IKEA Alex Drawer Hack – DIY Modern Wood Desk

This IKEA Alex drawer hack shows how to build a modern wood desk. Sponsored by Desenio. All ideas, thoughts and opinions expressed are our own. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep us bringing fun, new content to you.

Last week, I shared Lincoln’s room makeover, and today we have the first DIY from his room, his new desk! The old desk in his room was one that we made years ago and I loved, but Lincoln needed a bit more space to keep all his things. We decided to do an IKEA Alex drawer hack to create a simple, modern desk with lots of storage.

We partnered with Desenio on this project for some new artwork to feature above his desk (and on his shelf) – and we’re sharing a discount code (below) for all of our readers to use! With his cool new desk, and pretty artwork, I’m feeling a little jealous of Lincoln’s new workspace!

ikea alex drawer hack desk photo in teen boy room

I wanted to keep the desk as simple as possible, while still giving Linc lots of storage. When I saw the Alex drawer unit, I knew it would work perfect for what I was hoping to build. The desktop is just a piece of plywood, but adding edging around the plywood helps give the desk a more custom, finished look. I love the legs on our coffee table in the living room, so we went with the same look for the desk. Scroll down for the tutorial on created this IKEA Alex drawer hack modern wood desk!

wood desk with black drawers and framed prints hanging above

Once we had the desk made, it was time to complete the space with some artwork! Lincoln and I spent some time looking through all the posters and prints that Desenio offers. They have some great artwork at affordable prices!

We chose ones that reflected what Lincoln loves and helped tie in what he wanted the room to feel like – a little rustic and mountain-y, while the black frames give a slightly modern look. (I also loved the wood Moebe pinch clip they sell!). We choose the Grey Mountains Everest poster, Green Forest poster, Lune poster, and Buffalo Horns poster for above his desk. Not only do they reflect Lincoln’s style, I love that the colors tie in to the wall color on his accent wall, subtle greens and blues.

On his shelf is the Highland Cow poster and the Moon Phase poster. I’m really happy with the quality of the prints, and they arrived really quickly! Right now, Desenio is offering our readers 25% off their posters*! Use the code “THEMERRYTHOUGHT” to get 25% off posters* on their site between May 28th-30th. Also, be sure to follow @desenio for more inspiration!

*Except for frames and handpicked/collaboration/personalized posters.

room with desk artwork and wood shelves
wood desk with framed prints above

Supplies for IKEA Alex Drawer Hack Wood Desk:

  • circular saw
  • straight board
  • clamps
  • drill/drill press
  • drill bits
  • table saw
  • mitre saw
  • hand saw
  • power planer
  • screws
  • wood glue
  • hammer
  • sand paper
  • clear water-based polyurethane finish
  • birch plywood
  • maple board
  • thick maple board
  • 1-1/8’ x 3’ maple dowels
underneath of desk
dowel and hammer
wood glue and clamp and wood with hole in it


Measure the depth of the drawer unit, subtract the thickness of your maple edging. This is the width of the plywood for your top. Measure the width of the drawer unit, add the amount of room that you will want for space under the desk, and add about 5 inches for the desk legs. Subtract two times the thickness of your maple edging, this is your length of the plywood top.

Using your circular saw, straight board and clamps, cut the top out of the birch plywood. Using a fine 60 tooth blade on the saw and cutting with the good side down will help eliminate chipping of the plywood edges. Use the power planer to clean up the edges. Cut the two sides and the front piece, mitering them at the front corners and cutting them off flush with the back side.

Cut 1” edging from your maple board using the table saw. Use the mitre saw to cut pieces of edging for the 2 sides and the front side, cutting the front corners at a 45 degree angle and the back of the side pieces flush with the back of the plywood. Glue and clamp the edging to the plywood top.

To make the filler pieces supporting the desktop above the drawer unit:

Set your top on top of the drawer unit with the edging on top of the unit, this should leave about a 1/4” gap between the drawer unit and the bottom off the plywood of the desktop. Cut 3 pieces the thickness of the gap and 3/4” wide, from the maple board. Cut the pieces to length so that they are against the back of the edging in the front of the desk and flush with the plywood at the back. Attach them to the bottom of the plywood of the desk spaced evenly so that they will sit on top of the drawer unit.

To make the dowel legs:

Make a piece that is 2-1/2” wide and 5” less than the depth of the top and 1-1/2” thick. Mark for the holes for your legs 1-1/2” from each end and centered on the board. Use a 1-1/8” bit to drill the holes all the way through the board using a scrap piece of wood underneath as you drill.

Measure from the floor to the top of the drawer unit and add the thickness of the filler pieces. This is the length of your dowel legs. Cut the dowel legs to length.

To taper the legs (optional):

Draw a line at 12” up from the bottom of the legs and draw a 3/4” circle centered on the bottom of each leg. Using a sharp knife or a spokeshave or a belt sander begin taking off wood starting at the bottom of the leg. Rotate the leg so that you take off even amounts around the leg, remove material until you get to the 3/4” circle on the bottom of the leg and taking off less material as you move up to the 12” line where you will stop so that you end up with a nice taper. Sand smooth.

Measure 1-1/2” down from the top of each dowel and draw a line. Use the hand saw to cut a slot down the center of the dowel to the 1-1/2” mark. Make a tapered 1-1/8” wide shim out of a piece of the thick maple, it should taper from a little thinner than the slot to a little thicker than the slot over 1-1/2”. Make 2 of these.

Add wood glue to one of the holes in the thick board and insert the slotted end of the leg into it until it is flush with the top, apply some glue to the shim and tap it into the slot with a hammer until you have a tight fit. Repeat with the other leg. After the glue dries cut any shim that is sticking up off.

Drill 1/8” holes through the leg cross piece to fasten it to the desktop. Attach to the plywood desktop using screws, keeping in from the end about 3 inches.

Sand and apply finish.

To attach desktop to drawer unit: Drill holes in the top of the drawer unit; using screws attach the desktop to the drawer unit.

desk with light on it and artwork above
room with desk and wood shelves

You can see Lincoln’s entire room here (as well as the sources for the things in his room), and be sure to keep an eye out for more DIYs from this space!


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