The (Almost) Freegan Standing Desk

Special challenge: Build a desk for under $30

My friend Robin, the part-time cupcake chef, and I are planning on going to Europe in a couple weeks. Needless to say, we want to save every bit of cash that we can for spending on important things like bicycle rentals in Berlin and flea markets in Paris.

So for this desk, we wanted to see how little money we could spend. Robin maintains that we could have done it for less than $5, if only we had an additional week to forage for materials. She is probably right! But we didn’t have time to do that much searching, and we still managed to construct a great desk for very little cost.

Humble beginnings

The basis of this desk was an abandoned table that David spotted on the sidewalk. The table was missing a leg, but the wooden table top was usable, sturdy wood, it was just a bit dirty.


Next, we started to brainstorm what we could use for legs. Robin’s desk needed to be a height of 43 inches. We thought about 2x4’s, we thought about UNISTRUT, and we started looking through craigslist for tall table with legs we might be able to reappropriate. Then, Robin found a pair of narrow, short bookcases, by doing a keyword search for “42”.

The pair of bookcases, which once flanked a television, would be our legs.

The book shelfs would provide amble storage for the books and supplies that inhabit Robin’s current desk.


I really liked the natural wood desktop, but Robin threatened to set it on fire - so to prevent any bouts of arson, we decided to paint it a poppy color of robin’s egg blue.

Tip: This paint was $3 at Kelly Moore, because it was in the “oopsies” section.


In preperation for paint, we did a little sanding.

Tip: If you don’t have a dropcloth or tarp, you can use an old shower curtain.

Next we propped it, and painted with a couple coats. We also painted the back of the bookcases (which were unsightly particle board before).

After finishing the desktop with aerosol spray top coat, we set it up in the driveway to check it out!


Taking our desk to its new home

Before screwing it together, we brought the desktop and legs to Robin’s office in the back of her super-Prius.

We dragged the old desk away, and setup the new desk in its place.

We secured the bookcases to the desktop with 1-3/4” wood screws from inside the bookcase.

Desk Accessories

On the desktop, Robin was concerned that her ever-growing collection of beverages and snacks would cause a clutter, and could effect the surface of the desk.

To get cheap organization accessories, we went to DAISO.

There, we procured this really cute polkadotted Beverage tray ($1.50).

And this colorful organizer tray ($1.50).

Gel mat for the floor

Robin bought a gel pad for the floor at a restaurant supply store, where she could buy it by the foot. It was only $12.


The next day, Robin added hooks to hang her purse and jacket.

Final Setup

I had to run to take a bullet train back to SF, but here’s how her desk looked when I left.

The envy of all her office neighbors!

Total Breakdown (The desk and all the accessories)

  • Paint ($3)
  • Desktop (Free)
  • Bookshelf legs ($25)
  • Drill, sandpaper, and hooks (Borrowed and donated)

Desk Subtotal: $28

  • Desk accessories ($3)
  • Mat ($12)

Grand Total: $43