For my son Don’s room I want to add a desk where he can do homework and draw. Plus I want some storage for art supplies. So I decided to do an Ikea Alex desk hack! I’ll use the Alex drawers and upgrade them to look like a dollhouse shop. I’m so excited for this project and showing exactly how to make it.
ikea Alex desk hack
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. It’d mean so much if you’d watch the video! I’m trying to get better at my video skills so I can grow my YouTube channel. If you have a few minutes to watch this and/or subscribe, I’d so appreciate it.
- Alex Drawers
- 2 Legs
- Desk Top (55 1/8″ long)
- 1 Sheet Plywood
- Band Edging
- Paint- Charismatic
- Wood Knobs
- 1″ Wood Screws
- 1 Dollhouse Door
- 1 Dollhouse Window (tall one)
- 2 Dollhouse Windows (short ones)
- 2 Dollhouse Shutters
- Window Flower Box
- 1 Pack- Dollhouse Shingles
- Sign- Open Hours
- Welcome Sign
- Sign- Pet Shop (customizable)
- White Lantern Light
- Dollhouse Gold Door Knob
- Scallop Trim
- Straight Trim
- Table saw
- Hot Glue Gun
- Jig Saw
- Measuring Tape
- Exacto Knife
- Construction Adhesive
- Wood Filler
- Finger Sander
- Cutting Mat
- Caulk Gun
The inspiration for this Ikea Alex desk hack come from the vintage Singer Furniture. There was a whole line of dollhouse inspired furniture items from the 1980’s and they were beautiful!
Unfortunately, they are now hard to track down and aren’t always in the best shape. So instead of buying a vintage one, I’m making one and writing out the instructions so if anyone else wants one too, they can!
I took my inspiration and the dimensions of the desk and put them together to create a sketch of what I’m thinking of. Ready to get started?! Here’s the spot in Don’s room where the desk will go-
step 1- furniture assembly
Start by putting the Alex drawers together. Follow the instructions from IKEA and assemble it exactly how it says to do.
For this project, I’ll be completely covering the Alex drawers with plywood. Because of the hand hold on the top of the drawers, I want that covered. Plus the plywood will give a surface for the dollhouse windows and door to be put into while leaving the structural integrity of the original drawers.
Cut the plywood for the front of the drawers. For the width, cut all the drawers to 14 1/4″ wide. Then, cut the top drawer to 4-5/8″ tall. Cut the middle two drawers to 4″ high. And last, cut the bottom drawer to 14-3/8″ tall.
Note, from the picture of the Alex drawers, the top three drawers are the same height. So why is the top drawer cut at a higher measurement? Because the new drawer fronts will be covering the trim on the sides and top of the drawers. So the top drawer is taller to accommodate for covering the trim above it.
step 2- drawer front prep
Next, now that the drawer fronts are cut, start working on the components of the house part of the desk. I’ll be working drawer by drawer.
For the top drawer, begin by hot gluing the shingles onto the wood for the top drawer. Note, I used these shingles on the dollhouse dresser. On that faux roof, I used wood glue and it was hard to work with. The shingles rippled and got crooked. The hot glue works much better and faster.
Measure the width of each drawer front. Then take the trim and an exact-o knife to cut the trim to the right width.
Then, paint the door, windows, trim, and shutters white. These all take 3-4 coats of paint if going white. Which requites a lot of patience as the windows in particular are tedious to paint.
For the drawers that need windows and the door, put these accessories where they go and then trace around them. Use a ruler to make sure they’re going on straight and lined up with the other components.
Next, cut out the door and window openings with a jigsaw. For the doors and windows on the dollhouse dresser, we used a router to create an indent in the wood drawers. For this desk, since I’m using wood drawer fronts, the openings can be cut right in the wood. The router took hours to do on the dresser, so it was nice on the desk the openings could be quickly cut out.
If the plywood drawers fronts are rough from cutting, use wood filler to fill any problem areas. One shortcut for this is that if the decorative trim for window casing will cover any rough spots, don’t bother filling those.
Once the wood filler is dry, sand the drawer fronts until they are smooth.
This is a fun project because with each step it’s easy to see the vision with the fun dollhouse accessories!
step 3- accessories attachment
Now that the drawer fronts are prepped, paint them. I’m using the paint color Charismatic by Behr. This took two coats of paint that I hand brushed on. Using a roller would also work.
Since the edges of the plywood aren’t great to look at, cut band edging to the length of each of the four sides of the drawers fronts. I went with a white laminate band edging since the sides and top of the desk are white. So it blends in. Using a wood color would also work, but then it’d probably have to be painted to match the fronts.
Take an iron that’s hot, I use the cotton setting, and iron on the edge banding to the edges of the drawer fronts. The great news about band edging is that if you mess up with the placement, it can be heated up, and put in the right spot. In my experience, band edging seems intimidating, but is really a beginner level way to upgrade plywood edges.
