Cord Control in the ‘Mad Men’ Office

Thankfully, this tangled mess isn’t in either my home office or my husband Chris’ (anymore, that is). But we’ve certainly had similar situations through the years, even if we couldn’t get down on our hands and knees to photograph from this angle.

Correction: We COULD get down there and take such a photo. We just couldn’t get back up without calling 911, LOL!!

Remember when Chris’ office redo started?

Remember his ambivalence toward the project and how he perked up once he saw how cool the room was becoming with its midcentury modern “Mad Men” vibe? Suddenly he was full of ideas for sprucing it up even more.

Remember how that uber-cool retro orange lamp I surprised him with inspired him to frame up his mini-whiteboard and tidy up his desk?

Well, the cord corral I’m going to share with you today was another great idea Chris came up with. It attaches to the back of an existing desk and hides the lion’s share of electrical entanglements our electronic age demands.

But before I show you how we did it, I want to give Chris ALL the credit for the design/build. I just watched (in awe, as always) and snapped photos.

Gather your supplies

The supplies you need will vary based on the measurements of the desk you’re attaching the cord corral to and your preferences. Our desk measured 5 feet across the back with a 4.5-inch deep apron. We wanted the finished length to be 36.5 inches–shorter than the desk itself so it couldn’t be easily seen from the sides.

We used Aspen wood because its grain is similar to the mango wood in our desk, it’s easy to work with, and it’s inexpensive. We purchased boards in the following dimensions:

  • 1″ x 8″ x 4′ for the bottom and 2 sides
  • 1″ x 6″ x 3′ for the back
  • 1″ x 4″ x 3′ for the lid

Other supplies/tools we used included:

  • Three 4-inch angle brackets to attach the bottom of the corral to the desk apron.
  • Dark brown spray paint to blend in with the desk finish.
  • Aluminum trim channel. We could only find a 36-inch piece (left). Two pieces 2 inches long (right) were all we needed.
  • Wood screws: 3/4-inch for the casing, much smaller ones for the trim channel.
  • Mitre saw (or other saw)
  • Drill with Forstner bit (or hole saw)
  • Quik-clamps (optional but helpful)

Cutting & assembling the corral

This diagram shows the cuts made to size our cord corral and how to assemble it:

You may need to adjust these dimensions and this design, depending on the size and design of the desk or table you’re attaching your corral to. Note that you need to use the drill with Forstner bit (or hole saw) to cut three equally spaced holes, 1.5 inches in diameter, into the board that will be the bottom of your corral.

Next join the back to the bottom (left to right):

  1. Lay out and mark screw locations.
  2. Drill pilot holes.
  3. Insert and tighten screws with a screwdriver to avoid splitting the wood.

Follow the same procedure to attach each side to the bottom and to the back. This is where the Quik-clamps come in handy.

Fit, finish and mount

Before going any further, dry fit your corral to your desk. Most desktops overhang, and sometimes, as with ours, there’s molding where the top and desk frame connect.

After dry-fitting our corral, we found we needed to angle the corner on each side where the corral would fit against the desk apron to allow clearance for this trim mold.

You can see the angled cut we made in this photo. Only then did we cut and install the trim channel to allow the top to slide on and off. You will need to drill two holes in each channel piece to accommodate the small screws that will attach it to the inside corral sides.

With that done, you’re ready to paint (or stain, your preference) and install by attaching angle brackets first to the corral bottom, then to the apron of the desk. You’ll need another person to help hold the corral in place as you do this.

Finally, enjoy!

Here’s how the corral looks with the top slid open (left) and closed (right). As you can see, the corral is large enough to hold power supplies and plug strips as well as cords, which cuts down on the number of cords coming out of it AND makes everything easier to access.

We positioned our desk far enough away from the wall to allow the lid to open when access was needed. The corral doesn’t get rid of ALL the electrical mess, but it does compartmentalize and disguise most of it. Additionally, the sliding lid helps keep dust at bay.

Notice how the farther away you move from the desk, the less conspicuous the corral becomes, until you don’t notice it installed at the back of the desk at all. You also don’t see a tangle of dusty cords.

That cleaner look is a huge plus, am I right?

If you want more…

bohohome.com @bohosusan

  • Follow the transformation of this combination home office and guest bedroom in these seven posts from earlier this year:
  • Shop my Etsy store for authentic midcentury modern accents and vintage accessories from other eras, like those pictured in these redo posts. You may find just what your room (or your sweetheart or YOU) needs.