Basement Renovation: Built-In Office Area

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How we built our own built-ins for our basement office.

This project… took so long. And it didn’t turn out exactly like I had planned, but I LOVE IT. Is anyone else obsessed with storage space? I am!

In terms of time, the bulk of the time investment was for the contractor to finish the room and for us to figure out how we wanted to configure our cabinets though so I really can’t complain about this portion of the project in terms of how long it took from install to completion. THIS part was quick once we knew what we wanted.

I had grand notions here. First of all, I wanted standing desks. We tried to work out a way to do this without spending a ridiculous amount on custom cabinets, but I didn’t like any of the solutions. So we went with normal size cabinets.

The result is these.

I may end up mounting my monitor (the iMac on the right) higher up on the wall, building a base for the keyboard and mouse, and using it as a standing desk that way.

But I do like using a stool as well so this has worked out okay. I’m definitely more comfortable with this setup than I was with our lower desks so we’ll see if I decide to fix it up as a standing desk later. If so there will DEFINITELY be a post about it… if you want to get updates so you won’t miss it, follow me on one of the many social networking sites that I have linked on my side bar, or subscribe to my email list.

Secondly, I had planned to buy unfinished cabinets or refinish cabinets that were used, then distress them like I did with our built-in entertainment center.

I couldn’t find what I wanted, however, and I wanted to finish this project very badly so we went with these cabinets which were in stock. Not distressing cabinets DID save me a ton of work. But check out the built-in entertainment center post if you want to compare. They really are quite lovely.

This project is fairly straight forward. We had our kitchen renovated for us when we lived in a condo, and now I cringe to think how much we could’ve saved if we had done it ourselves.

Here’s some of the steps and pictures of our process:

1. Remove baseboard
2. Place bottom cabinets.
3. Attach bottom cabinets using 2.5″ drywall screws.
4. Reattach baseboard (ours needs some touch up for paint which I’ll work on later). We also added quarter round at a later point for our laminate flooring.

5. Cut your countertop. We used several pieces of good quality wood that we purchased at the store. This needs to be solid so it won’t bow. You could always order counters as well.
6. Attach countertop with wood glue. We drilled holes and added dowels to help hold the pieces of the countertop together as we had three cuts of wood, I believe, total.
7. Paint/stain countertop as desired. I used ebony stain (only took about 1/10 of can). I used cardboard to protect the walls and floor. I also stained the backsplash piece as well.

I got stain on my cabinets accidentally, but I wet a corner of a Magic Eraser and it came right off (phew)!

7. Beginning left to right, install upper cabinets. Anchor them to wall using 2.5″ drywall screws. Make sure they are level. This is a two person job.

Funny story. We went to install these all the way across and discovered the wall was bowed on the right side of the office area so we couldn’t just push the cabinets right up to the wall. In the picture below, you can see where the top cabinet was a bit further from the wall because it wouldn’t push flush (left). As a result, we had to move our cabinet below it to the left so they’d lined up (right). Not a big deal, but we were caught off guard.

My husband discovered if he used these little folding tables to hold up the cabinets, they were level AND at the perfect height. Win! This turned it into a one person job (mostly) which was nice.

8. Add backsplash piece to countertop.
9. Install toe kick piece to bottoms of lower cabinets.


  • Install lighting. We did some really fabulous under cabinet lighting in our built-in entertainment center so check out the link if you want to try it. Very simple and affordable.
  • Add hardware to cabinets.
  • Add the 2″ grommets, after drilling a hole with your 2″ forstner bit  in the sides of the cabinets. This helps organize your electronics and keep them out of sight.

Below are a few products I’ve bought for similar projects in the past. I like buying the cabinet hardware in larger quantities because it seems a bit less expensive. Visiting the affiliate link below helps support my blog, thank you!   

Final Pictures

It’s not super fancy, but we used a board to make a base to put our printer up above. I still need to stain it so it matches. I also used baskets to store toys above the cabinets.

I like to rotate toys out and I also wanted to use the majority of this storage space in our office to hide toys and homeschooling items. I’ve found that keeping toys out of reach and letting the kids ask for items gives me an opportunity to ask that they clean up other toys first… this has worked very well for my boys to get them to contain the mess.

I showed pictures of the rest of the room in my other post, Basement Renovation: Laminate Flooring, but here they are again.

I love these floors so much. Eventually I’d like to pick up a couch that converts into a bed to use for this area, but I haven’t found anything in the right price range yet. I like the idea of being able to use this area as an extra guest room.

My brother and mom usually visit at the same time, and my in-laws usually come with 2-6 people at once, so it’s always great to have somewhere comfortable for everyone to sleep.

I wrote two other posts for this project if you’re interested:

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