DIY

DIY Pipe Shelves and Built-In Desks

July 20, 2015

Make your own DIY pipe shelves and built-in desks using this detailed tutorial, complete with exactly what pipe and fittings you need!

 

 Do you find yourself short on storage?  Or is the storage that you have not really your style?

We were SHORT on storage in our girls' playroom.  While we are very, very fortunate to have a dedicated playroom, our twin girls' birthday is within a week of Christmas and once they turned 2, we found that a lot of toys, books and dress-up clothes came into our house from our very generous friends and family.  We ran out of good storage options.  This was how our playroom looked a few months ago. We have a lot of puzzles {our girls LOVE them and are darn good at them}, and they were just in a pile on the floor.  Lego sets were shoved on any shelf they would fit on.

playroom-problems

The toy bins were overflowing, DVDs were stacked on top of the shelves that we did have.  This may not look that messy to most of you, but it was enough to drive me insane.  More importantly, it was difficult for our girls to find things AND they forgot about toys that they love because they were not easily accessible.

playroom-problems

Our girls' dress-up clothes were hanging on Command hooks {yep, it was a reasonable, temporary solution} and the rain gutter bookshelves that were perfect for small board books were no longer working for the larger books our girls read now.

So, we decided to address the storage issues in our playroom and decided to build some super stylish industrial, DIY pipe shelves with built-in desks.  We are IN LOVE with how they turned out and they provide TONS of much needed storage.   So, now I am going to teach you you how you can build your own!  This post contains some affiliate links.  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

How to Build DIY Pipe Shelves and Built-In Desks

Materials Needed:

  • 2 x 12 pine boards {amount varies by project size}
  • 3/4 inch gas pipe {amount varies by project size}.  We use gas pipe since it is already black.  We also purchased only lengths that were pre-cut so that we did not have to worry about having the pipe cut and threaded.  The lengths you choose will depend on what you want to use your shelving for.  You can see the lengths we used in the diagram below.  NOTE: If you use a different diameter of pipe, all of your fittings will need to match that same diameter.
  • “T” joints {amount varies by project size}
  • Elbow joints {amount varies by project size}
  • Floor flanges {amount varies by project size}
  • Wall anchors
  • Screws
  • Wood stain {we use this–it's my favorite stain!}
  • Protective top coat {we used this}

Tools Needed:

Steps:

1) First, take your time to measure your space and plan out your project.  You will need to figure out exactly what lengths of pipe you need and how wide your shelves need to be.  Don't forget to take into account the length that the T-joints and elbow joints will add to the height!  We added identical units to each side of the large window in our girls' playroom.

2) Next, purchase the components you plan to use and assemble the pipe “skeleton.”  Then, make sure it fits in the space!  This sounds silly, but with the threading and screwing pieces together, you cannot accurately predict the exact finished height.  Then, measure the distance between your pipes to determine the length you will need to cut your shelves/desk.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

3) Cut all your shelves to length and stain them.

4) Use a Kreg jig to attach two of the shelves together to form your desk, which will be used on the bottom.  Don't forget to also drill the holes for your pipe to go through, as described more fully in step 6.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

5) Attach a bracket to your wall to support the back of the desk.  The bracket will support the back of the desk.  The horizontal pipe pieces will support the front of the desk.  Note that for all of the shelves, the horizontal pipe pieces will face the wall–for the desk, they will face away from the wall to support the desk.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

6)  Now you are ready to assemble.  Start at the bottom and work your way up.  We used one wood screw per floor flange to attache the shelves to the floor–this was necessary to hold the shelves still while we completed assembly.  You could add more screws if you want, but we wanted to damage our floors as little as possible.

Be sure to check for level each step of the way.  We also marked the centerline of our wall and the center of each shelf so that we could easily mark the holes that we needed to drill on the front of each of our shelves for the pipe to go through.  That ensured symmetry as we built our way up.  We also wrapped the ends of the shelves with tape so that we could trace exactly where the holes needed to be drilled, without marking directly on the wood.  We use a 1 1/8 inch Forstner bit to drill the holes.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

7) For each shelf, you will drill the holes, put the shelf in place and then screw your next length of pipe in place.  Then repeat all your way to the top!  You can see the progress I posted on Instagram as we assembled them.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

8) For the top of the unit, instead of using a t-joint, you will use an elbow joint, followed by an 8 inch length of pipe with a floor flange attached to the end.  Then, attach the floor flange to your wall using screws and wall anchors if you aren't lucky enough to hit a stud.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

Time and Cost:

This isn't the quickest project in the world.  The assembly moves quickly, but the planning phase takes quite a bit of time, as does shopping for all of the materials.  Plus, the pipe comes with these AWFUL price stickers and labels on them that take forever to get off.  And pipe isn't inexpensive.  All that said, I estimate that we spent a TOTAL of 30 hours on this project, including the planning phase.  The materials cost a total of around $500–you could build them for a lot less using a thinner pipe, but we wanted a substantial look so we splurged.  Not a bad price tag for two desks and two sets of bookshelves that are totally customized to our needs!

Obviously, we built these for our twin girls' playroom, but they would be fabulous in a family room, office, or even a bedroom!

Isn't the end result stunning?!  I love how functional the desks and shelves are.  And of course, I love how stylish they are as well!

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

THIS IS AWESOME! This DIY pipe shelves tutorial includes built in desks--so original! Full tutorial by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body.

What do you think?  If you want to save this tutorial for later, be sure to pin it!  Signature

 

 

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  1. Medina says:

    Hi Tasha!
    This project looks awesome! I’m planning on building these book shelves for my living room within the next couple of weeks with the same board widths and I wanted to know if you could provide me with the measurements that you used on the boards to determine where to drill the holes for the poles. I really appreciate it!

  2. Chris says:

    Really great design and DIY. One quick question…is the shelf material really 2″ stock. Framing timber from your local home improvement store? Or specialty stock?

  3. […] Add a creative station in a playroom or kids room with this desk tutorial. […]

  4. […] Phase 3 included building DIY pipe bookshelves and desks, which you can read all about here.  Most recently, we moved the old rug from our family room and loveseat that we used in the girls’ nursery when they were babies into the space.  We also added can lights to the room, since the lighting was woefully inadequate (the tutorial for how we did that will be on Remodelaholic soon)! […]

  5. […] If you are curious about other updates we have made in the playroom, be sure to check out our DIY pipe shelves and desks. […]

  6. […] us–all those toys of different sizes can be a challenge to get organized.  This past spring, we built some industrial pipe bookshelves and desks in their playroom, which helped a lot, but we still lacked storage for some specific toys, like Legos.  Since then, […]

  7. Sherri says:

    Could you please tell me the paint color you used? I love it!

  8. Love these!!! What a great idea to use the bottom shelves as desks for the girls.

  9. […] and function in our twin girls’ playroom.  We have done lots so far, including building DIY pipe shelves and desks and we updated the look of their Ikea toy storage system quickly and easily with gel stain.  Today […]

  10. Kristi says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these Tasha! The built in desks are BRILLIANT!

  11. Leslie says:

    I love these! There is an apartment building that I’m looking at these shelves would be perfect in! The apartments were made from an old mill in downtown & I absolutely love it!

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