Wednesday, September 25, 2013

DIY: IKEA MALM Occasional Table

For a really long time now, I have been obsessed with the IKEA MALM Occasional Table. I think it's absolutely genius for using over the bed, and it's also almost the perfect size to use as one of those behind-the-couch tables.  But the $129 price tag? Outrageous. Especially since it still needs to be assembled once purchased, like 99% of IKEA items.  

Being a DIY guru, I decided that I would make my own, for a whopping $40.  It couldn't be that hard, right? Actually, right.  

In all reality, it was so easy! And the awesome thing about mine compared to the one from IKEA is that mine is solid wood, not particle board.  

So I'm here to show you how you too can save about $100 dollars and make your own MALM Occasional Table!

Step 1 - Measure the size of your bed/sofa

If you are going to build your table to go over the sides of your bed, you will need to measure the width of your bed to make sure that you make the table larger so that it will fit over comfortably.  Make sure that you also measure the height of your bed.  You will want your table to be at least 6" higher than the highest point of your bed, which will either be the footboard or the mattress.  Then, sitting in your bed, you should measure how far off the ground it would be for you, and anyone else that you share a bed with, to sit comfortably with a table over your lap.  If that height is more than the height of your bed plus 6", then use that height as the basis for your table, otherwise, don't add any additional height.

If you are making this table for the back of your sofa, measure the height of your sofa, and then subtract anywhere from 1-6", depending on your personal preference of how high you want the table to be.  

Step 2 - Buy your materials

With your measurements in hand, take a trip to your local hardware store and gather your materials.  You will need the following:

Wood - $15
L-Brackets (4) - $10 for 4
Rigid Casters (4) - $12 for 4
Wood Screws - $6.50/box of 50
Sandpaper - $3.50

Wood: I used White Fir, and bought a 2"x12"x12', which I had cut to the sizes that I needed at Lowe's.  Lowe's and Home Depot have the capability of cutting the wood to size for you, granted that their saw is in working order, so you should take advantage of this if you don't have a way to transport a 12' board, or if you don't own a saw.  

You may not need or want to use White Fir, but this is the only type of wood that was available in the size that I wanted.  My wood is untreated, which is important if you plan on staining or painting your table.  

L-Brackets: I bought four 4" L-Brackets from the hardware aisle.  You can use any size bracket that you want, but the larger ones are typically stronger and help with sturdiness, especially on a project like this.

Rigid Casters: If you are making this table for your bed, you will want to purchase 4 rigid casters, which are the ones that are bi-directional.  These will allow the table to slide back and forth over your bed in a straight line and not sideways, versus trying to direct the table with swivel casters, which would allow the table to go in all directions while trying to use it.

Wood Screws:  I bought a box of #12 1.5" wood screws to attach the L-Brackets and the Casters to the wood pieces.  To save money, I made sure that the head of the screw fit into both the brackets and the casters, that way I didn't have to buy two different size screws.  A box of screws usually contains 50 screws, which is more than enough for this project, since this will require 32 screws - 4 on each caster, and 4 on each bracket.  

Sandpaper: You will need a medium-grit sandpaper to remove any splintering pieces of wood from your boards.  If you already have a rough-grit or fine-grit sandpaper on hand, you can probably save some money by not purchasing a medium-grit sandpaper, although you may need to sand a little harder or softer based on what type of grit you have.  

Step 3 -  Sand down your boards

Using your sandpaper, sand down all of the sides of the boards, including the ends.  Make sure that when sanding, you go in the direction of the grain of the wood.  Going against the grain of the wood will result in scratches that will show through stain and thin layers of paint.  

When you have finished sanding, wipe off your boards with a dry cloth, then vacuum or brush the rest of the dust off using a shop-vac or small hand brush.  This step is extremely important if you will be staining or painting your boards, since you will not want any small pieces of dust ruining the finish on your table.  

Step 4 - Prime, paint, and protect your boards

This step is optional, but it will really help your table last longer and be protected from sweating cups, food spills, and anything else that can possibly ruin raw wood.  For me, I used a sample can of paint that I bought a few weeks ago for the small bedroom on the first floor, which will be my craft room.  I put two coats of primer on the wood first, let that dry, then I followed that up with two coats of Sherwin-Williams Summit Gray paint.

Once the paint dries, you are ready to add an optional protective coat onto the boards.  I decided to use a spray-polyurethane to protect the paint on the boards, that way wet cups and spills wouldn't ruin the wood and would make clean up so much easier.  I actually waited overnight to start the polyurethane since I started the project after work one day, but if you start this project early enough in the day, you could actually just wait a few hours for the paint to completely dry before moving on.  If you choose to use polyurethane, follow the directions on the packaging to allow for enough drying time between coats.  

