Closet With Hidden Safe Room
My customer had a modest size walkin closet with an L shape. It had very high ceilings. It had the traditional single shelf and rod. He wanted to remodel the space to add more storage. There was a catch. I couldn't utilize the corner part of the L. He was law enforcement and wanted to turn that space into a gun safe room.
My initial design called for a three section closet with a tower for shoes and folded items in the middle and hanging space on each side. The long hanging on the left would disguise a small door to enter the gun room. He rejected that idea. He really wanted a swing bookcase style entrance. So with that in mind I present to you my closet design with a secret swinging shoe shelf cabinet door.
Materials needed for this closet:
several sheets of paint grade pine plywood
Heavy duty hinges
A medium size caster
Basic tools can be used to build this except for a section that requires a router.
Panel Pro Saw
As always, please use a dust mask at all times as well as safety glasses and hearing protection.
Step 1: Step 1
So having never done this before and because I was having trouble visualizing the project, I built it a little “backwards”. I had sketched my design and he approved it. I then sketched an overhead view to measure as best I could the clearance when the case swings open. Since the space was small and it hinges against the wall, clearance was a big issue. He was not very tall and was not concerned about it being narrow, so I plowed ahead. I created a rectangular box from the 3/4” plywood to serve as the case for the shoe shelves. I took a slightly wider and longer piece of plywood and added a 1 x 2 to the length of it. The 1 x 2 serves as a spacer to give the case room to swing outward. Otherwise, once you add trim the trim would block the door from swinging open. This board will serve as the left side of the case that the shoe shelves case will sit inside. It will be a box in a box. This is the board that the hinges mounted on.
Step 2: Step 2
I laid the inside shoe shelves box face down and used some scrap to help keep it level. I then built an over sized case around the shoe shelf box using the hinge board as one side. The top and bottom boards were dramatically longer so that I could adjust them if needed. Using the spacers to keep the contraption slightly off the ground I would lift the case to check for clearance. It took about four tries. If the case was too same it of course would drag againt the interior box. Too big and we had wasted space that trim could cover but would look suspicious. I finally hit the sweet spot that swung free but was close enough to hide with trim face and not look overly clunky.
Step 3: Step 3
Despite reading a couple fine tutorials on Instructables stressing the need for a roller or caster, I tried to make it work without one. FAIL Even with the heavy duty hinges the case would sag. Never mind having it loaded with shoes! So as recommended I added a wheel at the bottom. It qworked great but I exerienced torquing on the whole outside case. My dilemma was that I am building a free standing unit ready to install instead of building it on site. Hence the base step in the photos. I notched the base so that the wheel could slide in. I still had just a hint of sagging so as the door closes I included a small wedge near the wheel on the base. That helped park everything in place.
Step 4: Step 4
He liked a sleak clean look. His home was very modern so I didn't have the option of decorative trim to help hide gaps and hinges. The trim on the outside of the shoe shelf had to hide the hinges. I took large inside cove bit and routered a groove the whole length of the board. This allowed the cabinet to swing open. The hinges were hidden although still exposed on the outside edge. Unless you were looking for them you wouldn't see them. The rest of the face was trimmed out and the face acted as the door lip overlaping the outer case. The center shelf was fixed in place for stability. Underneath the center shelf on the right side I drilled a hole through the interior case and about ½” into the outer case. I took a piece of galvanized anchor rod (looks like a big nail or screw) and bent it at one end in by hold it in a vise and wacking it with a mallet. I then used this rod as a sliding pin through the cabinet hole to latch the unit shut.
I used a jig to drill adjustable shelf pin holes and then cut a bunch of shelves for the case. The shelves were edge banded.
I also built a small shelf unit that mirrored the shoe shelves. It would eventually sit on top of the shoe shelves as he wanted storage to go as high as possible. I built the other closet shelving and primed and painted the works.
Step 5: Step 5
Hernia! We carried the hefty thing through the house winding past the bedroom and through the bath area and set it in place. We drilled through the outer case on the left side to mark anchor points. I used easy anchors if I did'nt hit a stud. On the right side we used angle brackets and anchors on the inside of the case to sturdy it up on that side. Afterwards, we tested the door and it dragged slighty. His floor was not level. Unscrewing the hinges we carried out the inside section only and sanded the bottom slighty to make sure it would swing clear. We then stacked the small matching shelf unit on top of the shoe unit and screwed them together. This was then followed by upper shelves and finally closet rods. Now if you look closely you might think the gap at the bottom is suspicious. But if you aren't looking for a secret door it wouldn't occur to you. Now ultimately the design needs to be loaded with clothing to help everything blend together. He was also going to hang some coat hooks on the left wall and that too would help. The closet is quite tall and your first tendency is to look up. All these elements play together.
Well there you have it. This was a fun project and I hope to get to do another. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I have enetered this in a couple of contests so please vote for me if you liked it! Thanks!