The Art of Concealment: A Practical Guide for Designing A Secret Door

Secret doors are not just for the Vanderbilt’s , C.S. Lewis and Meow Wolf.  I think they delight the inner child in us and odds are, you probably have somewhere in your home where you could put one.  In addition to appealing to your romantic, I’ve-got -a-candle-where-is-this-breeze-coming-from-in-a-closed-room side, they are also incredibly useful to hide things that you don’t want to see all the time.  This time of year Halloween candy comes immediately to my mind as something that could use a hidden compartment.  Here are some practical tips for how to design a secret door as well as some inspiration for where you could put your hidden door.

You will need concealed hinges.   They are a little pricey, but worth it.

concealed door hardware
Sugatsune makes some great, heavy duty “Invisible” door hinges.

Decide if you want a touch latch or discreet hardware.  A local cabinet maker, Erich Kiser of Oak Tree Classic Woodworks, swears by Blum’s tip-on push latches.  I’m also partial to tab pulls for this type of door.

I highly recommend putting up decorative trim around the area where you want to have the secret door.  In order to hide a water access door in a basement remodel, I put shiplap on the wall and then had the door cut from that.  With concealed hinges and a touch latch, you could barely tell the access door was there.  Other times, I’ve had to add trim and/or paneling to a wall in order to hide a door.

concealed closet door
Here’s a concealed closet door I helped design for a client’s renovated Denver bungalow (read more about that project here). The family had a very small entry with no room for a proper mudroom. We put in trim to help disguise the door to the closet that’s tucked in under the stairs.  (Photo by Sara Yoder for Laura Medicus Interiors)
hidden mudroom storage
A simple, tidy and efficient solution to hiding a messy area in a smaller home. This would be great if you have a small home and need to have your mudroom share space with your kitchen or even front hall. Notice how the baseboard runs over the doors. (Photo Source)
concealed bathroom
A concealed bathroom hidden by pretty molding.  (Photo Source)
hidden bar
A discreet place for a bar. Note the helpful use of paneling – so great for concealing openings!! (Photo Source)
hidden pantry door
We hid the walk-in pantry behind custom paneled doors in the foreground. This is a job site photo and I’ll have more photos of this home coming up early next year. The custom cabinets are by Oak Tree Classic Woodworks.
secret pantry door
Kitchens are a really great place to put in a hidden door due to the trim work that’s already there with the cabinets. Here’s one that’s designed to look like the cabinet next to it. (Photo Source)
hidden hall storage closet
I love this hidden hallway storage. Nice use of molding to disguise the lines. (Photo Source)
bookshelf on barn door hardware
This isn’t incredibly hidden, but I think it’s clever. I love the idea of putting a bookshelf on barn door hardware. (Photo Source)
reclaimed piece hidden door.
I love this. It’s a great idea for a reclaimed piece. I will definitely be looking for opportunities to do something like this on a future project! (Photo Source)

“I have a soft spot for secret passageways, bookshelves that open into silence, staircases that go down into a void, and hidden safes…Give me two hours a day of activity, and I’ll take the other 22 in dreams — provided I can remember them.” —when asked how he would spend time if he were told that he had 20 years to live.  – Luis Bunuel on Art, Filmmaking, and Dreams.














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