We wanted a nice built-in for the den in our new house, and have always been fond of butcher block countertops, so we decided to build around the Hammarp (nee Numerar?) oak offering from Ikea. Our floors are also of oak.
The original plan was to build the piece around Ikea kitchen cabinets as the base storage units, but in the end we felt that the MDF finish of the cabinets would clash with the white wood trim, and make it feel less well thought out. And of course, the cabinets would still have been MDF… with all the usual associated cons.
We sketched up a plan, taking into account the length of the wall (156”), and the maximum length of the countertop (98”); we didn’t want to have two pieces of countertop butting up to each other with a noticeable seam, so that was the big driver in dropping the height on the right hand side. It then made sense to add a computer desk area above the right hand section, partly for practical reasons and partly for visual interest/balance.
The base was built of a frame of 2x6s on their side – one for each side of the structure, the same height as baseboard – and secured to the walls only, in case we ever want to take the unit out and show no evidence on the floor.
The cabinet boxes were built of 3/4″ finish-grade plywood. We polyurethaned them and then screwed and glued to the base and wall. I bought a Kreg pocket screw jig which was very convenient for being able to screw the boxes to wall in a well-hidden manner. Note that we had always planned to create a built in for this room, so the whole wall has a plywood liner beneath the drywall for easy attachment.
The countertops were cut to width and length, as called for, and glued and screwed from underneath. Meanwhile, we hung a tv in the center of the wall to make sure it fit in with overall design.
The cabinet boxes were then faced in 1×2 primed pine – a little glue and nail gun.
At this point, we could go ahead and build in the computer desk. Same idea as the rest of the structure – 3/4″ plywood for structure and 1×2 primed stock to finish off. We chose this to be standard 30” desk height.
To finish, the baseboards were attached to the face – again, preprimed pine stock 1×6, same as the regular baseboards in the rest of the house. The whole thing was then caulked around the painted seams and between the counter and the wall.
Finally, the countertops were treated with danish oil and an office-desk style hole/cover was cutout for the computer cabling.
The room as it stands now – more or less moved in. The piece is rock solid and works great for the space. We’ll eventually add built-in shelves above.
Materials list (more or less):
2”x6” x8’ – 4 of
3/4″ finish grade plywood 4’x8’ – 3 of
1”x2” x8” – 6 of
1”x6” x8” – 2 of
2 x Hammarp countertops @ 98” length
Minwax Polycrylic water-soluble “polyurethane” – 1 pint
Caulk – 1 tube
Construction adhesive – 1 tube
APPROX TOTAL COST $700 ($400 of which was the two countertops)
Pocket screw jig and drill
Speed square/straight edge
…but you could certainly do it with less than the above.
1. We had originally planned desk part to be counter height (35-36”); as it is now, it’s only about 2” taller than the main unit, so from some angles it can look like it was supposed to be same height but we messed up… In hindsight, I would drop the main cabinet a couple of inches to give a greater disparity in height (or revert to counter height computer desk).
2. We could probably have made this work with only one countertop piece (and at close to $200 each, it would be a significant savings), had we been more judicious about depths. However, the plan was never for this to be cheap… it was for it to be nice and functional. Also: I will use the leftover pieces of countertop elsewhere in the house – a similar window seat is planned for another room.
3. Potential savings on the $700 cost above: Make your design less deep/shorter/whatever, in order to be able to use only one countertop or to be able to use two shorter countertops, etc.; use sheathing grade plywood and sand/paint instead of poly.
4. The biggest challenge for me was trying to visualize the layers in 3D, trying to figure out what needed to be flush and what needed to have a set reveal. As you can see from the plan, we deviated slightly, but we always knew we’d be figuring some stuff out on the fly. The whole project took two people two half days to complete (poly had to dry overnight, so it was a logical time to break for the day).
By Peter Campbell