How We Scored a Custom-Made Desk for $150

Sawhorse Office Desk

Lately Johnny and I have been itching to get our DIY on with home projects for a few reasons. After we posted about our love/hate relationship with IKEA and we read your comments, it lit a fire under us to have quality pieces in our home without spending a ton of money. We love reading blogs like Young House Love that offer up tutorials and inspiration on just that. BUT (and this is a big but) we’re seriously lacking in the time department. No matter how much we want to spend time refinishing or making furniture right now, we’ll just have to wait until Baby Girl is a little older and until our full-time jobs don’t bleed into our home life so much.

But what if we could pay someone else to do some DIYing for us — and for cheap? Well, thanks to Craigslist we did just that. Here’s how it went down:

Last December Johnny hauled our massive desktop computer downstairs from our upstairs office. He had work to get done, but he didn’t want to be isolated up in the office. And he might have wanted to watch some college football, too. You decide. I found it to be adorably nerdy and took a picture:


Anyway, that day we realized we wanted our computer down in our main living space (but not on our coffee table). And so the hunt for a proper desk ensued. We looked at stores, scoured the flea market, and searched Craigslist. And then we had a baby, and our search got stalled for a bit. And then about a month ago, Johnny contacted a guy selling handmade sawhorses on Craigslist and asked him whether he’d be up for making us a desk.

RH Deskour RH design inspiration

We sent him the design we wanted, using a picture of a $650 desk on Restoration Hardware. The guy said he could both make it for us using reclaimed wood (which is awesome) and deliver it for $150 (which is even more awesomer)! What a screamin’ deal. We were kind of skeptical, but we decided to give it a try. After all, he wouldn’t see our money until we saw the desk. It was a slow process since our carpenter had a full-time job as a teacher and coach outside of his woodworking hobby, but we stuck with him. We figured if nothing else, it would be a cool experience. And even if the table turned out not so hot, well, we could use it until we found a better one.

And then last Thursday our carpenter rang our doorbell, desk in tow. The desk exceeded our expectations, and it’s now one of our favorite pieces in our home. And he told us to let him know if we had any other furniture in mind and he’d let us know if he’d be up for it. So we are brainstorming nightstand designs right now! 🙂

Deskthe finished product!

So our challenge to you is if there’s something you’ve really been wanting or needing for your home, see if you can find it on Craigslist for a screamin’ deal. This isn’t a very hard challenge, people! Johnny and I spend a very limited amount of time on there, and we’ve found so many awesome deals. The office chair in front of our desk? It’s a $250 chair we got for $20. The best thing about Craigslist is that you can barter. The guy we got our desk from wasn’t offering to build office desks, but we asked and we now have a made-to-order, custom desk! And our Crate&Barrel kitchen table (also from Craigslist) was being sold at a great price for $350… so I offered $125. And they took my offer! Boom, baby.

So what will you be searching for on Craigslist? Our next deal to scope out will be for a couple of arm chairs. Ready, set, let’s all find deals.

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  • Reply Elvin @ Journey To Millions April 29, 2013 at 7:38 am

    That’s an awesome deal. Although, I like the discount you got from the office chair as compared to the desk. The chair looks classy. Maybe, it’s just the angle? I am not sure.

    Sites like craiglist will definitely leap frogged the traditional business model.

    • Reply Joanna April 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      The office chair is pretty sweet. We got it a couple years ago, so I think we’ve forgotten what an awesome deal it was!

  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls April 29, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Looks great! I’m very glad for a talented hubby! He has been able to build a lot of what we need!

    P.S. I just want to say its totally adorable that you guys think you’ll have more time when baby girl gets older! When she’s off to college, MAYBE!!! Dh started making art desks for the girls for Christmas. They were just installed last weekend and they are not completed!

    • Reply Joanna April 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      Your husband is awesome! Johnny is dying to learn some woodworking. He’s actually thinking about asking the guy who made our desk to let him help with his next project!