For the windows, most of mine came with plexiglass for windows. On the one that didn’t, I used a plastic card box and cut it to size to be a window.
The glass needs a backing so it’ll look like a window. For this, I used light blue card stock that I also cut to size to fit in the windows.
To make the windows look more fun, I used cat and dog stickers from a kid’s activity book to stick on the card stock. I love this detail and so does my son!
Once those were on, I put the glass and card stock in the windows. Then I used masking tape to hold everything together. There’s a bit of a gap between the back of the window and the Ikea drawer front so the tape is needed so that the window components stay in place.
Last, use construction adhesive to attach all the accessories onto the drawer fronts. For this step, I like to keep a wet paper towel handy so that if any excess glue seeps out, I can quickly clean it up. The construction adhesive takes probably 12 hours to dry. So I like to finish my day by gluing everything so it can dry and be firmly in place by the next morning.
If needed, caulk any seams. Between the pieces of trim needs it on mine. Once the caulk is dry, paint the caulk white to match the trim. Remember, that by paying attention to the details, the result will look more professional and less DIY. You’re going to all the work, might as well really button everything up.
step 4- desk final assembly
Finally, take the finished drawer fronts and use 1″ wood screws to attach them to the front of the IKEA Alex drawers. It works best to use clamps to hold the drawer fronts on at the perfect place and then use a drill inside the drawer to attach the front. That way, the dollhouse facade won’t get ruined from screws.
After the drawer fronts are on, attach knobs to each drawer. For this I like to use Wood Knobs so that I can paint them to match each drawer. To be honest, we used knobs we had at home and didn’t have a full set of matching ones. But it’s fine- I think it’s cute. But that’s why they aren’t all coordinating.
Then, remove the packaging on the desk top and on the back screw the leg plates in place. Note, there’s pre-drilled holes on the back of the desk to make it easier to attach.
Last, screw the legs into the plate.
Put the desk top in place and this Ikea Alex desk hack project is complete! Note, my glued on flower box fell off so we ended up screwing that in as well.
after- ikea Alex desk hack
I’m excited to show you the finished desk because it’s so beautiful!
I think the pop of yellow on the desk is a really fun color and works great in the room.
And the whimsey of the shop is really fun. It now feels like we have a town in here with the desk and nightstand!
I think it’s cute, but I also love the functionality! Art supplies storage is something that has really been lacking. Now there’s a place for it. Which I hope will encourage more creativity.
If I was to change one thing, I’d put the pet shop sign on the bottom drawer so the drawer knob could be centered on the next drawer up. But other than that, I’m so please with how this came together!
Once we added in the nook bed in Don’s room, the old (and super dirty) rug no longer fit in the space. I decided to upgrade the rug with a few washable ones from Rugs USA!
In front of the fireplace I chose the Ivory Amanza Tiger 3×5 rug. I think the motif is so cute- it’s very designer looking and my son loves cats of all types. Plus it’s super soft for playing on! Since it’s washable, it’ll be easy to throw in the washer if/when it gets dirty.
For in front of the bed, I choose the Light Grey Rosette Medallion Washable 5’x8’ rug. I’ve tried a few washable rugs before and I was impressed at how easy it was to lay it flat. There’s no backing to attach and match up. It was fast to put out and now my son has a fun area to play on!
I thought I’d link my favorite Rugs USA washable rugs. I considered all of these for my son’s room. They have so many great options!
For this project, I spent $150 on the Alex Drawers. $15 on the 2 Legs and $60 on the Desk Top. With taxes, that came to $240. Luckily, I had the 1 Sheet of Plywood, the Paint and some of the dollhouse stuff on hand (one Dollhouse Window, Shutters, Shingles, and the Trim). The Band Edging cost $6. $246
Then, the dollhouse stuff cost $6 for the Dollhouse Door, $6 for both of the short Dollhouse Windows, $20 for the Window Flower Box, $47 for all the signs (the Sign- Open Hours, the Welcome Sign, and the Sign- Pet Shop). The White Lantern Light cost $8 and the Dollhouse Gold Door Knob cost $3.
Grand total- $336
I honestly don’t think that price is bad. Yes, not adding the dollhouse stuff would’ve make it much cheaper. But the least expensive Pottery Barn Kids desk is around $500. So I’m happy with the look and functionality I got. Plus I think it’s so cute! Totally worth $336 in my humble opinion.
Well, there’s the finished Ikea Alex desk hack. What do you think of this project? Would you add this in a kid’s space? Let me know in the comments. I love hearing your thoughts. I think this is my final dollhouse project. Which I’m sad for, but my husband is very thrilled about! Lol. I love miniature anything so having these in the room is very fun.
If you’ve missed any of the posts on Don’s room, here they are all together so you can catch up!
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