Parson Tower Desk

This is the desk that this very blog was built on. I love it because of the large top surface, ample storage, but clean simple modern design that begs to stay clutter free. You can also use this desk as a console table.


Projects built from this plan. Thank you for submitting brag posts, it's appreciated by all!


Well, I got a new desk.

There was nothing wrong with my previous desk. It just that I'm spending more and more time at my desk, and need something bigger.  That, and I'll admit it, I don't need much of an excuse to build something  :)

What do you think?  Not bad for scraps, eh?

Oh, and the finish is scraps too!  I used leftover (from Grace's Bookshelves) Antique White by Valspar in flat, two coats, brushed on.  I wanted the wood grain to show through slightly.  Then I painted on two coats of satin polyurethane.  It's now got a sheen but it's not goopy or glossy and you can see hints of wood grain.  My favorite finish.  Also, the Antique White is such a softer more pleasant color than traditional white.

And here is one unstaged.  I'm always amazed at how beautiful a few 2x2s (well, more than a few for this desk) and some MDF can be.  And strong, functional and sturdy.  I put this one together completely with pocket holes (I use a Kreg Jig).  It's worth the investment.  You will make your investment back if you build just this desk.

Another bonus of building something yourself is the freedom to modify it to suit your needs.  You can't tell, but my desk is actually 2" shorter than the plan calls for because I'm short, and wanted my keyboard to be at the exact height of the armrests on my chair.  All I had to do was take two inches off the legs and adjust the middle shelf down an inch.

Now it's your turn.  Want to make my desk yours?

Shopping List: 

1 Sheet of 3/4″ MDF or Plywood cut into 15 1/2″ widths, 8′ long (referred to as 1x16s)
7 2×2 boards, 8′ long
2″ pocket hole screws
1 1/4″ pocket hole screws

120 grit sandpaper
wood conditioner
paint brush
measuring tape
safety glasses
countersink drill bit
General Instructions: 

Pocket Holes

Go through the entire set of instructions and drill all pocket holes first. Basically, you need pocket holes on both ends of all the 15″ and 15 1/2″ 2x2s, one pocket hole on the tops of each leg, and then pocket holes on all sides of the shelves and desktop. Remember to set your jig for 1 1/2″ stock for 2x2s and 3/4″ stock for the MDF.

Dimensions are shown above. Resist making the desk much narrower, or there won’t be room for your knees. As discussed earlier, you can shorten the desk quite easily be taking length from the legs and adjusting the middle shelf accordingly.
Cut List: 

1 – 1×16 @ 57″ (desk top)
4 – 1×16 @ 15″ (Shelves)
10 – 2×2 @ 15 1/2″ (Trim perpendicular to desktop)
8 – 2×2 @ 15″ (Trim parallel to desktop)
8 – 2×2 @ 28 1/2″ (Legs)
2 – 2×2 @ 60″ (Desktop Side Trim)

Step 1: 

Shelf Trim

With the tops flush, glue and screw the shelves to the trim as shown above. Use 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. Drill pocket holes set for 3/4″ stock. Make sure you have already drilled one pocket hole in each end of all of the 2×2 trim pieces. The pocket holes in the 2x2s need to be for 1 1/2″ thick stock.

Build four of these.

Step 2 Instructions: 

Mark legs for the center shelf. Then glue and screw through the pocket holes into the legs. Remember – the tops of the legs should each have a single pocket hole to attach the top. If you don’t have a right angle drill, resist the urge to place the pocket hole on the inside where it won’t be seen – you also won’t be able to get your drill in there. Build two of these.

Step 3 Instructions: 


The tabletop is super simple. Begin by attaching the end trim to the top. Then attach the front and back trim (the long ones) to the top and the side trim. Done. Keep the bottom edges flush.

Step 4 Instructions: 


I choose to leave the glue off to make for moving the desk easy. Simply lay the desktop on top of the tower and screw through the pocket holes into the underside of the desktop. Remember, the towers are not perfect squares, so you may need to rotate the towers to get the perfect fit.

Good luck! And PS – if you are intimidated by this project, don’t be. My desk was done in a few hours Can’t wait to see yours!

Project Type: 
Estimated Cost: 
Skill Level: 


What Kreg Jig Did you get and where? Was it in Fbks? We could us this on some many things like tables and chairs and such. Looks like a nifty thing. What else have you used it on? Thanks

Kreg Jig at Lowes plus most 50 to 100 pack of screws 1 1/4" to 2 1/2" long can be found there. I also picked up an extra drill bit, and the bits to use on the screws there. They also have various clamps, wood plugs, etc. You can find it online there as well.

@Ana, for MDF, do you do any sort of sanding, or just apply a couple coats of primer (I use Killz or 123.. not sure if that is any good)? I have 4 sheets of 3/4" MDF and trying to figure out what to do with it. I was going to use it for the beds, but bought 1x12x8' pine boards instead. I am wondering if I can use the MDF for closet organizer sides, book shelfs, etc.. but fear that a closet or book shelf with a side of 4' to 8' in length will eventually sag. Any way to avoid MDF sagging? Like 1x2 trim, 1/4" plywood back panels, and such?

The desk looks great. I bought a gallon of polyurethane, semi-gloss. I am hoping a coat or two of that on MDF/Pine/Plywood will give it a nice shine and some extra strength.

