The other day when I was researching for the post about faux windows, I came across a related topic.
Secret Doors. Well, hidden doors to a secret passage. Or, to a hidden room.
They are so fabulous and romantic, too. And, hidden doors have been around since the ancient Egyptians used them in their interiors.
There are two main types of hidden doors.
The first one is a term I should already know but, only learned TODAY.
Technically, a jib door is a door that’s flush with the wall. And, without any door casing. That’s pretty much it. There are special hinges that are concealed, as well. Of course, with a perfectly flat wall, there has to be the tell-tale space around the door so that there’s just enough room to open and close it.
Archello – simple jib door – Xinnix X2 Frame
Above is an example of a jib door at its most basic– a simple, plain door without a casing or any type of adornment whatsoever.
We will be looking at some beautiful jib doors in a sec.
But, first, I’d like to go over the other type of secret door.
It’s called a Murphy Door. Yeah, like the Murphy Bed.
There’s room for storage. And, usually, that storage is in the form of a bookcase.
A hidden staircase behind a secret door in a library – Cindy Rinfret
You know, this is reminding me of something from my childhood.
Oh, common’ summer’s almost over; let’s have a little fun.
Please, you must.
And, if you’re into this blast of camp from the past, you’ll enjoy this one even more. That commish is clearly from “Gotham City.” hahahahaha
Awwwwww… I misssssss the 60s so much!
But, does anyone else notice how much bigger Bruce’s pole is compared to Dick’s pole? ;]
See what I mean?
Laurel??? Have you completely lost your creme brulee?
Obviously, that’s a yes. I love you guys too!
Okay, I know you’d probably rather watch Batman reruns, but for those of you who haven’t unsubscribed, let’s move on with our topic about secret doors.
Let’s stay with our Murphy Doors, and then we can go back to the Jib Doors.
original source unknown – This Murphy door with a bookcase is concealing a staircase
Admont Abbey Library – Austria – Photo-Dieter Karner
And, so is this one. I sure would love to see this with the door shut, but I could not find an image.
This hidden door with a bookshelf was designed by Architect, Peter Pennoyer.
The Gloss Magazine Interiors- Design by Gillian Sherrard – Photo: Dylan Thomas
Please click the link to see the rest of the home. It’s very lovely.
Okay, before we get in the jib doors, there is one other type of secret door.
It’s one that’s concealed to look the like the door to a cabinet. Only, when you open the door, you step into another room. How cool is that! Sometimes there is cabinetry on either side of the doorway.
But, here’s the thing. On Saturday, while researching for the faux window post, I came across the coolest examples of this type of secret door. Only, I closed the damn tab, and now I can’t find them again. Believe me; I spent several hours trying to find them.
However, I did find a few beautiful examples of this type of secret door.
It’s from the William C. Gatewood House, designed by architect Gil Schafer who I’ve featured at least two-dozen times on this blog. I love everything he does! For other posts where I’ve featured Gil’s gorgeous designs, please go here.
Above, it looks like a regular cabinet only about two-feet deep. And then…
It opens into a much deeper pantry space.
Interior Design – The Fox Group – Cabinetry – Christopher Scott
One more gorgeous cabinet door that opens up to another room. I’ve linked to their Instagram feeds. They are both gorgeous; very talented designers I think that you’ll enjoy, a lot.
There are also some concealed doors that live behind large artwork or mirrors. That’s pretty cool.
Alright, it’s time for more jib doors.
I don’t know why they call them that. Plus, considering I went to design school for three years and have been in this business since before the flood, I’m surprised it’s a term I only heard of, today. Oh well.
The first way to do a concealed door is to treat it as part of the wall. Therefore, it is painted the same. Or, it could be a contrasting color, too. But, most often, in more traditional spaces, it is wallpapered.
Designer Barry Dixon – photo – @erikkvalsvik – Gracie Ochre GardenWallpaper @graciestudio – Instagram
How gorgeous is that!
Walter Manning – via remodelista – old-faithful shop-Toronto
The other way to do a jib door is to use applied (or raised panel) wall mouldings and continue them onto the door. The door above doesn’t appear to be a jib door because I can see the hinges, but the idea is the same.
Catalano Architects – Toby Leary Woodworking–
Above is a beautifully integrated jib door.
And, behind it, a lovely powder room underneath the staircase.
Of course, underneath the staircase could be a post all on its own.
Above is another lovely jib door.
This one features a gorgeous contemporary home some of you might enjoy seeing if you click on the link above.