Step 5 - Mark, drill, and attach your L-Brackets

Once you have finished priming, painting, and the optional step of protecting your boards, it is time to attach your hardware.  

On your leg boards, measure how far inside you want your L-Brackets to be, and using a pencil, mark inside the screw holes so you know where to drill your pilot holes.  I attached my L-Brackets 2" from the long sides of the boards, and made sure that the bend in the bracket was flush with the short side of the board.  

Once you have the holes marked on both the leg boards, use a drill bit that is smaller than the size of the wood screws that you bought and drill pilot holes where you marked the screw holes with the pencil.  This step is important because not only will it help make sure that your screws go into the exact location that you want them to go, but it will also help them go in easier.  Once your pilot holes are drilled, screw the L-Brackets into the leg boards using your wood screws.

Next, line up your short boards on the end of your long board, making sure that both boards meet perfectly, creating a 90 degree angle.  Using a pencil, mark where the L-Bracket screw holes are, then using your drill, drill in your pilot holes.  

Step 6 - Attach your Casters

On the bottom of your leg boards, measure how far inside you want your casters to be, and using a pencil, mark inside the screw holes so you know where to drill your pilot holes.  

I attached my Casters 1/2" from the edge of the short side of the board, giving the legs the most stability.  Once you have all the holes marked on both the leg boards, use a drill bit that is smaller than the size of the wood screws that you bought and drill pilot holes where you marked the screw holes with the pencil.  This step is important because not only will it help make sure that your screws go into the exact location that you want them to go, but it will also help them go in easier.  Once your pilot holes are drilled, screw the Casters into the leg boards using your wood screws.

Step 7 - Assemble your table

Depending on where you will be using your table, it may be easier to attach the top of the table to the legs once you have it in the space it will be in.  For me, this was the case not only because I was working by myself and without someone else to help me transport it, but because our bedroom is upstairs via an L-shaped staircase, which would have made it annoying to try to transport assembled.  

When you are ready to assemble the table, lay the table top on the floor, with the pilot holes facing upward.  Line your table legs up with the edge of the table top, and line up the pilot holes with the holes in the L-Bracket.  Attach your table legs to the table top using the wood screws.  

Once you have the legs and top attached, you are ready to use your table!  Flip it over onto the casters, or onto the bottom of the legs if you chose to forgo the casters and use this behind a sofa, and you are good to go!

Have I inspired you to take more chances and to try building your own furniture? This is literally one of the easiest projects, plus it's completely customizable. Now I just need to finish that other DIY Lampshade and then add my favorite digital art prints for some pops of color.

So, when are you going to the hardware store to get your supplies?


Unknown said...

HOLY CRAP! So cool!!!!!

Unknown said...

Wow!!! This is awesome :)

Lisa said...

Hi, I just wanted to add a few comments. I just made this table for a Queen size bed. I made the top 66" long. I made the sides 30.5". Be sure to measure and measure again. When measuring for the perfect height, remember to take into account the thickness of your wood and the height of the casters. I wanted my table height to be 34". I subtracted the thickness of 1.5" and another 2" for the casters.

I used the only thing Home Depot had.(1) 2x12x12 Premium Douglas Fir. The wood is very heavy, so make sure you pre-drill every hole. Don't make the mistake I made when I was rushing to pre-drill and the bit broke off inside! Ugh. Actually, pre-drill more than once and made sure you drill it straight down. That was another problem I had, and another bit broke off. I haven't used this yet, it still needs to be painted, but I do suggest if possible, using another lighter, more easy to work with wood.

Anonymous said...

I've searched the entire internet, and your site has the best, most complete instructions for building this desk. Thank you!

I just finished mine and it's great, although wobbly. I think a combo of wood glue, 3" screws, and/or maybe metal bolts on the outside will help. I saw on the net that lots of people ended up with wobbly tables. I'm going to try 3" screws on top.

I'm super happy with the results. Thanks again for posting this.

Unknown said...

has anyone made this for a cal king?? I wonder if it would sag in the middle if I do it that big.

Mands @ Rhody Life said...

Hi Tiffany - you may be able to attach a metal bracket underneath the top piece in order to help it stay more stable, but I think that if you choose a cured wood that is hard enough, you shouldn't have any warping or sagging.
If you search Lowe's website for "flat bar" some options come up that could provide a little more support for the table top.
Let me know if you have any other questions, and good luck with your project if you decide to tackle it!

Unknown said...

