'It feels high-end!' This IKEA hack uses two ALEX units to make an incredible fluted desk

This DIY home office desk has been given a modern organic makeover for an instantly calming feel

A home office with a fluted desk with a marble top and a rattan chair
(Image credit: Lindsey Learmonth (@thedcdiyer))

A home office should not only aid productivity but should also act as an extension of our personalities, just as much as any other space in our home. You might think plain furniture will keep you free from distractions but the fact is there's nothing less inspiring than a bare, boring desk that does suit your style. That's why this home renovator turned the IKEA ALEX cabinet drawers into a beautifully fluted desk that's perfect for this pared-back space. 

This clever IKEA hack is the work of DIYer Linsey Learmonth (@thedcdiyer) who, after realizing her multifunctional home office space was in need of a revamp, decided to give her IKEA desk a neutral makeover. With the help of some fluted casing, some wood veneer, and custom gold hardware, this office storage system has been given a new modern organic feel that's instantly calming. We caught up with Lindsey to learn the steps involved. 

A headshot of a woman with blonde hair smiling at the camera
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. A personal fan of the Scandi-inspired interior, her job entails keeping up with everything there is to know about the Swedish powerhouse IKEA. Paired with her insight into the latest home renovation projects, she regularly shares IKEA hacks with readers to inspire their own DIY projects in home design. 

A fold-out desk cluttered with home office supplies

Lindsey's makeshift home office prior to renovating her ALEX units

(Image credit: Lindsey Learmonth (@thedcdiyer))

Like many of us, Lindsey felt encouraged to complete some home office DIY when pandemic lockdowns forced her partner to work from home. 'Like many people, my husband was working in our unfinished basement utility room,' she explains. 'He was using a 6ft plastic folding table with three screens and a laptop. 

'When we quickly realized working from home was going to be the new normal, I decided to make this space dual-use and renovated the whole space to include a home office,' she adds. 

Rather than buy a stand-alone desk, Lindsey decided to put her skills to the test with a homemade idea. 'I can't resist a budget-friendly DIY. If they are done well, they can transform your space to look high-end and have custom finishes,' she says. 'That's where the IKEA ALEX drawer units, with a few custom tweaks, helped in this space.'

She began by assembling the IKEA ALEX cabinets - one being a 26-inch drawer unit, the other a 14-inch stained-oak effect filing cabinet. 'My main challenge was that I really wanted a woodgrain look but my local IKEA only the filing cabinet in the wood veneer finish so I had to get creative,' Lindsey explains. 

'I sourced real wood paper-backed veneer from The Home Depot that I cut to size and attached onto all the sides of the ALEX drawer cabinets with a contact adhesive and then stained them to match the drawers.' She then covered all four side panels with the same veneer for a polished look. 

A drawer front in the process of being renovated with fluted molding

(Image credit: Lindsey Learmonth (@thedcdiyer))

Next, it was time to move on to the drawers. The fluted detail is what really makes Lindsey's lockdown DIY project come to life, helping to add depth and texture with the organic modern style

'To make the drawer fronts I used select pine for the frame and fluted trim for the inlay then stained with my favorite stain combo, Varathane Whitewash followed by Flagstone (both available at The Home Depot),' she says. 'I then added some sleek gold budget-friendly drawer pulls from Amazon to give the whole thing a high-end feel.'

The beady-eyed among you will notice that the drawer fronts are actually double the size of the shallow ALEX drawers. 'I knew I wanted them to appear deeper than they actually were, so I custom-made drawer fronts that would each cover two drawers,' says Lindsey.

This genius trick transforms the desk into the perfect hidden storage idea. By attaching each front to the bottom of the two original drawers, it gives the illusion of deeper storage even though she's still able to access the smaller drawer from the inside.

A home office with a marble top desk and a rattan chair

(Image credit: Lindsey Learmonth (@thedcdiyer))

Drawer units complete, there was still one minor detail (read: crucial!) missing - a countertop. But there was a problem: both sets of ALEX drawers were different heights. 'I needed to come up with a functional way to even them out, so I custom-built an open storage niche on top of the smaller of the two cabinets,' Lindsey explains. 'This gave us additional storage and a level surface for a full 6ft countertop.' 

To make this niche, perfect for storing papers or files, she used 3/4 inch plywood and edgebanding. She then fixed the box shape onto the top of the filing cabinet to make a level foundation for her desk idea

A fluted neutral desk in a home office decorated with a lamp and books

(Image credit: Lindsey Learmonth (@thedcdiyer))

Finally, it was just a case of attaching the countertop. Lindsey used the IKEA EKBACKEN marble effect laminate countertop, fixing it to her ALEX units using a ledger and L brackets underneath. 'I love the look of marble stone with warm wood tones,' she explains. 'The marble effect countertop was the perfect addition to bring my vision to life.'

On top of the desk, she then added a mini built-in made out of plywood and backed with pole wrap, 'to elevate the space and make it feel like a truly custom and intentional design.' The shelving idea is the perfect way to add some personality to this office space with more decorative items on display. Who knew an office space could feel so serene?

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Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.