Build it / DIY / Furniture / woodworking

From bed to desk tutorial

Part of me wanted to title this post something like “the amazing desk transfiguration” or “the Transformer desk”.  A little over the top maybe, but when you grasp the fact that a majority of the materials used for this desk came from a headboard and footboard of an old bed, it’ll prove my point.

Here is exhibit A, also known as “the before.” If you followed along on my One Room Challenge then you’ve likely seen this image before. The reveal post for the room is here

And now you’ve seen the proof. I really did transform that antique, full-sized bed into a desk!

I have had this idea in my head for well over a year and I couldn’t be more excited that the end result is even better than I had imagined. The size and scale of the desk are perfection in my opinion and of course, I adore the way it looks.

And now I bet you are wondering, how exactly did I do that?

Well, I’m going to show and teach you how to do it right now.  Because let’s face it. There are a ton of old head and foot boards out there just waiting for a new life.

Not only is the resulting desk beautiful, it’s tricked out with modern conveniences that have become a bit harder to find.

Like this keyboard tray! (Available HERE. I did a bunch of research to find the perfect sliding tray and I do believe this is it!) Yes, I know, many people have switched to laptops and good for them. I am not about to give up my computer screen real estate for a stinking laptop! I bet there are plenty of us still left out there. Who’s with me?

Of course, there is one caveat to this tutorial.  Not all antique bed frames will be like mine.  But I bet they are similar enough that following these simple steps, you can easily make this happen.

Here’s a list of the tools you will find handy:

How to transform a bed into a desk:

  1. Begin by removing the runners from the bed posts, which will become the legs.

The first cut here was probably made with a jig saw, but anything will work.

This Multi-purpose tool worked very well for cutting the runners off completely.

As shown in the photo above, I used the tool to cut it in the shape following the curve of the wood.

For this post or leg, the whole connection was removed, so I added a piece of wood back. You’ll see why in a minute.

In the photo below, the runner was removed sections at a time with a chisel.

So, clearly you’ve got lots of  options.  The goal for this step is to remove the runners and leave the wood in the best condition possible.

2. Use a plastic wood filler, like this one, to fill in the holes.

Shape the wood filler the best you can to mimic the carvings of the bed posts. Build up again once it’s dry as necessary.

3. Measure and cut the bed posts to about 30″.  The exact measurement is pretty much a personal preference kind of thing, but most desks are around this height. (The exact cut measurement also factored in the height of the desktop.)

4. Using a miter saw cut legs to exactly the same length.  We created a “stop” or jig on the other end of the posts for accuracy.

The tips of the bed posts were a bit too pointy, so we trimmed those too.

5. Begin to visually map out the size of your desk.  We actually ended up using the top from an old desk we had previously abandoned when we used the bottom to build my husband a corner desk.  I wasn’t certain this would be the proper size or look right. I had intended to use a piece of cabinet grade plywood which would have worked perfectly fine.

If I were using plywood, I would have cut it to the size I desired, which was 60″x 30″.

6. Create an apron around the legs. I chose a depth of 4.5″ because that was the size of the runner boards from the bed. I wanted to use as much of the original wood as possible but here as well, I could have used plywood just as I did for the front and the back of the desk.  I would recommend a good quality plywood like Pure Bond with an oak veneer. A pine board would never have had the same look as the original boards.

7. Using a Kreg Jig pocket hole system, add pocket holes along the inside of the boards and screw them together.

8. Using wood glue, pocket holes, and screws, attach the legs to the top. Be sure to turn the patched up sides of the legs to the inside or back of the desk so that they will be less noticeable.

9. We attached the keyboard tray to the seated side of the desk before we added the apron for that side just to be sure we had plenty of clearance for the tray to slide unhindered.

The keyboard tray I picked out is extremely sturdy and was easy to install. Just attach the bracket to the underside of the top of the desk, slide the tray holder into place and screw together as directed.

I have been very happy with it and highly recommend it.  Here’s a link.

10. To give the desk a more finished look, add edgebanding to the sides of plywood that are exposed. 

Edgebanding is easily applied with an iron.

I also add a bit of decorative trim around the entire desk skirt.

11. To marry the different finishes, I stained the unfinished wood a custom mix of stain as close as possible to the existing finish. I was most concerned with getting the intensity of the finish right. Painting would have been a good option as well for this “married” build, but I really wanted a stained look.