St Bartholomew’s Hospital north wing
The above example features wainscoting and mouldings with a secret door.
And, I’m finishing up with several images from a young, brilliant architectural firm in London who call themselves Undercover Architecture.
Their aesthetic is deeply rooted in classical design. However, they combine their classical designs in a modern, fresh, and edgy way. Their innovation and attention to detail is exquisite.
Below, I’m featuring their Lansdowne Road Project. (except for the last image which is from their Mornington Terrace project)
Anyway, the Lansdowne renovation is FULL of secret doors.
Please enjoy their incredible work.
Undercover Architecture – A jib door with applied mouldings.
The jib door opens into a saturated peacock blue library.
And, one more Murphy bookcase door.
Behind the bookcase door is a bathroom or powder room.
And, I’d like to close with a few more images from Undercover Architecture.
These aren’t secret doors, but this architecture is just too gorgeous from the Lansdowne residence. Please note that they gutted this space. You can see the before and during pics on their website.
See what I mean? Please check out Hidden Architecture’s portfolio for more images.
Maybe I should move to London, after all? However, I do realize this place is just a tad out of my price range. lol
I love it when they stain the floor to match the dog.
Please be sure to visit Undercover Architecture on Instagram.
Well, I hope that you enjoyed all of these beautiful hidden doors. Do any of you have one? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.
For other hidden doors please check out these posts:
the only six white paint colors I use.
Beautiful Grisaille wallpaper and Murals
PS: There are only five more days left for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.
And, please also check out the newly updated HOT SALES
Thank you, Laurel.
I own a tiny jib door that I bought in Alaska. After the Russian Revolution, the Russian Orthodox religion was officially banned, even for the Russian fur trading ships operating off the coast of Alaska. So some ship captains installed small jib doors in wall papered closet walls and on the back of the ‘door’ was a painting of an icon; mine is of the Spanish Madona.
Count me in as a fan of hidden doors!
The first picture of a Murphy door that’s labeled as source unknown is by Cindy Rinfret. It’s her former home that was first published in Traditional Home several years ago.
Thanks so much for letting me know. I made the change.
Me too! That Bunny door mat is fantastic, would love to have one of those.
Lived in a house, built c.1925, my room was the third floor. The bath had a built-in medicine cabinet over the sink that opened into the spooky attic with no floor!
I’ve always loved the idea of a secret door going into a secret room. Also a portrait with the eyes cut out so you can peer through with your own eyes. Got an oil painting of flowers yesterday–$15. It is now hanging in my bedroom.
I believe the first time I noticed jib doors was in pictures of the the Oval Office, but I have been in a few homes with hidden doors and always liked the unexpected surprise they evoked.
I was actually sketching plans last week for two hidden doors in our detached condo. The first floor door would be to our master bedroom, and would be paneled to match the rest of that wall in order to balance the opposing wall (which has a fireplace and two bookcases). This will hide the view of the bedroom from the living room.
The upstairs will use a jib door covered with a trompe l’oeil painting of a staircase (ex. Susan Gutfreund bedroom hall painting)…a fake staircase on a secret door (to an attic space)…there is a 15″ step-up to the attic so I need to add one real step, then “continue” the steps with the trompe l’oeil painting…
My wife liked the idea of the second floor secret door when I mentioned it a few months ago, but I’m not sure what she will think about the secret door to the master bedroom…maybe I need to remind her of the time she left the door open when I was getting ready…was quite a surprise to me when I went to get something from my dresser, as I was a bit, shall we say, under dressed for the moment (as I did not know we had guests).
Did you know that the Queen has a hidden door in Buckingham Palace? Its a shortcut to her private apartment from the formal staterooms!
Love these! I’ve had secret door dreams too, where I discover a whole new room or floor or wing of our house. Probably comes from all the daydreaming I do about building an addition on our somewhat cramped home.
I’d love an actual secret door, but have also been wondering if it’s possible to use a similar concept to make a hidden built in drinks cabinet or tiny bar in the dining room. We might have the space between the walls. Now that would be cool!
Forgive me if you’ve tried this already, but if you have a windows machine, try pressing Ctrl+H at the same time, and it will bring up your browser history for any tab, even if it was closed. This will work for those times when you accidentally close the tabs you didn’t mean to (doh!)
Love this post. If you check your browsing history, you’ll be able to find that tab you accidentally closed. Thanks for sharing.
I loved the hidden doors, but the quarry pool on the Undercover Architecture Instagram account is exquisite!!! Thank you SO much for leading me there.
