Since I can remember, I have always had a fascination with secret passageways and hidden rooms. Movies like Batman, Superman, Willy Wonka, The Goonies, Indiana Jones, Adams Family, etc..all cemented in my young mind how awesome it was to open a hidden door to a secret room. Having my own secret passageway was a goal that I never lost sight of, and one that I recently accomplished.
In November of 2008, I moved into a 3rd floor apartment in Quincy where there was a fairly large, unfinished storage space with a window. I saw the potential and decided to finish it off and create a useable space where my roommate and I could read or a friend could sleep. It already had drywall in place, but the floor was just wood planks with 1/4″ gaps and numerous holes.
Some of the initial work involved sealing up the gaps in the floors and around the window, mudding the walls with joint compound and covering the bare wood with carpet padding. Since standing wasn’t really an option, I doubled up on carpet padding to make sitting more comfortable.
After phase 1 it was ready for some decorating.
I was happy with how the room turned out and since I was just renting the apartment, making a secret door didn’t cross my mind yet. I was just satisfied that I turned a storage room into a space my roommate and I could use to read or relax.
With the door opening inwards, it was impossible to make the floor any more comfortable by adding layers to floor. I started to think about making my own door that opened out and realized that with the entrance being as high as it was, creating a door out of a bookcase wouldn’t be that difficult. Being able to open it by pulling a book down was a fun thought, but just having it open and close without falling off the wall was my main concern.
Figuring out how to make it open/close by pulling on a book was definitely my biggest challenge. Once I let go of all the complex ideas involving hydraulics, gears and counterweights, I had the idea of using a gate latch attached to the bookcase and door frame.
This was a 3 year iterative design process that ended up being the most rewarding project I’ve ever completed. The look on someone’s face when they pulled the book down and saw what was behind the bookcase was epic. I have since moved out of this apartment, however the memories I’ve made designing, building and using this room will last a lifetime. Here are some professional secret spaces that I may try to copy someday.