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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Advice please in design of this children's desk nook

inooyaNovember 9, 2012
I live in a small town in the Canadian Arctic - no road connection, 3 hours flight from southern Canada - no designers, supplies by sealift boat ( which I missed and next one in July). So it is me, a patient handy-man carpenter and Houzz working this renovation of a bedroom into a bedroom/playroom/study area for my 8 and 5 year old children.
I have attached ( I hope!) my floor design, a frontal sketch and a photo.
My questions
1. Should I put some open shelves on the side of the desk nook - opposite the stairway ( which goes up to a loft above the bedroom) to balance the stairway?
2. Where should I place the door to enter this hallway - the study nook is between the play area for the children ( who will sleep up in the loft area) and another loft on the same level which is open to the living room. It is in front of a small walk in closet.
3. Any suggestions/advice re planning the shelving over the desk in the nook ( which will be 25 inch height as its for my children and will have a computer on it. What would work best in this small space - open shelves? boxes?
Many thanks for any help.
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It's amazing that you have internet connection. What a change that must make to your life!

Definitely you need shelves in the desk nook. In fact, the more shelves, the better. Boxes for supplies would be welcome. I don't understand your drawings, but wonder if there would be a way to make the desk longer so that there is room for them both to use the desk at the same time.

Good luck with this project. We would love to see photographs!
    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 9:54PM
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The drawings which seem so clear to me puzzle my carpenter at times! So sorry!
If it helps, the last drawing is basically what the photo shows, only give the dimensions of the space.
It was hard to take a wider range photo because of the hall wall.
The middle drawing is an attempt to show the flat floor layout - where the desk nook sits in relation to the rooms that surround it.
I am not a great visualizer and am having a hard time with placement of shelves in the space - a way to put them in that does not look too crowded etc. And yes, a longer desk would have been great but not possible.
I think I answered my own ( first) question in that i am going to put shelves in the wall on the right side of the nook ( the left side being the stairway) so it is a bit more balanced.
And yes, photos will be forthcoming when done, if you can see it for all of the champagne corks that will litter the area - because this, and the 3 other reno projects that this single mother , of minimal construction/design experience and even less talent has undertaken has been a stretch to say the least!
Thanks for your good wishes!
    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 10:14PM
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Hi inooya,

I would place the shelves on the back wall of the nook, perpendicular to the stairs, not parallel. The desk would be facing this same wall, and once thats in it would look odd to have shelves opposing it. I would consider adjustable shelving (if you can wait for the parts that is) Elfa is one brand that works well. The adjustability will give you and your children the growing flexibility for storage for the area. I typically spec the bottom shelf at 8" deep or less, the others can be 12" for books. 8" is great for keeping pens, tape dispensers etc off the desk, but handy. Very important when you have a small desk.

Before the wall is drywalled, install solid 2x4 backing between the studs at 12" increments starting in the center of the desk height. This will give you the most flexibility for the shelf and desk installation. An entire sheet of 3/4" plywood is also great. (Write the heights from the floor on the 2x4 backing and take a photo so you'll know where it is when you install your shelving later. Much easier than using a stud finder or awl)

I'm not quite sure what your options are for the door, but ideally make the swing away from the nook so it doesn't interfere with the space if someones sitting there.

A bright color or colors in this area may be a great way to brighten it up and make it more inviting.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:12AM
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What puzzles me is what is the 24" space next to the desk area. Is that part of the closet? That was what I was thinking could be used to make a longer desk.

Are you planning to use the area under the stairs for storage? Maybe that would let you give up the 24" in the closet--if that is what it is. Or maybe I am still confused.
1 Like    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:07PM
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Can you sacrifice that 34x20" nook on the right of the floor plan, so the kids have room for a 55" desk? You can still hang shelves and ledges for baskets above the desk.
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    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 3:11AM
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It’s so helpful to picture what you are trying to describe with some very nice drawings of the floor plan like yours. If possible I'd widen the area by extending it to the right which means losing 20” x 34” closest space. I wouldn't place shelves on the clear wall. 32” hallway isn't that wide especially a chair in place. Open shelf above and below desk and pegboard in between desk surface and the first shelf to hang cups for pens things and whatever item that may clatter desktop to be very accessible but out of work area.
    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 3:53AM
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Anne Gibney
I like the ideas of placing the shelves perpendicular to stairs. Use boxes to store school supplies etc... Use the side walls to use for display such as cork or chalk magnetic paint to inspire their creativity but keep it visually uncluttered from living space.
    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 4:04AM
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Lost internet for 24 hours. Just got on and thank you to all for your suggestions.
I did open up the area to the right of the desk nook to put in shelves, starting at 25 inches from the ground. You can see the opened up area in the attached photos.

Beautiful Design - thanks for the advice on the shelf specs esp use of the 8 inch shelf for
pens, pencils scissors etc. I particularly appreciate the advice for the 12 inch intervals of 2x4 to allow for flexibility and the idea of a photo before the drywall to know where they are. Thanks.
i will probably buy the flexible shelves when I am out at Christmas and bring them back as luggage.

With respect to the door, I have put a photo in of the two existing doors into the space - the left, now opposite the loft stairs was formerly into a linen closet and swings outward ( away from nook hall) so I will probably go with this one. The door on the right , formerly into the bedroom, now faces the right side of the desk nook and swings in and so will take it out. I thought of removing the door but leaving the indented space ( ie just drywalling where the actual door was, leaving the frame) and putting artwork into it - as this area is directly seen when looking upt the stairs from the main floor and I thought the indentation would highlight it.. Anyone have any thoughts. I could just drywall it over level with the rest of the wall.