I love it! It seems that you could make 3 desks out of one sheet of plywood, right? Of course as you have said previously the strips would be slightly less than 16" due to the width of the saw blade...

These last three plans have been brilliantly simple. THANK YOU!

This desk is really cool....but what I want to comment on is the awesome metal wall you have. Did you use the basic roofing material? It'd be useful in a "kids" room. Not only is it very durable and could put up posters with magnets! I've got to do that. Are the ridges troublesome? Well done!

Hi Andjarnic, I sand with 120 grit sandpaper and prime with Kilz too. Then just brush on paint. I have personally had great experience with MDF.

The best way to reinforce MDF is with face frame (trim on the front edge) and plywood on the back, or building a box under the MDF. Check out the Sagulator online for a calculator for saggage. I like to use MDF on lower use painted projects. It works well for sides of bookcases, shelves, and would be great in a closet. Consider this - most closet organizers are made of particle board! And most furniture these days is made of MDF - even the spendy stuff!

Faith, it would! If you used a 1x12 instead of 1x16s, then all you would have to do is cut your perpendicular trim to 11 1/2" long instead of 15 1/2" long. Part of the "look" for this piece is the towers are square though, so you may consider making the shelves 12" x 11 1/2" squares to keep the consistency there.

Maryanne, you can get three 1x16s out of a single sheet, but you need 120 plus inches of 1x16, so you would end up with just enough for two desks. Does that make sense? You are right about the saw blade.

Laura, you are so smart. I tried to sneak that one by you :) I'll post the how too this week. It's awesome, like a giant stylish fridge for keeping all your ideas and notes handy :) And looks so good!

Hi Ana,
I am a woodworking instructor and I am really happy to see you promoting self made furniture. I don't believe in stereotypes where furniture making is predominantly done by men. In fact, the Shaker tradition have many women furniture craftsman / woodworker.
My biggest concern is safety on power tool usage. Woodworking bookstand even shows (ex:Norm Abrahm and the American Woodworker by Scott Philips) only conveys the message to follow instruction given by the manufacturer. The problem is that the instructions do no explain safety.
I have been a woodworker for over 15 years and worked in the industry for another 12 years. I strongly encourage your sybscribers to take one class in power tool (circular saws and especially tablesaw usage at a local community college/ park-recreational class. Sawstop makes a real safe tablesaw for those who wants to get into making furniture regularly. However, even that saw will not explain tablesaw kickback prevention. Books do not explain enough. My shop is called The Wood Works Furniture Design Studio, Corona in California.

Hi Ana! Love the desk, but love the wall even more. I have been thinking about a similar treatment in our basement. Would you share a picture that shows how you finished the edges? Did you use trim? Thanks!

I was wondering the same thing about that amazing wall. I can't wait to see your tutorial on this! Ana, you're awesome!

Laura and Ana-
The whole while I'm looking at this desk thinking, "ok, what about that wall!!!??" Love love love. Can't wait to see what Miss Ana's brilliant mind came up with!!!
Love, Peace and Elbow Grease,

Ana, you are awesome! How cool are you posting so much info on pocket holes! Thanks so much. You have openned a whole new world to me.

I Love it! I tackled this same desk about a month ago after some inspiration from your site and having built a cameron bookshelf and a rustic bench. With those projects successful I figured I could attempt creating some plans myself. It turned out great but having made my shelves a little smaller, I wish I had waited and thought it through a little more so that my 12x12 scrapbooking papers would fit on the shelves! haha. oops. lesson learned. I do not have a kreg jig so I just used a few little angle brackets to hold my shelves in too! Also made myself a shorter, scaled down version for a printer table! Love the open storage that I can reach from all sides!! Great desk to have!

I just stumbled upon this site and I'm already in love. I want to start building this desk now! However, I live in an apartment. Is building this desk conducive to apartment living? I think I would have enough floor space but the mess and noise is what I'm worried about. What do you think?

LOVE! I really like the openness of the bottom- perfect for easily accessable storage. And it doesn't look like the piece would weigh down smaller spaces like chunkier desks might. Thanks!!

Ana - I love everything...but in case you are looking for a challenge...what about a treadmill desk (it's the new thing here in the corporate world)


Love this desk. We want something counter top height so that we can sit at it with bar stools. Do you think it would be stable enough if we added another row of cubbies underneath to raise it up? Thanks for all of the great plans.

I am loving this desk. Would it be possible to make it taller? I would love this in my breakfast area for my computer and command station...but would need to be counter height (since I never get to sit when in the kitchen area!)

Sure can, you could add another shelf too.
All you do to make it taller is add length to the legs. so those 4 2x2's instead of cutting them at 28.5 inches youd cut them at whatever height you want.

So i have all our towers built, 3 each and 1 of those is custom to fit the husbands pc, but i have a question about the desktop.
FIrst off did you screw the 2x2's around the desktop into the legs or into the MDF board?

Will I need additional support for a stretch of desktop thats 96.5" long?

I see that the 1 1/4 are to attach the MDF to the trim, but nothing in the plans mention where to use the 2 inch pocket screws? Am I correct to assume they are to attach the 2x2 to the 2x2?


I am sorry to say that I know nothing about anything, but I was just wondering if it is normal to apply satin polyurethane to paint? I am about to make this desk and some book shelves and am looking for a really super shiny finish. Is this a good way to achieve a smooth and shiny finish?