IVAR Desk Adaptation

Materials: IVAR Shelf, cabinet, drawers

About 15 years ago my wife and I bought an IVAR shelf unit, cabinet, and drawer unit, and I painted them in a tan-and-green color scheme. For the last 5 years or so they have been providing storage in my son’s room, but he’s now old enough to need a desk for schoolwork. After some thought I came up with a way to turn the IVAR into a very nice desk unit.

In the original configuration, the shelf unit and drawer unit were at the ends, with the cabinet in between. The first step was to move the cabinet to take the place of the lower shelves (lower left in next photo). Then, we tried using a shelf as a desk, like this


But this didn’t really work – the shelf was too small, the shelf surface was too soft and had too much grain texture to make a good work surface, and the space on top of the drawers wasn’t very usable. Clearly what was needed was a top to span from the shelves all the way to the end. Some short desk drawers would also provide good storage. So I took a shelf, attached sides, and built drawers to fit, like this


The sides are 1” x 3 1/2” poplar, the drawers are pine and 1/2” birch plywood with MDF bottoms set into dadoes, and the drawer fronts have integral finger pulls machined along the bottoms that match the ones on the drawers and cabinet doors of the original IVAR. The drawers ride on standard 18” ball-bearing, full-extension slides.

The work surface is plywood surfaced with Formica, with poplar edging painted to match the original shelves. Long screws through the sides of the drawer unit hold it in place. Over the original IVAR drawer section, it rests on a couple of strips of wood that line up with the supports. All together, it looks like this:


Here it is showing the drawers open:


It works great with a JULES junior desk chair:


I had most of the materials around the workshop already, so the only costs were for the drawer slides and a few supplies.
It’s a simple adaptation but it gives my son a nice workspace and retains most of the storage space of the original.

~ Brett Bonner