Maximize your workspace and keep essentials organized by building this simple DIY desk hutch. An affordable project with easy-to-follow directions that allow you to put the shelf together in less than an hour.
When I was in college way back in the dark ages the desk in my dorm had shelves above it for storing my textbooks.
However, some universities don’t have desks with overhead storage.
Actually, none of my three kids had a hutch or shelves over their dorm room desks at any of their schools.
I searched for an affordable desk hutch option but unfortunately never found one.
My son, Gavin had a small desktop organizer that worked well for his needs on his desk.
When my daughter, Emma went to college I found a cute little metal and wood desktop organizer at Home Goods.
But honestly, it was more for aesthetics than for function.
You can see how cute the little shelf looked styled on her freshman dorm desk here.
When she moved into a college apartment on campus she was looking for something that provided some more storage for her books.
She loves to read and wanted a place to put all of her paperback books.
After searching again online, I couldn’t find anything large enough that wasn’t under $100.
So I did what any good 50-something-year-old mom who is just starting to learn her way around power tools would do…I built a desk hutch for my daughter’s college dorm room.
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Who Needs a DIY Desk Hutch?
A desk hutch is an easy beginner project that can be used not only for college students but also for a child’s student desk.
Or maybe you have a desk at home that needs a bit more storage.
Maybe this simple DIY desk hutch is just what you need for your work-at-home space.
What Supplies Do You Need to Make a Desk Hutch
This project didn’t cost me anything because I used supplies left over from previous projects.
So look around your garage, workshop, or basement for some wood that you can use for this project to save yourself some money.
But if you don’t have wood lying around then you can certainly buy plywood or lengths of MDF to make your DIY desk shelves.
I had Woodgrain Millwork 1×6 Medium Density Foam S4S boards left from installing the shiplap in my laundry room, so I designed the desk hutch using the dimensions of the boards.
Here is the list of supplies I used to build the desk hutch:
- 1×6 primed MDF boards
- miter saw
- table saw
- brad nailer
- tape measure
- power drill
- hole saw set
- white paint
How to Determine the Size of a Dorm Room Desk Shelf
If you’re making a hutch for your college student desk, be sure to check the dimensions of the desk first.
You’ll need to know how long you can make your shelving unit.
Usually, you can find the dimensions for all furniture in each dorm on the university’s housing page.
Emma’s desk was 56″ wide so we decided to make her hutch 54″ long.
I wanted to keep this project really simple so planned the design to have just one shelf at the top.
I used her desk lamp for a visual perspective to determine how high the bottom of the shelf should be so that the light would fit comfortably under the shelf.
The overall dimensions of the hutch are 54″w x 25″h x 6″deep.
I’d suggest making your shelves a bit deeper if you’re cutting the wood and not trying to use leftover pieces as I did.
Plus, you’ll want the hutch a little bigger if you are going to use the shelf for larger textbooks.
How to Build a Hutch for Your Desk
To make Emma’s dorm room desk hutch I only needed 5 – 1×6 MDF boards.
First, I measured two pieces of the primed boards to be 25″ long.
These will be for the sides of the desk hutch.
Next, I measured three boards and marked them at 54″ in length.
After the five boards were marked, I cut each one with my miter saw.
If you don’t have a miter saw you can use a circular saw to get the job done.
Once the five boards were trimmed to the correct sizes, I began attaching them together to create the desk hutch.
You can use either screws or nails to assemble the boards to make your shelves.
Since the wood wasn’t very thick, I used my Brad nailer to secure the boards together.
If you decide to use screws with this size of wood, you’ll need to drill pilot holes to prevent the board from splitting.
You may also need to counter-sink the screws into the wood and then caulk them for a clean look.
I wanted to make this project as quick and easy as possible.
So using a nailer I was able to skip those steps which was the best option for me.
After both side pieces were attached to the back support board it was time for the shelf.
I attached the shelf at 20″ so that the side of the hutch would be a little higher to use as a support for books.
Using a square ensures you will get a level line to use when securing the board for the shelf.
After securing the shelf to the top of the side pieces at the 20″ mark, I attempted to attach a board to the back of the shelf.
However, I realized quickly that the 1×6″ board would be a bit too high and stick up over the side support boards.
So, I pulled out the table saw and trimmed the 1×6″ MDF an inch so that the top of the wood pieces would all be level.
In this photo, you can see how the top on all three sides of the hutch are even.
If I had left the 1×6″ board the back piece would be taller than the side pieces.
The last step in building the desk hutch was to make a hole for any wires or cords to go through once it was in place on the desk.
I really wanted it to just be a half circle so we attached a scrap of wood and drilled the hole through both pieces of MDF.
Once everything was done I tested the dimensions with Emma’s desk lamp and a paperback book.
It looked great and was quite simple to build.
Now it was time to finish up this project!
What Finish Should You Use on a Wood Desk Hutch
Since I used primed MDF to build the desk hutch I painted the shelves.
We decided to paint the hutch white to coordinate with the rest of the shelves in her room.
If you make your desk hutch with plywood or another type of wood you can choose to stain your shelves rather than paint.
I painted the hutch in a satin finish so that it would be easy to wipe clean.
If I had bought wood for this project I may have made the shelf a bit deeper but it works well for a college student.
I’d recommend building a deeper shelf if you’re making it for a child’s desk as it would be sturdier.
You can also choose to attach the hutch to the wall for extra support.
How to Style a Desk Hutch
The hutch was the perfect size and style for Emma’s desk at college.
It’s a piece that will keep her organized as well as a spot to add some extra storage and decor.
Her small desktop metal organizer fits perfectly under the shelf.
Another option when making a desk hutch would be to add a solid back to the entire shelving unit.
Then you could add a corkboard or wallpaper for a decorative touch.
Use your imagination and get creative when designing your desk hutch to suit your needs.
This DIY desk hutch is an easy project that only took about an hour to build.
Then a little extra time to paint the shelves and let it dry between the first and second coats of paint.
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