Love this post Laurel…even Batman! I am dying to know the links to the post of secret doors and windows that you accidentally closed. By chance, do you go through your history to see if you can find it?
Thanks for blessing us with so much architectural beauty!
Oh, yes, but there are dozens of pinterest links. And then I may have scrolled down the page. I came close, but couldn’t find what I was looking for.
There is only one reason for these doors: Hide And Go Seek. Whenever I have a party, we play that game and the guests that hide behind those doors always seem to win out. I always forget to look there!!
I forgot, there is one other reason to have them. When having a dinner party, you can hide dirty dishes and stuff behind those doors. Just remember, don’t go and play Hide And Go Seek during those parties!
Hi Laurel, this was a very interesting post. Additionally, even though it’s an unhappy subject, I’d like to point out that arguably the most important historical instance of a hidden door masquerading as a bookcase was the entrance to Anne Frank’s hiding place during World War II. There are details on the Anne Frank House website.
Yes, I was thinking about Anne Frank and her family the entire time I was working on this post.
I have those “never showed up to class” dreams too! In the dream, I’m always trying to find the classes I never went to, can’t remember exactly where they are located, and can’t even remember my class schedule. Horrible anxiety dream.
Isn’t it horrible? My dream is exactly like that with a lot of confusion, coupled with tremendous guilt that I didn’t do something I was expected to be able to do. Then, seeing the teacher who had no idea who I was. haha And, it was always a boring subject like history. Sorry, for those who didn’t find history boring. I loved art history, but history about wars and stuff like that, not so much.
Thanks Laurel for the bat laughs and fun. A needed smile.
I need a Laurelphone, maybe turquoise with gold, to contact you for those decorating decisions that you inspire.
I designed two hidden cabinets in the raised paneled wall in my kitchen (the stairs are on the other side). They are the jib type, but are nearly invisible, as they have magnetic latches on the inside, and the slight separation caused by the hinging is disguised by the panel itself.
Couldn’t find a place to send a photo, but it’s a very workable and accessible solution.
We don’t have a secret door, but we do have a secret room. I think it was meant to be a half bath tucked behind our fireplace, but we use it for a very small office. No one knows it’s there!
I love that bunny rabbit door mat in Undercover Architecture’s picture of the glass windows and doors.
What a fun post. Secret doors are so wonderful. That Barry Dixon designed space with the wallpapered room, jib door and concealed pantry is to die for. How I would love to have that. Am I mistaken, or do some of the jib doors that open out have hidden hinges? How can that be? Am I missing something?
Yes, the hinges are hidden, too. I’m sure they have a name, but do I feel like looking it up? lol
I always wanted a hidden door, ever since I first read of “priest holes” in Tudor English homes. Such a romantic notion.
This brought back memories of my childhood – my kindergarten was in a one room cottage. There was a jib door to the bathroom which was wallpapered to match the wall. I never could find that door and spent a lot of time drying out over the floor furnace!!!! I did not know it was a design feature! LOL
oh, too funny!
We have three in our home that we built 20 years ago – we must’ve had a very creative house plan designer. Two built-in bookcases on interior limestone rock wall in master bedroom open up to storage closets behind. One houses all of our wireless electronic audio/video equipment and the other is just misc storage. The third one is in my husbands closet. One section of shelving opens into a large hidden storage room where I have all of our important records and documents in storage boxes plus all of my Christmas decorations. I don’t even have to use our attic for storage.
Before we restored and renovated our c. 1830 house, a 1970 remodel had placed a hollow core door on the closet under the stairs. It was visible as soon as you entered the front door.
The lumber company we used had a full time jib door carpenter who told me, “Everybody (in Nashville and Franklin, TN) wants a jib door.”
Hello Laurel, I was in a Victorian house in Cleveland that had a secret door and staircase that led from the dark paneling in the vestibule to a second floor room. Although there are plenty of photos on the internet (see Franklin Castle, Cleveland), I could find no photo of the door. I know that the house had burned and been partly restored, but I don’t know what parts were affected.
That house is quite imposing. At least, from the outside.
If you ever do I’ll try to get you a pic of it, I’m really pleased with how the space (downstairs) is coming together. Painted the walls, trim, ceiling, doors all in BM dark olive and get to say, “see, I told you it would be awesome!” to all the doubters 😉
Thanks for the post. I recently renovated my old home (1910 era!) .. and installed closets but I didn’t want ever wall to look like a door … so we made them “hidden doors” .. that also allowed me to make taller doors so that the upper part of the closet is more accessible. They use the push open mechanism like many cabinets … but honestly I have had trouble opening them … then I saw the small discrete pulls on some of the doors in the pictures you posted. The perfect solution. I plan to install a piece of artwork over the seams of doors (2 closets on the same wall in each room) … one of these days!