I also stained the desktop after giving it a good sanding.

You can see that the tones are much closer, but not an exact match.

12. Apply a wash of watered down black chalk paint to the entire desk. I think the ratio was about 1:1.

I used a combination of techniques.  From ragging to using a brush and a faux finish brush.

I repeated this process for the top as well.

I used the faux finish brush as the last step, dragging it across the desk in a straight fashion.

This is what it looked like when it was dry.

After a top coat, I was finished!

You really can’t tell at all that all of this wood was not original or the same, even in real life!

I opted to not add drawers for a couple reasons. First, they would be very small and I preferred to have a larger surface for my extended keyboard and mouse. Second, I found in my old desk, with small drawers I really just put junk in them.  It actually works better for me to just not have the place to stash unnecessary things.

I styled the desk with function and organization in mind. A gold box for pens and necessities, a wicker letter tray for corralling papers and my planner.  That’s really I need here.

Every other office supply I might need is stored in the upcycled tool chest just by my desk.

So, what do you think? I wonder if you’ll be keeping your eyes peeled for beautiful headboards and footboards to transform?

Want to see more of my new office/studio space? Check out the reveal post here for sources too.












  • Rhonda McMillin
    June 16, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Great job!

    • Leslie
      June 19, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Thank you! I love my new desk!

  • Jennifer Mize
    June 17, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Are you kidding me?! That is stunning! It is a beautiful transformation. Now let me go pick my jaw up off the floor.

    • Leslie
      June 19, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks! It was a crazy idea that happened to turn out pretty well. 😉

  • Mary
    June 20, 2017 at 2:09 am

    Wow that was a lot of work but so worth it. When you find a beautiful piece such as those “legs” it’s a shame to let them go to waste. Great repurpose!!

    • Leslie
      June 20, 2017 at 8:37 am

      While there were quite a few steps, it really was an easy build that took much less time than I thought.

  • Leanna
    June 22, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Your new desk is gorgeous, ingenious idea. I love how you finished it.

  • […] made a desk out of a door, but a desk from a bed? It’s […]

  • Lisa
    July 16, 2017 at 10:28 am

    That desk is AWESOME!!! I love how you repurposed items and gave them new life! Also loving that entire room! It looks so fresh and breathable with all the greenery. And that couch is super cool! Thanks for the inspiration!


    • Leslie
      July 27, 2017 at 8:44 am

      Thank you for commenting Lisa! It is definitely fresh in here!! You can almost smell all the oxygen! 😉

  • AG
    July 25, 2017 at 4:16 am

    It looks amazing !!!
    I love it!
    I know that are looking for people who do DIY, etc
    Maybe you should check it  out:)

  • Furniture Denver
    August 15, 2017 at 3:38 am

    What an amazing job you did, it’s just beautiful!

  • Barbara
    September 18, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Absolutely stunning! Great job, beautiful office space too. My question is where did you hide your computer hard drive?

    • Leslie
      September 18, 2017 at 12:55 pm

      Thank you!! The hard drive is built into the computer. I also do intend to drill a hole kind of on the right third of the desk. I didn’t do it initially because I wanted to be sure of the placement of my computer screen. If I had to keep a hard drive out, I could build a shelf on the underside of the desk as a perch.

  • Marcia
    September 19, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Yes I will be looking for head and foot boards. Great idea and your finished desk is beautiful! I also noticed a green velvet looking couch in one of the pictures….ask any of my friends, I’ve been looking for one for years. May I ask where that came from? Marcia-Tennessee

  • Karen
    September 19, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    I am so glad that I found this post. I have my parents bed just like this in our garage and wanted to do something with it and not a bench. This is perfect and will be on my project list. Thank you

    • Leslie
      September 22, 2017 at 8:44 am

      How awesome!! I’d love to see your version when you are finished. So very happy this was inspirational and helpful!

  • Zeel Kitchen Designs
    April 29, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    These tutorials are amazing and interesting. I love your ideas and also I love how you explain things. Thank you so much for having the time to make and share these online. Keep it up!

  • […] the before. A complete tutorial can be found here, because not only did I find a way to marry this old wood with new wood, I even added the perfect […]


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