Your kid is struggling in school. You could get him a tutor. You could motivate him to work harder. You could provide all the love and support needed to make him want to be a better student.
Or you could just buy him a desk so nice he won’t be able to stay away from the books.
And just how do you come up with a desk like that? You gotta go built-in, and you gotta do it right. Here’s what you need to know to make your kid’s own personal study nook (or your own home office) come up aces.
Prepare your pocketbook
David Marshall of Albion Cabinets & Stairs doesn’t mince words about the cost of a custom desk. “Oh yeah,” he says. “Doing a built-in is more expensive than going to Lowe’s.”
But he insists it’s worth it—you’re paying for a designer to come to your home, examine your specific space and come up with the perfect piece. Plus, the costs can vary depending on the features you’re looking for.
Marshall says it’s tough to guess at the price of a built-in desk, but he asks his clients to give him as much info as they can about their style to ensure everyone feels they get what they paid for.
Matt Gruber of Peak Builders agrees the cost could range anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for a basic desk to several thousand dollars. He also says homeowners considering a built-in should think about what it might do to their resale value.
“Built-ins in a lot of ways are a really personalized thing,” he says. “People that are in their forever home tend to focus on maximizing their space, but it’s an expense. In the housing boom everybody was slapping things together, and no one really took the time to think about built-ins. People have calmed down and are chewing on it more.”
Pick the right spot
Thinking of putting your little bookworm’s desk in his bedroom? Think twice. “A lot of times we’ve done built-ins for kids in a hallway upstairs or a common room, out in an area where parents can keep tabs,” Gruber says.
According to Gruber, the shape of your house will also inform the ideal location for your built-in. The best spots are natural nooks and crannies where the desk won’t “encroach on the rest of the room.” Positioning a built-in desk under a dormer or windows can also work (although distractions can be a concern).
“I wouldn’t take a flat wall and jam a desk against it,” Gruber says. “It will feel obtuse sitting in the room like that.”
Craft your look
Marshall says most of the non-cabinet built-in work he does these days is composed of paint-grade wood, allowing his clients to go with just about any finishing color. He recommends checking out Pinterest and houzz.com to find inspiration and is accustomed to his clients sharing the pieces they’ve found online with him.
Gruber points out that aspiring designers can choose from a variety of desktop materials, just as they would for kitchen counters or bathroom vanities. He’s seen homeowners go with granite and soapstone in addition to the more traditional stained wood, painted wood or glass tops.
Choose the right accessories
The finishing touches on your desk can be what makes the grade. Gruber says he recommends at least one large file drawer. “Most people that have a home office or kids need a large drawer that gives you one central storage location,” he says.
On top of file drawers, you might add a knee-space drawer (the pullout just under the desktop that can hold a keyboard or pens), a cubbyhole for a computer tower or bookshelves just above the desk.
These are just the sort of additions that’ll drive up the price of your new desk, but really, can you put a price on your budding scholar’s success?