Turning a bookcase into a standing desk — super-perfect for the DIY-challenged

Guestpost by katie on Jun 23rd

These days there are all sorts of people — from health professionals to personal trainers to workplace efficiency specialists — touting the benefits of standing desks over sitting. Being a full-time medical student myself — studying to be an osteopathic physician, no less — I was painfully aware (pun!) of my poor body mechanics and how studying for hours on end, sitting hunched over a desk, was hurting my back and contributing to my stress levels. I decided I needed a standing desk.

standing desk photo

I had plans to build a workstation mounted to the wall and use "invisible" floating bookshelves to hold all my med school books and make it look like that massive stack of textbooks was holding up the desk. However, I'm the kind of person who gets an idea and then throws an internal, Verruca-like fit of "But I want it now!" and our tool library was closed for the next few days, inhibiting my ability to build anything. (Yes, Berkeley has a tool library. It's awesome.) So, I decided to work with what we had — and what we had was a bookshelf overflowing with crap.

This is an embarrassingly simple project. To this point, not a single item was purchased (though that'll change, once I get one of those nice gel-y standing mats) nor a single tool used. I'm a hands-on, DIY kind of chick, but for this hack, you don't have to be.

Basically, here's the plan:

  1. Take a bookshelf with removable shelves (they don't have to be adjustable, but they do need to be able to come out) and clear it off. Clean it out, too, if it's getting kind of nasty. The one I used originally came from IKEA.
  • Decide what height you want your workstation to be, and remove all shelves above that. My bookshelf doesn't have the option to adjust shelf heights, though if I really wanted it at a different level I could drill new holes for the pegs. Make sure it's a height you really can work with — I end up with the base of my hands resting on my laptop and my elbows hanging down naturally by my sides.
  1. Tend to your electronics. I've got a power strip specifically for the cords for the laptop charger, the computer speakers, and the desk lamp. This particular bookcase has a half-inch gap between the back of the shelves and its back wall, and this is the perfect place to run the cables through for the speakers and such. I also tried both a clip-on light and a regular desk lamp, and ultimately went with the regular lamp placed on top of the bookcase, but that's a matter of personal preference.
  2. Put your books/trinkets/what-have-you back on the shelves. For me, that's all textbooks and binders, which have the added benefit(?) of being opaque, and thus blocking any view of that cord situation snaking down the back. I also keep my stapler, three-hole-punch, and box of notecards on a lower shelf, since they're occasional-use items and thus don't need the prime desktop real estate. The desk space goes to my laptop and mouse, a couple jars of pens/pencils/highlighters, and a textbook-on-a-bookstand, as well as things that will eventually be mounted on the walls or ceiling of the bookcase, like a whiteboard calendar and the computer speakers.

And there you go! This battleworkstation is fully operational… and a delightfully simple IKEA hack to boot. I'm probably going to mod mine more — mount some stuff on the inside, get a pair of doors at the local salvage yard so I can close it up and hide the mess. I also recommend getting a good thick floor mat to stand on. It will help ease those knees/ankles/heels that aren't used to standing like this.

Enjoy your standing desk! I, for one, have found that the absence of the confinement of a chair results in a significantly increased incidence of spontaneous dance parties while catching up on email or browsing ye old internets.

Read more posts about: , , , , ,

About katie

katie has a love-hate relationship with medical school and a distinct distaste for capital letters. she's a midwestern girl living in berkeley, CA with her nuclear physicist husband. together, they like swing dancing, homebrew, making jam, and other pastimes of their grandparents' youth, and are embarking on a crusade to persuade their landlord to let them have a dog.