      And haha, oh dear! I’ll pretend I didn’t read your P.S.! We have to keep hope alive or I think we’ll go insane! 😉

  • Reply Michelle April 29, 2013 at 8:21 am

    Love this desk! I’ve been wanting something JUST like this.

    • Reply Joanna April 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      Thanks, Michelle! Perhaps check out Craigslist in your area? 🙂

  • Reply Cait April 29, 2013 at 8:51 am

    That is a beautiful desk! And your post is so timely for me, as I’m moving next weekend and do need a bunch of new things. But maybe those things don’t need to be new… 🙂

    • Reply Joanna April 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      Moving is the best time to hit up the classifieds, Cait! I think the next time we move, we’re gonna go crazy with Craigslist.

      And good luck with the move!! We’re excited for ya!

  • Reply Roo // NEON FRESH April 29, 2013 at 9:01 am


    I’m soooo jeaaalouussssssssss.

    • Reply Joanna April 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      The real question is will you move to North Carolina for him (and us?!)? Baby Girl needs big sisters and I need a mommy sensei!

      • Reply Roo // NEON FRESH April 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm

        I would move in a HOT second. Find my husband a job, sell my house, and I can work from anywhere. Woooo!!

  • Reply Brian April 29, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Wait so that old door I had sitting on two saw horses in my basement is cool now? *
    I really like the way that looks. It wouldn’t fit in to my house at all, but I still like it. Our favorite piece of furniture is an old bookcase of sorts with glass doors that we got for free from a certain large Pharma company when they replced some executive furniture (the restoration guy said he was probably from around 1920s). We had it refinished for $50 and now it holds all our fancy pants plates and glass we use like once a year.

    *mine is not cool it is literally just an old door on two bright orange saw horses.

    • Reply Joanna April 29, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      Oh, that sounds like a beaut! Free furniture always ends up being the best. I’d love something like that in our dining area… But first I should probably get some fancy pants plates. **cough, cough, Johnny…. Mother’s Day, cough, cough** 😀

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup April 29, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Nice work. You two are so resourceful. I do a lot of searching on there for Jeep parts. I have found some good stuff and others not so good. You can really find some steals on Craigslist.

    • Reply Joanna April 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      Either we’re resourceful or Craigslist is just incredible. I’m guessing the latter. Have you seen the documentary Craigslist Joe? It gives a good look into what you can accomplish with Craigslist. It’s carayzee!

  • Reply debtperception April 29, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Wow, that’s a nice looking desk, great deal! Made in the USA! I’ll have to look on Craigslist now for deals!

    • Reply Joanna April 29, 2013 at 5:46 pm

      Thanks, and good point… most stuff made in the USA is unfortunately super pricey, but not our desk! Win-win!

  • Reply Chris April 29, 2013 at 11:06 am

    That’s a great desk. I’ve never really considered getting a custom anything done. I always just got to Wal Mart or Office Max for an overpriced piece of particle board that I can break while putting together. Unfortunately for me, Craigslist isn’t as good of a place to get deals as it is in larger population areas. That’s also really cool that you found a guy with the sweet side-hustle like building stuff out of wood.

    • Reply Joanna April 29, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      That’s true… populated areas are best for Craigslist. NYC’s Craigslist is incredible. And this desk is our very first custom-made thing… we’ve had more than our share of the particle board jewels. And breaking them while putting them together, haha. Nothing makes Johnny angrier!

  • Reply Miranda April 29, 2013 at 11:26 am

    That’s awesome! I love Craigslist. I sold $135 worth of stuff this weekend. Do you guys ever sell anything on Craigslist or just buy?

    • Reply Joanna April 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      That’s great, Miranda! And, yes, we’ve sold quite a few things on Craigslist. I love doing both!