I wonder if it would be sturdy enough to attach a bracket for a pc tower that weighs ... maybe 25 lbs? ... something like this ...

I'm going to build this once i sort out the cabling and power logistics.

The Sloppy Perfectionist said...

Thanks for this tutorial! I am hoping to make one of these soon for behind my sofa. You have some great projects on your blog!



Tara R said...

I made this today for my full size bed. A few comments:

It was absolutely not stable using only the L-brackets for support. It swayed from side to side, despite excellent positioning and tight joints. I had some 2.5" deck screws, so I put two on each side through the top into the legs. Problem solved. A little wood putty will disguise the screwheads under the (eventual) paint job. I didn't predrill the holes, though, and the wood did split; for now, not bearing more than the weight of my laptop and coffee mug, that's not a big deal. Someday it will cause problems. Lesson learned.

My table seems very tippy! I didn't put the casters all the way at the corners and that will be my first troubleshooting attempt. For now, though, if the table comes in contact with the bedclothes (and I have 3" of clearance on either side) or a bump in the floor, it wants to keel over.

Finally, this does not yield a table height comfortable for typing. Some writing, maybe; reading, absolutely; streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime on the laptop, oh yes. But if you are thinking about using this as a desk in bed, you may wish to reconsider.

For the ultimate bedroom hideaway, make a padded headboard to lean against whilst you read and/or watch. Sooo comfy!

K.kelly. said...

Hi, is there someone that can help me make this, i don't know anything about wood work. what are they called here in America, I assume they are called carpenters. i just moved here from the UK. please help, Thank you so much. Also your work is simply flawless. i will be have to show the professional your work as guide. thanks!

Brock said...

To Tara's comment, I just made mine and am having the exact same problems you are.

My desk is very tippy and i can't push it either way without it wanting to tip, it's almost like I have to have someone on both sides just to move it without issues.

And I also had to screw in 5in. screws into the top of the legs to keep it from wobbling side to side. It's a little high, and I'm going to cut the legs down an inch or two to help so I can use it for typing and all my school work.

Lastly though, I don't know your situation, and if this would work for you, but I am going to be making another one of these and bolting it to this first one to make a double wide version. it will have double the space, be a nice height, and because it will be wider and on 8 casters total, (4 on each desk), I'm hoping it will move back and forth with less problems and effort. Hope this helps!

Unknown said...

Great great tutorial! Many thanks!! Question: what is the ideal distance from matress to top of the table in your experience? What is a confortable hight? Enough room for legs, but not to high to write ir type?

Mands @ Rhody Life said...

Elena - I'm not sure I can give you an exact measurement, as this will depend on how squishy your mattress is, and how tall you are. For me, I sat on the bed and measured up to my elbow from something rigid, in my case, the sideboard of my bedframe. This made sure that the height was enough to clear my legs, but not too high to be able to setup my laptop and type comfortably.

Göran Heintz said...

Nice idea. I was about to offer this for a rental but then realized that would probably increase the amount of stains on the sheets substantially, something for your own home though!

Blue Firefly Traveler- Tammy said...

I had the same problem as the other girls. it tips so easily and with a cat around, its just not a good piece. i took the casters off thinking i could just slide(carpet) but its still tipping. i may have to make a second one and attach it to the first one for the width. any ideas how to get around this? i didn't really want a huge wide thing over my bed.

AML said...

I've made this based on having owned the Malm table and loving it but being annoyed at how quickly the surface was nicked and chipped. My DIY version is super sturdy. I used L brackets, but I spaced them further apart, nearly at the edge of each end. Then I put in two screws down from the top, filled in with wood filler and sanded/painted. I also used wood glue because why not. To those of you having problems with the tipping - that's a problem with the size of your caster wheels. 4 inches is reallly high for this project. For height I went with 2 inches high and 2 inches wide so they're as wide as the support board. If you wanted to bring the height down even further you could use a router to recess the wheels. If I make this again I'd probably do that just for aesthetic purposes.

Eldorado4 said...

Not sure your Table width however at the base of the two planks Glue two 1”x4” pc’c 6” wider together for each side and depending on the clearance you need Screw the Glued pc’s too the inside or outside flush with the bottom of your leg Planks then add the casters out at the bottom close too the ends as you had them on the leg Planks.
This should stable your Over Bed Table considerably !
Hope this helps

Unknown said...

Vince - can you explain what is 1”x4” pc’c 6” wider I just bought the material to make this table and I want it sturdy. Thanks for the help on this.

Unknown said...

There is so much great, useful information here. Thank you!

QuinlansQ said...

Thanks a million - I always wanted one and then they were gone. Now I can make one - Thanks to you!

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