How I Transformed My Cheap Aothia Desk Shelf

I love a good desk shelf, but I can’t say the same about breaking the bank. Companies like Grovemade and Balolo make beautiful desk shelves but the issue is, they cost a fortune.

In my article on the best Grovemade desk shelf alternatives, I mentioned a cheap desk shelf off Amazon, the Aothia Desk Shelf. It was the only desk shelf that had a real wood top and was sufficiently large.

Here’s what the Aothia Desk Shelf looks like on my desk. It’s not too bad, right? It’s missing some luxuries here and there like a sub-shelf and a more polished vibe.

desk setup with ultrawide monitor, desk shelf, and yosemite desk mat.

But with a little DIY magic, I transformed this affordable desk shelf into this much more attractive and high-end-looking shelf for around $25 – $30.

aothia desk shelf upgrade

My Goals With Upgrading the Aothia Shelf

There were a couple of specific changes I wanted to apply when it came to upgrading this shelf. These changes would make the shelf look better and also make it more functional.

Change the Color

It always bothered me that my desk shelf’s wood color did not perfectly match the color of my oak desk. It was a lot lighter.

What made things worse was my monitor light bar would illuminate the desk shelf making it stand out even more. My desk is full of black desk accessories, so making this desk shelf black would tie the entire desk together.

aothia desk shelf with ultrawide monitor on desk

I wanted the legs and the top of the desk shelf to be black. A wood grain finish is nice and all, but I cared more about the color consistency across my desk.

Leg Style

I like that Aothia gave us really simple cork legs. That’s part of the reason the price is low.

However, I wanted to go with a more classic solid rectangle look. One of the benefits of desk shelves is that they can cover up your cables, and a solid leg does better than a hollow design leg.

Because I was going for the black look, I wanted to 3D print these in all black.

Added Subshelf

All the fancy desk shelves out there have a very nice feature, they come with a sub shelf. Multiple levels within your desk shelf can give you more organizational power.

I needed to add this to my desk shelf affordably, so I opted to add wood trim/slats as my separator.

Wood slats are super cheap and your local hardware store can cut them to length for you. We’ll get into the details in the next section.

Added Rubber Feet

The cork legs that came with the Aothia desk shelf had a big sliding issue. There was no grip on my desk whatsoever.

If I placed the 3D-printed legs directly on my desk, no doubt they would also slide around. I needed to add some simple rubber feet to this design.

Steps In Upgrading The Aothia Desk Shelf

If you want to give your own Aothia desk shelf an upgrade, here are the exact steps:

Step 1: 3D Print New Legs

First things first, I designed and then 3D printed some new legs that fit into the same Aothia slots under the top shelf. I’ve dropped the STL files in this Google Drive link.

I designed them with little beveled edges that give them that wanna-be Grovemade look.

I printed them with some black PLA and a typical 15-20% infill. On my Prusa MK2S, I was able to fit two legs on the print bed at a time. So I had to run the printer twice.

To keep track of costs, a typical spool of PLA filament goes for ~$15 on Amazon. I used about a third of the spool, so we can estimate a $5 cost here.

Step 2: Get Wood Slats/Trim

I designed the desk legs to accept space for four wooden slats. This means we need 8 cut to length pieces of wood.

The cross-sectional dimensions for this wood strip were 1.25 x .375 inches. To match the Aothia leg spacing, 4x were cut to 14.75 inches long, and 4x were cut to 22.25 inches long.

My local hardware store sold these wood trim pieces in lengths of 8 feet for around $8/ea. I needed two of these strips for both shelves. So the total cost here was around $16.

Step 3: Prep Wood Sub-shelf Slats

Off-the-shelf wood is not yet ready to be used. They need to be sanded down to ensure they are smooth to the touch as you interface with them day after day.

After giving the wood a good sanding on all sides, I like to apply a coating. I oiled the wood with the same oil I use on my wood desk.

Here’s how the oiled wood looks versus the untreated wood. A pretty nice color gets added to the wood! Also, it repels water with this coating, win-win!

Step 4: Paint the Top of Desk Shelf

Now it came time to paint the top shelf of the Aothia desk shelf. I used a matte black paint that I had for this.

Only the top surface and the sides were painted. I masked off the bottom with some old Trader Joe’s bags because it’s rarely visible and I only had a small amount of paint left.

Though I only had enough paint for a single coat, it had complete coverage and looked fantastic!

Step 5: Add Rubber Feet to Leg Bases

I purchased some simple adhesive back rubber feet from Amazon and added them to the shelf legs. I had little depressed locations designed into the desk shelf legs so the rubber feet would get installed in the same location.

Step 6: Assemble!

Now comes the fun part. Wood slats simply slide into the cutouts in the 3D-printed legs. No screws or glue are necessary!

The below image is how your desk shelf should look after fitting all the legs with the wooden strips. It is already looking a lot better than the stock Aothia desk shelf!

The last step is to add the black painted top, and this is what you get.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Photo of author


I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!

1 thought on “How I Transformed My Cheap Aothia Desk Shelf”

  1. This guide is amazing! Seriously, thank you! I just ordered my shelf and had a friend print me the legs in white (since my desk is white). If it lets me on here, I’ll post a photo of the ‘light mode’ version once it’s completed 😉 The next step is to get the wood for the middle shelf, but i’m hoping it should be easy since I already have the legs with the slot they need to fit into.

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