  • Reply Jake Erickson April 29, 2013 at 11:45 am

    That desk looks awesome! I love Craigslist for furniture because the sellers are local and you can barter. We’ve bought and sold quite a few items via Craigslist and really haven’t had a bad experience yet.

    • Reply Johnny April 30, 2013 at 12:56 am

      I’m trying to rack my brain right now for a bad experience… and I don’t think I can find one. Definitely plenty of awkward encounters (“I’m wearing a blue hat and waving my arms violently right now! Do you see me?”), but that’s about it.

  • Reply Alysia @ Slim Sanity April 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I love this idea! It turned out great!

    • Reply Johnny April 30, 2013 at 12:56 am

      Thanks, Alysia!

  • Reply Brian April 29, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Is he really working in that picture? Because it looks a lot like he is playing Sim City… unless his job is to play Sim City in which case he has an awesome job.

    • Reply Johnny April 30, 2013 at 1:00 am

      How dare you minimize the role of a SimMayor.

      I wish I was getting paid to play that game. I think that’s just a background image on the right. I was probably in some lame text editor hacking up amateur code, wishing I was playing Sim City.

  • Reply Heidi April 29, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Gorgeous! And what a great contact to have!

    • Reply Johnny April 30, 2013 at 1:01 am

      Great contact indeed. I’m planning on giving him a ring next week with another project idea. And this time, I’d like to see if I can sit in on some of his actual work so that he can “teach this man to fish.”

  • Reply My Financial Independence Journey April 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Very nice desk.

    The last time I used Craigslist was when I was trying to move and had to get rid of a bunch of stuff. Basically, I was having a fire sale. Unfortunately everyone I interacted with seemed to be either a flake or a too sketchy to risk inviting into my apartment. I wound up throwing out or donating way more than I would have liked.

    • Reply Johnny April 30, 2013 at 1:03 am

      Thanks! We’ve had our fair share of flaky buyers when we’ve sold things. And instead of just ditching the unsold furniture, we brought it with us down here — and it still sits and collects dust. But that’s a good reminder to try and sell it now that we’re a bit more settled here.

  • Reply Diane April 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    How awesome~ I love it! I’ve been looking for a desk for our LR, and I think this is something we could possibly do! My son has taken a couple of woodworking classes and he’s good at it… it’s a simple design and I really think this could work. I’m saving this post to show him~ Thanks! And congrats, too!

    • Reply Johnny April 30, 2013 at 1:06 am

      While it’s far more complicated than I’d be able to put together with my current woodworking skillset, I actually think it’s fairly rudimentary. And a family member actually remarked that she had seen a plan for a very similar sawhorse desk on, so give that a look. We love it and it totally fits our style. Hope it works out! Best of luck!

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone April 30, 2013 at 12:06 am

    I’m not to the point in my life where I care about nice furniture yet. I’m in my 30s, so I’m not sure the nice-furniture-phase will ever hit! I type this from our free couch from craigslist. Most of our furniture was bought for $25 or less on craigslist. A great deal of it was free. Our furniture is not pretty. But I think I like free more than pretty! 🙂

    • Reply Johnny April 30, 2013 at 1:08 am

      Ahhh, the beauty of personal finance, right? For us, pretty was worth the price tag. Especially knowing this pretty cost us a whole lot less than Restoration Hardware pretty. 🙂 But free furniture is alwayys awesome.

  • Reply JW_Umbrella Treasury April 30, 2013 at 5:07 am

    What a great deal for a handmade desk! And it’s awesome that it’s made from reclaimed wood.

    We found our wedding photographer on Craigslist. She was just starting out and so was looking for affordable advertising options, so she used Craigslist. We booked her for a great deal! Since then, she’s gotten more exposure and her prices have more than doubled.

    • Reply Johnny May 1, 2013 at 1:25 am

      That’s awesome! The only services I’ve ever outsourced out on Craigslist (except this carpentry project) has been moving and labor help. But that’s awesome you found a wedding photographer. And it sounds like it was a win-win situation.

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