Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My DIY makeup storage desk (cheap, good for small spaces, and not at all Pinterest pretty)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

I have no problem at all with color-coordinated storage solutions or beautifully arranged and decorated vanities. I enjoy being in an aesthetically pleasing space, and I would do that all the time if I could, because it does something positive for my state of mind. I just don't happen to have those things right now. Instead, I have a practical hodgepodge of things that I use to store my makeup - and I love it. I think that this makeup desk, though simple, is one of the best ideas I've ever come up with. (Let's not explore what that says about the calibre of my ideas in general.) It's super functional and cost me almost nothing. Someday I'll probably get something prettier, but this works really fucking well for now.

So obviously this is not meant to be Pinterest-style decorating inspiration (though I will probably pin it). Instead, I thought I'd show you what I came up with to work in the tiny space I'm living in, using mostly materials I already had. It might help you come up with some ideas yourself - or, if not, you can be all, "Ugh, why would you post photos of that crap online? No one wants to look at that." That's fun too. You can even click on the photos to enlarge them if you want to judge more thoroughly.

The centerpiece is the desk itself. It's an old computer desk with a pull-out tray for a keyboard. I bought it from somewhere like Walmart (probably for under $50) in approximately 2003. I proceeded to Mod Podge a collage of photos of art to it, mostly blue, that I cut out of a high school art history textbook I salvaged from a bin at McGraw-Hill when I worked there one summer during college.

Later, when I transitioned from a desktop to a laptop computer, the computer desk became my art desk. That's why there's paint splattered all over it, if you can see any of that in these photos. That's also when I added the super-attractive strip of black foam along the front. The edge was really sharp and it annoyed me by digging into my forearms when I was drawing, so I bought from child-proofing foam and stuck it on there. Problem solved.

Finally, when I had hoarded enough makeup that it no longer fit in the bathroom cupboard, I transformed the desk into a vanity + storage. This is what I feel really clever about. It's not exactly brilliant, but it works perfectly for me. I wanted most of my makeup to be easy to access when I was sitting at the desk, but not to be sitting out messily on display all the time. I also didn't want in in drawers, because I like to be able to see as much as possible at one time. Being able to see things increases the likelihood that I will use them more often, because they aren't lost in some dark, jumbled cabinet.

I created what I wanted by using double-sided tape to attach old Birchbox boxes to the pull-out keyboard tray. They happened to fit on to the area of that surface almost perfectly, which was a bonus. This allows me to organize my shit and to see what I've got. When I'm not using it, I can just slide the tray back under the desk, and everything looks neat.

The other advantage of this set up, which I only discovered once I started using it, is that it keeps things cleaner when I'm applying makeup too. Since the tray pulls out to cover my entire lap, if I go crazy with the powder or drop an eyeliner, it falls into the tray and not on to my clothing. Very handy for a walking mess like myself. It also keeps loose powder off the floor. Those boxes are very durable: this tray has lasted a few years and even survived a move completely intact.

Most of the other shit on the desk consists of things I just gathered up from wherever. I don't have a good spot in my apartment to hang that great big mirror, which is something else I've owned for nearly a decade. It's nice to have it here, though, because I can switch between close-up views in the small mirror and overall views in the big mirror. Since I have terrible eyesight, I need the smaller mirror so that I can do my eye makeup from two fucking inches away. It has a magnifying mirror on the other side, but I almost never use that. The stand is a little too short for my height, unfortunately, so to avoid hunching over, I've placed it on an upside-down candle holder. Yep, fancy. I only almost knock the mirror over a few times a month, so obviously I have found is the ideal solution (?).

Partially as an apology for the crappy photo quality, let me point out that this room (and my entire apartment) is very cramped and poorly lit. (I'm going to be so fucking happy to be out of here in a month or so.) I set up the desk right beside the window to get as much light as I possible could. In my last place, I had my desk directly in front of the window, though then I didn't have the large mirror behind it, of course. To help even more with the lighting, I also have this big Ikea lamp on the desk. Something smaller would probably make more sense, but I already had this one - and the nice thing about it is that the base takes up almost no space at all. I draped that old handkerchief with the horse embroidered on it over the top, because a friend gave it to me, and I didn't know what else to do with it. So twee.

