This DIY expanding table can collapse in seconds (and is perfect for RV living!)
This post was originally posted in 2016, but updated in 2023.
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Whether you live in an RV or just want some space-saving ideas, we hope you can find some inspiration from this post.
Although we created this transforming table inside our motorhome, it could easily be re-created in a home office, guest room, apartment, or small nook where you need some extra workspace.
This DIY expanding table was a project we had planned for a while, but despite building the media cabinet and installing the telescoping slides before hitting the road, we didn’t get around to building out the tabletop until after.
Thankfully, Eric’s extended family in Wisconsin has a shop on the farm and let us use it while we were visiting them for a few months.
Replacing the RV Dinette Booth
Ever since we brought our RV home, we knew we would replace the dinette booth with a custom media cabinet. The plan was to create a custom cabinet that would not only hide our TV and include a fireplace, but also have a collapsible table that could double as a desk.
Here’s a before photo of our RV dinette booth area, so you can see what we were working with.
Unfortunately, I struggled finding any information that could help guide our DIY extendable table build or tell us what products to purchase. Ultimately, we sorta just figured it out on our own. With that said, we’re pretty excited about how it turned out.
That’s not to say improvements couldn’t be made to the design (some of which I’ll share at the bottom of this post), but we hope to give you a starting off point to create something similar. There are lots of custom variations that can be made depending on your needs and space limitations.
If you live in a small space then you know just how important it is for furniture to serve multiple purposes. Our DIY transforming table was originally inspired by this pull-out drawer table and the Goliath table I originally saw in this youtube video. Both show innovative furniture designs that transform from a narrow console table into a massive dining table in less than a minute.
Before long I was obsessed with space-saving table designs that could expand, fold, collapse, or transform in one way or another. They were so innovative and beautiful. However, I also discovered styles were limited and price-points high.
In fact, the only expanding tables I could find at the time were designed in Europe and cost thousands of dollars, which wasn’t in our budget. Not to mention we would need something custom and lightweight. I imagine more designs will continue to become accessible in the US as time passes and the tiny house movement grows.
While this won’t be a step by step tutorial on how to build this table, I’ll link to the main supplies we used as a reference.
Here are the supplies you’ll need to make your own burlap roller shades:
- Extension Slides
- Removable Wooden Legs (or consider adjustable or Clamp-style legs)
- Wood leg Attachment Plates
- Table Locks or Lever Latches (1-2 per table extension)
- Wooden Dowel Kit or alignment pins (optional)
- Paint/Stain – we used dark tung oil
- Tabletop (we used 3 edge-glued wood panels)
You can see how we created the custom media cabinet here.
The search for telescoping drawer slides
After spending countless hours looking at telescoping table and drawer slides, I realized they were either too big for the space they needed to be hidden in or were a bit more expensive then we wanted to spend.
Then when I finally found a pair of slides that would work, the company wasn’t getting back to me, which was really frustrating. I finally called and was told (rather rudely) that they only sold wholesale. It would have been nice if they would have emailed me this, but on the plus side, they did give me the contact number for a company that sold the same slides, yay!
When I called the company the owner answered and was so nice and helpful that as soon as we hung up I ordered the metal console extension slides from his website. I really just liked the vibe I got from this company and can definitely recommend them. I had also ordered the folding table leg hinges, but we decided not to go that route.
What’s great about these slides is that they’re made for a console table and are only 14″ closed, yet they extend up to 64″, meaning there is 54″ of space available for table leaves.
The slides were basically installed like regular drawer slides inside the media cabinet.
The search for removable table legs
One of the other aspects I spent WAY too much time researching, was what table legs to use.
I originally wanted u-shaped telescoping legs like the ones shown in the modern European designs, like the Goliath table video above. However, I couldn’t find any companies that sold them locally. Most of the ones I did find were located in another country and crazy expensive. Others were too big even when collapsed, or too bulky and not exactly what I wanted design-wise. I knew we could attach wooden legs but wanted to see what other options were out there first.
At this point, I wish I knew how to weld, or knew someone that could make them for me. I even considered contacting metal fabricators. Instead, I moved onto other table leg designs and quickly became obsessed with more industrial style table legs that could easily be attached to any surface to create a table or desk.
I especially fell in love with the clamp-style legs from Floyd, but they only sold the legs in a 4-pack and were out of stock. Luckily, I came across Tiptoe, another shop that sold clamp-on table legs. Only they were located in France, which meant shipping would take a while and we wouldn’t get them before hitting the road.
I ordered them anyway and had them shipped to my dad’s house out of state since we planned to swing through on our way to Wisconsin.
Well, it didn’t matter because they got lost in the mail and we never got them.
Luckily I was able to cancel the order and get my money back, but I was still pretty bummed. I felt so fancy ordering something from France and was excited to incorporate the innovative design into our RV.
In the end, we picked up two 28″ wooden legs and attachment plates at a local hardware store. We also picked up 3 edge-glued spruce boards for $16 each. We considered plywood and other wood options, but now that we don’t have all of our tools with us, we decided the spruce panels would be the best plan of attack.
While we had to make some compromises on the table legs, the approach we ended up taking was WAY cheaper, not to mention easier to attach and put away. Everything happens for a reason, right?
