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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

BILLY built-ins to DIY home office (on a budget of course!)

Updated: Oct 23

How an upcycled bed frame transformed our IKEA hack built-ins into a functional DIY home office

The pandemic is (just about) over so you might be wondering why we needed a DIY home office? Over the past couple of years, a lot has changed at Douglas HQ. We've both gone from being full-time employees (with the associated joys of commuting and office politics) to 100% WFH, freelance creatives. No longer working for the man, instead masters of our own destiny but all the while fighting over the kitchen table as we didn't have a single spare room to use as an office! After trialling various console tables and other furniture as make-shift desks I decided that we needed a more practical solution.

A kid's bedroom reshuffle produced an old bed frame (well actually just the head and foot parts but I don't think they have a joint name), to save a tip-run to dispose of it, I tasked myself with repurposing the wood to create a desk - ideally a pull-out one so it could be hidden when not in use. I was pretty sure I could adapt my IKEA hack BILLY built-in shelves to house the desk so I set about drawing up a design. I purposefully kept it very simple as function was the main driver on this project.

Here's my step-by-step guide for how I upcycled the bed frame into a pull-out desk and snazzy DIY home office.

Wall of IKEA hack built-in shelves with a single bed head leaning against them.

1. Make pull-out desk frame

Timber on wooden floor with tools being made into DIY home office

I adapted the bed head to create a pull-out frame for the desk to sit on. It was super simple and the main idea was for it to be sturdy blend in with the built-in shelves when pushed back and not in use.

2. Adapt the built-in shelves

Upcycling a bed frame in to a pull out desk for DIY home office

I removed a middle shelf where the computer monitor would need to sit and a shelf that would have been knee-height to accommodate someone sitting at the desk and mirrored these changes on the far RHS bookcase. I took the fake shelf fronts off first, to make the actual shelf removal easier, which reminds me, people always ask how I got the shelf-fronts to look thicker than the classic thin BILLY shelves and it was super simple. I stuck some 50mm wide MDF strips over the actual shelf fronts with No More Nails grab adhesive, then filled any gaps with flexible filler, sanded, primed and painted. Taking them off was really easy, just a case off pulling the overhanging MDF strip and levering off.

3. Build pull-out mechanism

Mechanism for pull out shelves in DIY home office by Claire Douglas

I wanted to create a simple way to keep the desk frame sturdy when in use but without adding lots of extra pieces that would make it bulky and stand out from the main structure of the shelves, so I had a really simple idea to use slats from the bed-frame to create a guide fixed to the side of the built-ins for the protruding support pieces to slot into.

As you can see from the picture, this was certainly a no-frills approach but there was no need to reinvent the wheel here, it just needed to work. I reused some of the holes that had been drilled for when it was a bed frame, hence why some of them look a bit larger than the others.

This was actually a prototype, after I had tested it to check it worked I moved it down the wall closer to the floor, to made it easier to hide (with a storage basket).

4. A coat of paint

This DIY project is part of a larger overhaul of the downstairs of our house and as such I changed the colour of the whole built-in shelf unit at the same time as creating the pull-out desk. I opted for Farrow and Ball's Dimity as its a calming neutral shade that's not cold or grey. You can also see from the image below that I had started adding some extra compartments in to the central shelves.

DIY home office under construction from wall of IKEA hack BILLY built-in shelves

5. Add shelf compartments

I was keen to take this opportunity to add in some extra compartments to the central shelves to add some interest and make them look more bespoke and less 'BILLY'. I had a great idea (well i thought it was anyway!) to use the shelves that I had removed and repurpose them into the compartment dividers as they would be the exact depth already, so would only need cutting to the desired lengths.

Sketch by Claire Douglas of wall of built-in shelves

As you can see from my excellent (ah-hem!) drawing above, I'd planned to create a symmetrical arrangement with the extra dividers, but upon creating them in real-life I thought it looked a bit twee and decided to go a bit more interesting still with an asymmetrical set-up (below).

Wal of built-in shelves made from IKEA BILLY bookcases by Claire Douglas Styling

6. Make the desk

I used a couple of pieces of MDF sheet to create the desk top as I wanted it to fold up into the shelf when not in use and then flatten out when you needed it. I taped the pieces together with strong paintable tape to allow the fold in the middle to be really flexible. It's exactly the same principal as the board in a board game (think Scrabble for example) when it folds up to fit in the box and then opens up when you play. I then primed and painted it the same colour as the shelving so that it would blend in perfectly.

And there you have it, a super simple, low budget (no cost at all actually as I upcycled all the wood) pull-out desk. To finish off the DIY home office I channelled holes through the built-in shelves for the power cable of the computer. I was able to do this as we fortunately had a plug socket in the bottom of the middle RHS cupboard. This meant we could then fit the computer in the space I had made by removing the shelf and power it up ready for use.

Built-in shelves adapted to form home office with pull out desk by Claire Douglas Styling

The results of the DIY home office upcycled transformation.

I need to take some official 'after' images with the shelves all styled up, but I didn't want to delay sharing this until then as I know what I'm like, and it could be weeks and weeks! So here are the rough and ready final pics to give the you idea.

DIY home office in shelving unit with pull out desk

Thanks for reading. I'd love to keep you up to date with future DIY, decorating, interior styling, and upcycling projects, if you would like to receive my (not more than weekly & no spamming I promise) emails then please subscribe (scroll down to the box at the bottom of the page). I've got lots more tips that I hope you'll love just click on one of the links below to be taken straight to the relevant page..

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This year I've been busy revamping my kitchen DIY Kitchen Makeover - part 1 shows the before and the ideas and DIY kitchen revamp has the results.

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