Nesting with Power Tools:
DIY Loft Bed and Desk
I am well into my second trimester now, and already hitting the “nesting” phase of pregnancy. I have this overwhelming urge to get my house in order before the baby arrives in April, and I have a handful of projects I’ll be trying to knock out before then. This project is the first in what will hopefully be a little series of DIY home organization projects I’m going to call “Nesting with Power Tools”.
First up, getting the playroom organized for my other two kids. Because if I have an organized play room, surely my children will be able to clean their own rooms and do their homework unassisted and my life will be amazing and wonderful. …Right?
I’ve been plotting for a few months now to redo their playroom. My first project was floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, where I keep all of the more cherished “please don’t rip the pages out” books up on the top shelves, and the sturdier every day books on the bottom shelves within their reach. I used Ana White’s simple DIY plan for “Ten Dollar Ledges” that you can find here.
Next, I wanted to make the space more functional by giving my kindergartener a large workspace to do her homework and a comfy place to read, and my three-year old plenty of floor space for his train tracks and puzzles.
My solution: a two-in-one reading loft above and workspace underneath, that leaves plenty of floor space for free play. This project would also be perfect for a child's bedroom, as the loft portion fits a twin mattress perfectly.
Once again, I turned to my woodworking hero Ana White to find building plans for the loft. I used this plan and made modifications to accommodate my vision.
How to Build the Loft Bed with Desk
For this build, you’re going to need:
- Tape measure
- Speed square
- Safety glasses
- Ear protection
- Kreg Jig
- Drill bit set
- Circular saw or chop (miter) saw
- Nail gun
Ana White has already created a perfectly wonderful DIY for the loft bed, so use her tutorial to complete the first few steps, up to Step 6 where the decking is placed on the top of the stair platform. Find it here.
You could also complete her build all the way through Step 9 if you wanted to build the staircase. I opted instead to attach two 2x4 rungs up to the deck to save floor space.
Helpful Tips and slight modifications I made:
- My husband suggested using 5” lag screws to attach the side rail 1x6s for added support. Pocket holes are probably sufficient, but I’d rather overdo it and rest easy knowing the supports for the bed aren’t going to fail.
- Do all of your finishing work outside to avoid getting sawdust all over your house.
- Remember to assemble the pieces that you’re using wood glue on first, BEFORE staining, as the wood glue will not adhere properly to the stain.
- For a more finished appearance, use Kreg plugs (or wood filler) to fill in all the pocket holes after you’ve assembled the bed, then touch up the paint/stain.
- Remember to set the correct depth on your Kreg Jig before making those pocket holes. The actual width of a 2x4 is 1.5”, so adjust your Kreg Jig accordingly.
The finished loft built to Step 6 will look like this:
Let’s add a workspace, shall we?
Shopping list for the desk:
- 2 - 2x4s
- Spruce project board OR 3/4” plywood cut to 72” x 20”
Cut list for your 2x4s:
- 1- 78"
- 2- 18"
- 1- 19 7/8" **Read below + cut as you go
- 1- 14 3/4" **Read below + cut as you go
First, we’ll need to build out the frame to hold the floating desk. To do that we need to decide how high you’ll want the desktop to be. I Googled “standard child desk heights” by grade and decided that I wanted the desk to be 24 1/4” high. If you have a younger or older child you may want to move the desk up or down from this height. I found this was a good height for a 1st-3rd grader, so it gives my daughter a little room to grow. If you want to go with this desktop height, measure from the floor up and make a mark at 23 1/2” where the desk will attach.
Fun fact: my floor isn’t level. It’s actually about 3/4” off from one end of the desk to the other, which his why I made bad cuts twice before realizing what the problem was.
Use 2.5” screws to attach your 78” 2x4 to the bed, then check for level. If its not level, adjust one end of the board and reattach it to make the desk level. We don’t want pencils rolling off the desk. After you’re sure the 78” 2x4 is level, go ahead and attach the 18” horizontal 2x4s with pocket holes. Since the desktop will be 72” wide, measure 72” from the outside of your left horizontal support and make a mark, which is where the outside edge of your right horizontal support will need to be.
Use a tape measure to check the length from the bottom of your horizontal supports to the floor before cutting the upright supports for the desk. If you’ve had to adjust your board at all to make it level, you may find the cuts for your leg supports need to be a little different from mine.
Attach the leg pieces with more pocket holes.
I had planned on using 3/4” plywood cut to size for the desk, but instead my husband found a spruce project board for under $30 that was almost exactly the dimensions I’d wanted. Find it at Lowe’s here, or get 3/4” sanded plywood cut down to 72” x 20”.
I first painted the desktop, then attached it to the supports with my nail gun.
Voila! You’re done! I added a lighting strip above the desk, but you can finish up the project however you’d like. I found adjustable-height children's desk chairs at IKEA for $35 each.
Thanks for following along with my latest project! Let me know what you think.