tones in the maple.
I sealed it with a couple coats of satin poly, and then it was finished!
I added a modern fur stool I found on clearance at TJ Maxx, and together it creates a very stylish and functional piece of furniture that doesn’t take up too much space. I’m very happy with how this project turned out and so is my daughter!