On the right hand side of the desk, I have a (cheese? bread?) tray with several of my skin care products, some primers, and my very impressive collection of perfumes (consisting of 1 bottle and a dozen sample vials). These things are kept as far as possible from the window, in case increased exposure to sunlight could cause them to deteriorate. My foundations are sitting on the base of the lamp, and I have a little pot that I made in a pottery class holding all of my lip pencils/crayons (too many). My bigger eyeshadows are in a mini acrylic suitcase that came with a Hard Candy gift set once upon a time (the singles and other small ones are in the pull-out tray).

On the left side of the desk is one of the only things I bought specifically for the purpose of holding makeup: the round acrylic organizer. It was cheap ($15), and it's really handy. I keep my large brushes in here, along with any makeup I use on a daily basis (i.e. mascara, eyebrow pencils, etc.). It also holds things I am currently trying to finish up by using them more frequently, like a couple of old lip glosses, and products that need to be stored vertically with the tip down (mainly felt tipped pens). It also has little trays on the bottom that pull out, and I keep lesser-used tools like sharpeners in those. To hold my smaller brushes, I have a ceramic thingy that my grandmother made. She used it to hold her paintbrushes. Any kind of pen holder would work for this purpose, of course.

The surface to left of the desk is just a TV tray with a wicker box on it that holds an assortment of hair and skin care shit that I like to have on hand in my bedroom. The rest of that is in the bathroom.

So that's about it. It's not particularly beautiful (or at all beautiful), but I've got everything organized exactly the way I want it at this point. It's all visible and accessible and functional. I'm very pleased with it, and I spent only a small amount of money (a total of $35 on the mirror and organizer) and next to no time putting it together. It takes up very little space, which is crucial right now. You can't see it, but there is a maximum of two feet between the edge of the desk and my bed. That's all the space that is available in this room. I like being able to push the storage tray out of the way, and I like that the place where I put on my makeup and the place where I store my makeup are combined. (Though I admit that I also have some unused makeup stored in the Melmer where I keep my nail polish - and the stuff I have sorted out to get rid of is also stored elsewhere.)

Obviously, what I have created here is largely the result of the kinds of things I already had available. If you also have an old computer desk like this that you no longer use for a computer (or if you find one in a thrift store), this is a possible use for it. Maybe you also have a weird collection of old Birchboxes - I kept mine because they're great gifts - and I hear that now they have fancy designs on the inside? Even better! If not, I'm sure there are other options for organizing things on the tray. Cutlery trays, maybe?

I'm curious to hear if anyone else has come up with ingenious solutions for storing and organizing makeup. I don't think you necessarily have to go out and spend a lot of money on specially designed storage products to come up with a system that works, and I don't think you need to let anyone convince you that you're not a "real adult" unless you own brand new, coordinated everything. Reusing and recycling is good, remember?


  1. The Birchboxes! Ingenious!
    I don't have that much makeup, so it fits onto the top of one table (i.e., old computer desk). Atop it is a mirror that someone in my apartment building was planning on throwing away. Then I just have a bunch of glass candle jars holding the brushes, eyeliners, etc. It actually looks kind of nice, I think! Better than the Muji stuff, in my opinion.

    1. Yes, old candle jars are perfect! That's what I was using for my brushes before I got a hold of this thing that was my grandmother's. They're useful for all sorts of things.

  2. great set-up! I fantasize about having a beautiful battlestation as well, but I'm also working with what I have for now. It's a little janky, but as long as it helps my project pan, it'll do.

    1. Yes, whatever works! There are probably things I could do to make this prettier, like paint the desk or something, but since I expect to be moving a number of times over the next few years, it doesn't seem worth it right now.

  3. Read your blog just out of interest as to why someone absolutely had to use the F bomb in the title. You did have some interesting ideas but the fowl language did not help a bit, re read it without the offensive words and the concept still comes through fine. JS

    1. I assure you that I was in no way forced to use the F bomb. I did it completely of my own free will. I hope that makes you feel better. Also, if "fowl" language bothers you, you might be better off not reading blogs with Fuck with the title at all. I promise you that there are thousands of completely inoffensive makeup blogs out there that would suit you very well.

  4. There are no chickens, swans or swallows talking about makeup in this blog. *confused face*

    1. I try to be as inclusive as possible, but I hadn't even considered how these products could be used by poultry. Shameful!


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