Creating the extending tabletop
Each project panel was 1 x 18 x 48 so we had to cut them down to 1 x 18 x 34.5. Depending on the wood you purchase, and the length of your table, you may or may not need to cut them down.
We thought about painting the tabletop sections white but instead used Dark Tung Oil leftover from when we sealed our bathroom counter.
If you live near an Ikea, I recommend checking out their tabletop options. Just keep in mind that some of the lightweight options are made with a cardboard honeycomb interior, which will make it difficult to screw into and leave unfinished edges if cut down. However, if you find the exact size you need, you may be able to make it work.
Interlocking leaf extensions
We originally planned to use table locks to connect the table leaf extensions to one another, but Eric wanted to play around with wooden dowels so he purchased a kit. The dowels worked well but if you use the table locks it’s not necessary, and honestly creates more work.
We later added table locks to each table leaf anyway since our cats jumping up and off the table was causing the dowels to be less effective than we hoped. Now they lock in place and don’t move unless we unlock them.
We actually installed sash locks meant for windows since that’s all we could find locally at the time, and they work well, but I still recommend using actual table locks or level latch locks. We’ve used them for other projects and they are my preference if given a choice.
DIY Expanding Table Setup
I love how this table is hidden when not in use, but takes just 3 steps to set it up.
- Pull out drawer
- Attach wooden legs
- Place and lock table leaf extensions
It’s like Magic
Every time we pull the drawer out it feels like magic.
We drilled a hole inside the inner wall of the left cabinet that goes into the top drawer compartment. Our surge protector/extension cord is in there and this is where we have my computer plugged in. This way we can just feed the cord on top of the desk and skip cables on the floor.
Eric and I have both been working at this table for a week now and LOVE it! There’s more than enough space for me to be on my computer while he works on his laptop. It has definitely made working in the RV a lot more manageable.
You can see the before/after below:
Watch Eric assemble the table in the video below:
I was worried about the amount of time it would take to get this table set up, but it literally takes less than a minute! Eric even made a video showing how easy it is to put together or takedown, which you can watch below.
(This video is from 2017 and was before we added our table locks underneath. You can watch our updated RV video tour here.)
Updated Photos of our transforming desk/table:
Here are some updated photos of our DIY expandable desk/table after a few years on the road:
Table Leaf Panels and Leg Storage
We originally planned to store the leaf extensions and legs inside the custom storage we built behind the sofa. While this works, it became inconvenient. Instead, we end up storing them beside the sofa (behind the passenger chair) or between the driver’s chair and window. It keeps them out of the way (and pretty hidden) yet easy to access.
This transforming table has been AWESOME, but here are a few things we’ve learned over the last 3+ years…
1. Definitely add table locks. We waited because we used the wooden dowel method, but the locks work so much better, especially with pets that like to jump up on our desk when least expected. We use the dowels too, but they aren’t necessary with locks.
2. Consider adding a lip or edge to each table leaf. The metal extension slides have gotten caught on my
pajama pants on multiple occasions. A lip would cover that area up, and be safer, especially if you have little ones around. It would also give the table a more finished look.
3. Install the slides closer together. This may help them not stand out so much and prevent snagged pajamas.
4. Add additional legs. Depending on the length of your table, adding an additional table leg (or two) in the center can add more support and help prevent warping. Or installing them in the center/vertically aligned (like the inspiration video) vs side by side horizontally.
5. See if there is a way to store folding legs or the table leaf panels inside the desk/table. While this didn’t work for our specific situation because of the overall dimensions of the cabinet (and fireplace/tv inside), it’s definitely worth brainstorming over before beginning your build. We technically can squeeze the legs inside, but it’s a tight squeeze since we also keep a surge protector in there to easily plug in our computers.
6. Attach the faux drawer front to the cabinet and not the sliding table. To make this DIY expanding table more usable we could have attached the faux drawer front to the media cabinet instead of the actual sliding drawer mechanism. Then it could have flipped down (staying attached to the cabinet) before sliding the table out, and the end of our table would be flush with the rest of it. This would allow us to use the table when sitting on the sofa, or sit at the end of the table and eat without a funky drawer front in the way. The drawer front and cabinet pull take up a couple of inches of dead space (and visual space) that could be better utilized if they weren’t there.
An Alternative Design I wish we would have considered:
The main reason we created an expanding table in the first place was to have enough space for both my desktop computer and Eric’s laptop since we work on the road. Our media cabinet is installed on our RV slide-out, which has a lip and there wasn’t enough space for our chairs on the slide-out. Sitting on the main flooring and using the media cabinet as a desk or table would have been awkward because our knees would hit the cabinet.
With that said, a completely different design option I wish we would have considered is to have the top of the media cabinet slide out and become our desk/table – similar to this desk. Then we wouldn’t need to store table legs or table leaf extensions (although that’s not a huge deal). However, it also would have allowed us to keep a big chunk of our living room and could be set up or put away in even less time.
Anyway, those are just some ideas to think about if you’re looking for space-saving solutions or plan to create a table or desk in an RV slide-out.
Overall, I love the modular design of this DIY extendable table. It’s super functional and we love it!
We hope this post has inspired or encouraged you to think of creative ways to make tiny living more efficient. Have you created or purchased space-saving furniture you couldn’t live without? Tell us about it in the comments.