Office Progress: How To Build A Wooden File Storage Stand

What’s one thing that every office needs? Bingo – a lava lamp.

Ok, I kid, I kid. What I meant to say was “file storage.” And ours is no exception. We made a nice leap forward on the storage front with our hacked Ikea bookcase, but the desk I built was seriously lacking any place to stash papers and such. So after failing to find a perfectly sized file cabinet at our local thrift stores, we spotted a pair of simple embossed gray file boxes at Target (for just $14.99 a pop) that had our names written all over them.

Here they are sitting on the floor of our very much a work-in-progress office a few days ago.

I’ll give you a close-up of ’em later in the post, but basically they were just about the perfect amount of hanging file storage for us (you know, the kind of boxes that have those rails that hold folders that you can use to label and categorize your papers?). Plus, with two of them side by side they were the beginnings of a perfect spot to stack the white Ikea storage boxes from Sherry’s old office that contain our receipts and our modem (we paid Comcast $28 to move our modem into the office so we’d have the strongest wireless signal in there).

But… it wasn’t the prettiest setup. And having to lift the white storage boxes every time we wanted to access the file boxes was a quick way to ensure that we’d never actually use said file boxes. So with my carpentry mojo still in full force, I decided to tackle another building project. And this time I wanted to create something to optimize our storage and file box sitch.

Once again I opted to rely on the Kreg Jig (can you tell I’m addicted?) to connect all the pieces. The pieces in this case being two $10 pine boards intended to be stairs (I bought them because I liked the finished-looking rounded edge). I’ll spare you all of the construction details this time around (just trust me that it was actually quite similar to my desk and shelf building projects). About three hours later, I had this little guy:

He was perfectly sized to fit the two file boxes snugly in the bottom opening while the two stacked Ikea storage boxes could be slipped in and out of the cubby above them (with plenty of room for the modem cords in one of those white Ikea storage boxes to feed out the back). We even left some room on top for a few miscellaneous items like our external hard drive and the radio that we like to listen to from time to time.

We brought it in unfinished because (1) I wanted to make sure I had measured everything correctly and (2) we weren’t quite sure whether we wanted to paint it white to match the desk or stain it dark to match the chairs (which are free leftovers from our existing dining set, since we substituted two of them for a bench a while back).

And once we had it in place… well, we actually decided to toss out both of those ideas. Instead, we opted to paint it the same soft aqua that we used on the back of the bookcase (Mythic’s Adanna Aire). Just for fun.

You’re probably noticing something else in that pic, sitting on the desk itself. It’s another little file system that we also picked up at Target. It’s actually intended to be used as storage for scrapbooking, but we liked that its shelves were a great size for our notebooks, bills to pay, and even the books that we’re currently reading. Plus, because it’s deep enough to store those big scrapbook sheets it creates a nice wide surface on top for us to place other items that we like to have on hand. Stay tuned for those accessorizing details in the coming weeks (for now we’re tackling the big things like larger storage, toy corralling, art, etc).

But back to the action under the desk. I promised close-ups of the file storage boxes so here’s a pic illustrating that we achieved our goal of making it easy to slide the boxes out and actually access our files. Then we can either pop open the top compartment which will be good for storing cables, cords, scissors, stamps and more (it stays closed thanks to a magnetic strip)…

…or flip the whole thing open to access our hanging files like insurance info and hospital bills (sigh).

And the subtle overlapping circles detail on the outside (and bolder version inside) is a nice touch – especially for the $14.99 price tag.

In general it’s a pretty simple update, but it’s already making a huge functional difference for us (since we’re using this office on a daily basis even while it’s a work-in-progress). Now we’ve got a place to stash paper and better manage the clutter on the desk. And we like that it’s helping to turn the long two-person desk into two distinct workspaces for me and Sherry.

But the room is by no means finished. In addition to simple things like wrangling our wires and cords, figuring out where to put our printer (and if we’re even keeping our current one), we’ve still got to decide on what the heck we’re gonna put on that big blank wall that we get to stare at all day long. Well, when we’re not staring at Clara.

Oh and in case you’d like to see the new setup in action, here’s how we get things done around here lately:

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So that’s the scoop on our end. How about you guys? Have you spotted or created any simple file storage systems lately? Or any other clever, sneaky, or beautiful ways to wrangle all of those papers, bills, mail, etc that tends to pile up? Please do share, because even if we can’t use ’em in this room, we may just file the ideas away for a rainy day. Pun intended.

Psst- Wanna follow the entire office/guest bedroom/playroom makeover? Click here for the intro post, here to read about the big sleeper sofa hunt, here for the DIY desk play-by-play, here for the homemade light fixture project and right here for our hacked Ikea bookcase.


  1. Adriane says

    So cute! Loving the aqua, good idea. I’ve been hunting for a living room sofa/console table forever. I wanted something dark wood, with storage but not bulky. So many things had ornate metal scrolling legs or glass tops or were $400+! I finally found this adorable vanity from World Market. It was a little more than the bargain I was hoping to find (for being a “member” I snagged a discount coupon though) but it’s so cute with awesome hidden storage (and even a mirror for on the way out the door lipstick checks) I had to get it. I also liked that it could be easily used in a multitude of rooms!

  2. says

    I highly recommend buying a wireless printer. Just put a wireless adapter in it and you can place it anywhere in the house. We store ours in our finished basement since having it by the family laptop on the kitchen desk would be untenable. It’s just a quick trip downstairs to collect our printed material. Really, how often do you print?