Loved this post! Hidden spaces bring out the child in all of us. I have a question. When exiting the hidden space, how does one close the door if it doesn’t have a handle and it opens inward? Is the door weighted to close on its own?
That’s a very good question. I’m not sure of the answer, however.
I have some lovely friends who took a very old home, lifted it up and put in another first floor. The home is now 15,000 sq. ft. On the now first floor is a Murphy door which goes into a secret bedroom. I have named the bedroom the “conception room” as all the kids who would go to visit were young and newly married. The home is filled with beautiful antiques with a very warm, cozy and welcoming spirit. I know 15,000 sq. ft. doesn’t sound like a cozy home but it truly is. How blessed I am to be invited to join the wonderful laughter, noise and love which surrounds this home.
The young couples who come to visit now have many children. What a joy.
Laurel, cant believe it. I have built my last house a down sizer, from drawing up the plans to physically building it I have a secret room upstairs above the garage at the top of the stairlanding. Its been that way for 4 years ready for my secret door/ bookcase entry and will be starting this fall to open it up.
Like a secret message opening up your mail and their it is as if you were reading my mind.
Fun stuff,inspiration only has to be recognized then realized
Thankyou for the fabulious photos of what can be!
I love that! I wish I had that power, but not quite yet.
Hi Laurel, we are almost done renovating. We have a stairway that has a 90 degree turn in it and is partially open with spindles. Then it has walls the rest of the way up with a spindle railing at the top. It’s an old farmhouse plan. It drives my husband crazy to get furniture or mattresses up the stairs. Took the spindles out once, said he would never do it again. So… we are putting a Murphy door w/bookcase at the end before the turn. It will give us a straight shot up the stairs instead of dealing with that turn. It will have pull out stairs underneath also. Desperation can be the mother of invention. Love, Love your blog! I look forward to it!
How clever is that!!!
Hi Laurel— Very fun post. I remember house Beautiful had an antique armoire open up to a bathroom. I did a quick search and some examples came up on Pinterest. I tried to add pics to this comment but it didn’t allow me. Definitely a highlight on home tours!
So I’m not the only one who has the “hidden door” dreams! In mine, I buy an Elizabethan home in England, and I am always finding some sort of hidden door that opens up to a room filled with treasure! Sometimes it’s Renaissance clothing, sometimes it’s suits of armor, and sometimes it’s manuscripts by Shakespeare, but I am always thinking in this dream “Yay, I’m having the secret door dream!”
I think the secret doors and rooms are very romantic!
My son works at the Firehouse Hostel and Bar in Austin, TX and they have a very famous “secret door” to the bar area (which is below the hostel). It’s a book case that swings open to some stairs that go down into the bar area. Apparently it dates back to Prohibition days. Originally the bar was a fire station in downtown Austin.
How delightful was this? And please, please do work on your idea of an under the staircase post! I was once lucky enough to have had a very busy under the staircase space, in a rented 90-year old cottage in California – and I loved it. It had a Murphy door of full-depth working book shelves, that swung out to reveal a small area that was set up as a bar, with a cabinet below and glass shelves above. Then, on the right wall of this area was a jib door that led to under-stair storage. It was fabulous!
Oh Laurel, I love this post on hidden doors. But I will probably have some strange dreams tonight. I grew up in a tiny home with 6 sibs and our parents. My mom routinely had dreams of finding a door she had never seen and upon opening it found an entire new floor of our house. All of us sibs have the hidden door dreams. Mine usually end up leading into an older home which contains lots of furnishings and sometimes that home leads into other homes where I discover past friends.
Back to the blog.
I have a ten foot entry from our garage with a laundry room door and a small closet door on the same wall. I think it would be fun to try and hide those doors. It would be nice to have something attractive instead of boring doors.
Thank you for the inspiration.
I guess those dreams mean you’re discovering new things in your life. My recurring dream is either I’ve forgotten my locker combination. OR, the most common one is that I have one or two courses, where I NEVER showed up for the class (because I was so overwhelmed) and it’s time to take the final exam. haha!
We put in a Murphy bookcase door – it opens to a “secret playroom” that wraps under the stairs. Looking at the staircase it looks like there is a book case to the right, the kids love it – I do, too 🙂
Oh, that sounds wonderful, Cathlin! I’m not over on instagram very much. I should hop over to see what you’re up to.