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Architectural Subterfuge: The (not so) Secret Side of Hidden Doors

December 18, 2016

18 videos on hardware, screws, and designs that deceive the eye

A favorite construction topic of mine is secret passageways. Hidden doors, sneaky crawl spaces, secret passageways...

It stems back to old TV shows, like Batman, The Adam's Family, and Scooby Doo, but as I learned years ago when covering the topic for Fine Homebuilding, hidden doors are actually a serious business.

Often, the secret door leads to a vault, or security space with needs extending beyond the recreational.

In 2007, I visited cabinetmaker Joel Wheeler (The Branch Cabinetry) in Albuquerque, New Mexico to explore some of his hidden door projects. I learned a lot about their construction and design. One big takeaway: never use a wheel to carry the weight. It will leave telltale scuffs and mar on the flooring and will immediately reveal the secret to anyone who knows what they're looking for. Even if the door swings in, Joel felt it was too risky.

Instead, Joel invested in heavy-heavy-duty hinges, dead-solid framing, and overlapping reveals to mask the gaps between door and wall.

In the years since, hinge hardware has come a long way and YouTube has made it easier for me to visit jobsites without leaving my house. #workinginmyslipperstoday

Here are three video playlists which cover design (9 videos), hardware (3 videos), and installation tips and techniques (6 videos).

Design Ideas (9 videos):

Multiple videos showing nifty ways to hide a door. Bookcases swinging in, out, or sliding sideways. Fireplaces that open, stairways can lift and stone walls can peel away.




Matt Risinger shows off some new Sugatsune concealed hardware options:

MFU 1000 is like automatic pocket door hardware: push and it slides back and to the side.

A hidden bookcase that rotates out to reveal the shelves. This could be great for an upscale pantry, wetbar, or other.

HES 3-Way Hinge allows depth, vertical, and horizontal adjustment to get the reveals just right.

Soss hinges used on a job:

  • Soss Model 218
  • Soss Closer Hinges model 218IC

And use strong construction screws, such as Spax Structural screws



How to build them (6 videos):

Multiple examples of 'build' videos showing how particular doors were made.


Watch them all

  1. Hidden in a rock wall by BestProject1
  2. Fireplace - Secret Passageway by Creative Home Engineering
  3. Hidden Door House by Matt Risinger
  4. Mirror Opens up to Hidden Passageway - Can you figure out how it opens? by Creative Home Engineering
  5. Secret Hidden Door in Stone Wall by Kodiak Mountain Stone
  6. Hidden Secret Passages by Creative Home Engineering by Creative Home Engineering
  7. A Bookcase That Opens Like in Scooby Doo - Watch that Switch! by Creative Home Engineering
  8. "James Bond" Cabinet by Jenkins Custom Homes
  9. Secret door by tangeman




—Dan Morrison is the Technical Editor of ProTradeCraft. 




Hardware options (3 videos):

Hinges, hydraulics, pocket door hardware, and compressed air


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