  3. TD says

    Loving your office progress so far. I have been struggling with the paper mess in our office for years now, and your solutions look so inspiring. And that DIY shelf is just awesome. I wouldn’t mind a tutorial for that at all provided you don’t mind of course.
    You guys are the cutest family I see online! Very, very cute!

    • says

      Hey TD,

      Here’s the quick version of how the shelf was made: I basically just bevel cut the sides and the top (using a circular saw set at an angle) to create a U (using the Kreg Jig to secure the top to each side) and then measured, cut and added the middle shelf in the same manner. Since I was building the whole thing upside down for the most part, I used some leftover wood (and a paint can) to create a spacer that the middle shelf could sit on so that it was stable and level while I screwed it in to the sides. I also set the middle shelf back a bit about an inch so I didn’t have to worry about beveling those edges. I ended up adding two short 1×2 boards at the back for added stability that were just cut to size and screwed directly into the pine boards. If you’re looking to get a better sense of how I attached each piece, reading the other posts about the Kreg Jig should give you a pretty good idea of how that worked. Just a few pilot holes drilled, clamped things in place and driving the screws it tight!

      Hope that helps!


  4. Stephanie says

    Do you have a link for the scrapbooking shelf that you have on the desktop? It looks like it may fit a specific need in our house, but I’m curious about the dimensions (we need something big enough for 11 x 17 papers).

    • says

      Stephanie- We couldn’t find that on either but it’s in the aisle at Target near the scrapbooking and photo albums. Hope it helps!

      Rob- So true! We don’t print very often at all and love the idea of a wireless printer.

      Kris- We have definitely considered adding even more storage to the wall- it’s definitely an option we’re thinking about!

      Cheryl- Yup, we’re keeping that West Elm desk tucked into the corner of our den for writing letters and checking email on the weekends when we don’t want to be holed up in the office. We actually envision it working really well as a homework and drawing desk for Clara when she’s bigger. Since it’s out in the common area near the living room, dining room and kitchen it’ll be easy to keep an eye on her!

      Patti- We try pretty hard to only keep what we think is important and might be needed again later (everything else gets shredded right away). It also helps that we deal with mail and bills almost immediately when they arrive, so we don’t have statements and stubs piling up. Plus with so much online these days we’ve gone paperless on a lot of our bills and bank statements (and we’re comforted knowing that if we shred something we need, we can usually find it online anyway). Hope that helps!


  5. says

    I love those storage boxes from target, I have two pieces from that set, the larger (squarish) desk caddy and the mail/file holder to corral all my boyfriends paper that used to just be stacked on his desk.

  6. Andrea says

    Thanks for all you post – so much inspiration for me! Regarding file storage – I have finally started keeping digital files of all of our household stuff. Most of my bills are available by email – then I download the .pdf and drop it into the appropriate folder. Paper bills are scanned and then filed. I do almost all of my bill-paying online, and since I only need to reference information, I take a screenshot of the ‘Thank you for your payment’ screen from my bank (it will usually have 2 or 3 payments being made listed on it), and then copy that into the same folders.
    This saves a lot of paper, a lot of hassle and no more piles around! I was terrible about filing my papers, but I have kept up with this for 6 months easy peasy!

  7. says

    I love the storage! It looks like it belongs in the room, not simply files and storage in the office space. Can’t wait to see the final make-over.

  8. says

    Awesome! I’m actually surprised to see that you both use laptops. I would have thought for all your web/photoshop/photo work you’d have big screened imacs or something? Isn’t it frustrating to work on such a small screen. Although I guess a laptop would come in handy for when you want to work anywhere in the house – or on the go.
    Anyway, just a curious thought of mine – as I can’t live without my imac :)

    • says

      Hey Kyley,

      We LOVE our laptops. Not once have we wanted a bigger screen since the portability and the power in our little MacBooks definitely does the trick. It’s totally a personal preference thing though, so we can see how you love your iMac just as much!


  9. says

    What a lucky little girl to have both her parents nurturing her and she doesn’t even know it yet! I love the setup, you guys are inspiring the way you make every inch count.

  10. says

    John, great work on the shelf. It looks professionally made. That little lip on the back is a nice touch to make sure the modem doesn’t slide back too much.

  11. says

    luv-luv precious pik of John, Clara & Burger
    Storage for all messy office stuff (pencils,pens &)can go in those snappy decorativee boxes w/ hinges on back.
    They cover a multitude of mess but can still stay at easy to reach area and collecting them can become quite addictive.

  12. says

    I agree with Lisa! I totally love the Ergo. That’s so funny–I was very engaged in learning about your storage solutions until I saw that picture of Clara lounging in her infant insert and all I could think about was baby carriers! Haha.

  13. says

    I’ve seen those boxes at Target and contemplated getting them myself. I love the pattern on them (they also have cup holders and other paper holders in the same style for anyone else wondering about them).

    Stephanie – if they are the same scrapbooking paper boxes that I think they are, they fit 12×12 papers.

    Looking great, Youngsters!

  14. Kate says

    I love that file box! I got one at Target a while back that was a little more bold and didn’t have the top storage compartment. I wish I had waited, I like that one so much more! However, I do need more hanging storage so maybe I’ll have to stop and get one.

    The office is definitely looking lovely. I wish my (and my husband’s) office looked like that! You seem to tuck so much in to a little house, I wish I had your skills.

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