Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dream Project: Hidden Door Bookcase

This post is all about a home reno project that L and I have been dreaming about ever since we bought our condo.

Check out our nice new bookcase!
Custom-made by A Cut Above Joinery*. A huge shout-out to John, who did a fantastic job! He really cared about making this the best bookcase in the world, and he was deeply into the "cool factor" of it. 
*linking 'cause I love supporting local craftsmen!

Cool's a secret door!
L peeking out  from the library room behind it
Go here to A Cut Above's Facebook link to see a video of John being very excited and testing the door's motion. You have to see it open! 

Okay, now here's how it looks now.
We decorated it with some of our graphic novels and gothic horror novels, as well as drinking accoutrements, and other nerdy-cool things. We made sure that an extra-strong hinge rated for a very high weight load (600+ lbs) was used, both to support the weight of the bookcase itself (which is made from solid cherry wood), and whatever we store in/on it.

Here's what the end of our dining room looks like (um, we don't dine - we don't have a dining room table!), facing away from our living room, and looking into the library through the open bookcase.
I drew that picture of the girl when I was in high school. 
One third of the bookcase is rigid and immobile, and the other two-thirds pivot on the central hinge. There's a lip that you have to step over to go into the library.

Why did we do this? Not to build a panic room, or a safe room, but because our neighbour's bedroom is right up against the back of our library wall. We know that our loud music/movies bugs him sometimes, and aside from this just being the Coolest Thing Ever, we wanted to have a stronger baffle for the noise. This did the job beautifully!

What did it look like before? Well, I don't take many pictures in the dining room area because it doesn't have great light, but these ones are from when L and I painted the place pale yellow and had the new flooring put down in the summer of 2009.
The library entrance was just a gap in in the walls. It's nice to have the extra room, but really, we store our books there. 

Another look into the library, mid-reno.
We ended up putting up a curtain rod, and buying a set of really thick velvet curtains across the gap. They were not much for soundproofing. 

This is a picture of me a couple of years ago, where you can see the blue velvet curtain pulled aside behind me, looking into the library.
Vizzini really liked to attack the curtains, so they were getting a little hole-y.

We searched a long time for a carpenter who wanted to take on this project. I will warn you if you ever consider something like this: it was not cheap. 
It took three days this past week to install the bookcase, which was built off-site and tested before being installed in our home. Poor John; not only were our walls off-plumb, but our ceilings are slanted. He did an amazing job at hiding that!

Vizzini was a cowardly kitty and hid the entire time.
"I claim these mats."
There was quite a lot of sawing; our whole place is covered in a layer of dust. L and I have been cleaning and rearranging since Friday.

A closer look at some of the details. The lower portions were made as functional cupboards for storage.
John made the doorknobs by hand.

The top of it:
Those rosettes were also done by hand.

Each of the three sets of shelving in each third is adjustable, to whatever height needed.
Before the top was finished; you can see the rosette on the right shelf.
The door is held shut by magnets along the left side. A gentle but firm push is all that's needed to open it, and the door makes no noise. Smooth all the way!

We stored away our DVD collection in the bottom cupboards.
We're still rather attached to some of our movies, but we don't use them often, so better to be stored away.

I love the eclectic mix of goodies on the shelving.
Left column:
  • Martini glasses, shaker, pitcher and some vintage erotica and pin-up books.
  • Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" graphic novels and a gargoyle cat bookend figure (one of a pair).
  • Dragon candleholder and one of L's dioramas that he painted/made (featuring a vampire carriage).
  • Gothic horror, Lovecraft, Poe - an assortment of graphic novels and books.
Centre column:
  • My 1910 volume of Shakespeare with L's acting trophy from high school, along with a collection of dystopian fiction.
  • My leather and brass gauntlet, plus some Dumas and "Morte d'Arthur".
  • A lizard climbing out of a book figure; our newly-painted-miniature display case.
  • A mix of vintage glassware.
Right column:
  • "The Invisibles" graphic novel series, my Victoria Junior Stamp Club trophy, my Golum limited edition figure, and an Edward Gorey-illustrated copy of  "The War of the Worlds."
  • D&D drinking mugs; the "Preacher" series of graphic novels.
  • Two dragon figure dioramas (the big one painted by L, the little green one painted by me), on top of a first edition of "The Silmarillion." 
  • "The Walking Dead" graphic novel series, and the other cat gargoyle bookend.
Door open, looking into the library.
We have 5 bookcases in the library, stocked with all of our novels, philosophy and poetry books.

Another bookcase and my limited edition Smaug gargoyle (locally-made, same artist as the Golum figure above).
You can see the slight gap for the door to swing open. We leave it open during the day for Vizzini but close it at night when we're home. 

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into our awesome new home addition! 


  1. Ohmygoodness, that is beautiful. Sometimes it's simply worth paying for something truly beautiful done right. You also have a very beautiful home.

  2. THAT IS SO COOL. Not to mention, an *awesome* solution to sound transmission through shared walls, one of the downfalls of tight urban living.

    I'd be worried about glassware falling as it swings, but I'm sure you've thought of that. Is it really that smooth a hinge?

    That's beautiful, beautiful woodwork, too. Ack--so cool I can't take it! =)

    1. It really is that smooth - not even a rattle or vibration. We did our research on the hinge to get the strongest one we could find.

  3. So beautiful and amazing. I have always wanted something like that! John did beautiful work! I love velvet drapes too, but I can see how that bookshelf would be better. And my cat would destroy velvet drapes as well. I love your drawing of the girl. Do you still draw?

    1. Not too much anymore. I took a lot of art in school, so that was one of my projects in Grade 12.

  4. That is so very cool! My grandparents had several of these in their house when I was a child. My grandfather built them. I'm seriously trying to think of where I could put one in my house now.

  5. Amazing! I hope to have one of my own someday. It looks so very high quality. I love the geeky displays too!

  6. That's the coolest thing I've ever seen in a home. It really appeals to me.

  7. That is gorgeous! What a wonderful idea, and a great conversation piece! :)

  8. That is SO COOL, and so perfect for you guys. OF COURSE you would have a secret door! ;-D

  9. WOW that is amazing! I've been looking at houses online lately because we'd like to move into a bigger one in a couple of years (but it's nice to dream now) and saw a house with built into bookcases in their office making it like a library - but I love the idea of it being a door too! This is awesome!

  10. That's so cool! You should not tell your friends, and then make use of it to really spook your next Halloween party.

  11. Sheila, John did an amazing job ! I absolutely love it ! its like your secret hideaway - and it kind of reminds me of what the access to the Anne Frank hiding must have looked like.

  12. We've been ooing and ahing and drooling over this. Hope we didn't get too much saliva on it! Wishing you many happy secret reads:-)

  13. That is the best bookcase door ever, but I hope you had the builder build in a proper creaking sound and that you have sufficient stock of spray-on cobwebs and some ghoulish music. And you need a maid's uniform and L needs a big cape. That's all.

  14. That bookcase is awesome. I would love to have something like that, but in my little house, there's no extra room for it to open into. Boo. Besides there would be a huge brawl over who gets the hidden space. Enjoy it!!

  15. Thanks for letting me showcase your wonderful secret door on my blog today!


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