Thank you ritamaru for the peg board idea. I think it would work very well for wall behind the desk, up to the first shelf. And Anne G , great idea about a cork or whiteboard - I think i will put a cork board on the left side of the desk wall. In the playroom , not shown ( at least yet - it will be a whole other Houzz discussion!) I am planning a long half wall of white board, so won't duplicate in the nook).

decoenthusiaste and yvonne - I did consider taking out that 20 by 34 space to make a bigger desk....it was and is a hard call but in the end am leaving it in as a shelved space inside the walk in closet. I am trying to end up with no dressers or bureaus in the room - ie all clothes in the closet, AND have to have space for linens etc. So I think i will need that space in the closet ( and yes Yvonne, under the stairs as well . But its not a decision abounding with confidence that its the right one. Also, there will be an open area( 21 inches by 14 inches tall) on the right wall that will extend into the closet to allow for a printer to be tucked away.

Finally, the desk is only 24 inches deep in a space that is 34 inches deep, then the 34 inch hall. So
the chair, even in use, should still be okay for passage in the hall and not an issue when the chair is pushed in. In the photos I put a piece of shelving at the planned height of the desk ( 25 inches) and at the proposed depth of the desktop ( to start 10 inches into nook from hallway).

How high should the shelving start above the desk? There will be a computer onthe desk, about 18 inches tall

All of your comments very appreciated. Thank you.
1 Like    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 3:24PM
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If you put your mouse on the first photo you will get a full length view of the space which was the whole reason I put this photo in!
    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 3:32PM
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Hi inooya, I'd start the first shelf (the 8' one) around 18" - 21" from the desk. I've used that dimension many times on office remodels and seems to have worked well. (I also have it in my own office)

Best of luck with your project!

~ Steve
    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 5:51PM
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Sandy Proctor
Hello how are you? First of all, the space is small. I would make the best of the space being moslty desk top. If I knew how old the children are that are going to be using this desk, then I could make another choice for the book shelves....Let me draw a picture and get back to you... how is that... :)
    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 6:32PM
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Hi teal50,

The children are 8 and 5, as noted in inooya's original post
1 Like    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 6:37PM
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Sandy Proctor
I made a drawing, As you can see in the photo, I have the desk top wall to wall, with a half round cut out in front. Then with a swivel chair they can move around. The back splash could be shelves, if you hang them but not too high you can put thoses colorful plastic bins under it... Then as you can see I have some small cut outs, Buy some colorful drinking plastic cups with a larger rig around the top so when you use the round cout outs to put the cups in, the cups stop. They can be used for Crayons, pens, pencils..etc. On one of the sides you can have more shleves and on each side a drawer. (easy to make)... Under the desk, near the wall you can have a closed wooden box for more storage... seeing they are young, thier feet will not be bother by it for now.!!! Good luck..Hope you can use some these ideas....
1 Like    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 7:04PM
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Sandy Proctor
Also, I meant to add if you use peg board for the back or side wall you can also use hooks to hang things on... Just paint the peg board. It comes in brown...
    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 7:12PM
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Sandy Proctor
Inooya, Let me know if you need any small things... I can always send them to you.....
    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 7:18PM
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Allen Loree Homes LLC
An option I have used on interior walls is to use the 2x4 framing as the framework for the shelves and wrap with the drywall. (sort of like a built in cubbie in a shower) For the back you can either glue drywall on drywall or use finish grade plywood. This way the shelves do not encroach into the desk area. I have also used window sill for the shelf to finish the bottom. This way you could use the back wall and the right wall to create lots of storage.
I would consider setting the desk area on a peg or adjustable shelf system s that it can be raised as the children grow. Just make sure it is secured to prevent tipping.
    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 7:30PM
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Again, thank you all so much.

I have attached photos ( hold your mouse over the photo to get the whole of it) of a cardboard mockup incorporating many of the excellent suggestions I received.

A bit rough..., well maybe really rough - but you get the idea. The big green framed cardboard is the actual computer size.
Its pretty big for the area ( of course its the one they like) but might switch it for the laptop....
The first shelf up is 21 inches above the desk as per Steve's advice ( looks a bit lower because the cardboard mock shelf is not up to the task)

Sandy I think the cutout circle for the seat is brilliant as is idea for the circles in the desk to hold cups for pens etc. What do you think of the size of seat cut out I put in? Thanks for your offers to help.

You cannot really tell in my mockup but I have incorporated Allen's suggestion to recess the lowest ( 8 inch) shelf into the framing, Its not seen in my mockup but it will actually be three little cubbies, set between the 2x4s in place. The height will be about 6 inches and the top of the cubbies will be first shelf.
It also allows me to put the peg board 'backsplash' from desk to the bottom of the cubby shelf ie the 'holes' of the peg board will have open framing behind them.
The higher shelves will be 10 inches deep and not recessed into the framing. I might go with one shelf above the lowest shelf and two half shelves or boxes above it. We will be making it all adjustable .

You have all helped to change this project from a source of stress back to fun and i am very grateful for everyone's ideas.
    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 7:05PM
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Very cool space!! Your kids are lucky to have a dad like you. Thank you for providing final plan model pic.
1 Like    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 9:56PM
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