Introduction: Hidden Door Bookshelf

Picture of Hidden Door Bookshelf

Wall to wall bookshelves that conceal a hidden door. Made without casters. Some people call this a bookcase.

My home office was messy. After I am done it will still be messy but now it is finished AND it has the secret feature. Well it was secret, till I wrote this.

In one wall of my home office is a 5 feet tall 2 feet wide door to access the storage area and crawl space under the garage. This is where we put holiday decorations, old stuff, and junk.

This wall was the perfect spot for floor to ceiling bookshelves, which I have done lots of, but it had this door in the middle of the wall. The perfect answer was a bookshelf that opened.

One day my father in law visited and we started drawing pictures of how book shelf hidden door could work, how to hinge, where to hinge, how to hide opening, etc. Following are the highlights from the journey that followed.

Step 1: Calculate Dimensions

Picture of Calculate Dimensions

First thing I did was figure out how big and where a bookshelf would need to pivot in order to clear walls and neighboring shelves with minimum gaps. I positioned the hinge point 7" in from the right and 2" in from the front of the cabinet. For sanity I made a scale drawing of shelves and cut out the rotating shelf shape.

With a pin I tried different pivot ideas, validating my measurements. The goal was to have the vertical gap between moving shelf box and fixed shelves be covered with a single 4.5" trim piece.

I added a better drawing of the key part of the unit, the moving center. The left and right side shelves are not to scale. This was made with visio, which lets you adjust the rotation point, so i could simulate the shelves opening to show clearance.The visio file is attached if can read it. the close up is where i notched the vertical trim to allow the horizontal trim to pivot "through" it.


Step 2: Door Frame - Moving Steel Frame

Picture of Door Frame - Moving Steel Frame

The next key insight, thanks Jim, was to build a steel frame rather than trying to hinge the wood shelves directly. This would allow the door to swing easily and support 500-1000lbs without a problem ( full bookshelf). I calculated the size for the frame allowing minimum clearance from the floor for trim and base board (2" ) and enough clearance from the ceiling for the metal frame barely below crown. ( 5") and the width was set to just cover the access door and be centered ( 42"). The steel 2x2 box was $90 cut to length with miters. I bought a couple of 3/4" bolts to act as the pivot pins. These were welded 7" in at center of bolt, from ends of the frame , and cut off to fit into 2x2 box anchors. My welding is not super, so I do a lot of welds.

The steel frame would pivot on a upper and lower anchor point, mounted to ceiling and floor respectively.

Step 3: Installing Frame

Picture of Installing Frame

The ceiling anchor was sized to span 3 floor joist and had a short arm out to avoid rocking (scrap steel). The pivot point on both ends was a 3/4 inch brass flange bearing inserted into a 1 inch hole in the 2x2 box. The floor anchor was much smaller as bolting to the concrete floor made it pretty damn solid. Good luck to the person that has to remove this someday.

This let me position and place the top anchor, base anchor, and frame. I attached top anchor loosely letting it rock, slipped in frame and bottom anchor on pin (with 2 washers on pin above bearing), then slid the whole set into place. A plum bob hanging along the edge of the frame made it quick to tell if it was vertical in both directions. When true, I secured bolts on both ends. I tested the swing of the door frame with ~500 lbs of people standing in it. Dead smooth action.

Step 4: Add the Wood

Picture of Add the Wood

Into the installed frame I built the first shelf box for the swinging shelf and verified clearance. In my design I made the swinging shelf 2 inch shallower than the other shelves to allow clearance behind it for the arc when it swung. ( If I did this again I would bring all the shelves out from the wall, making all full depth. Then I built the two side shelves and installed trim all around. I used a credit card for gaps between trim and crown to allow clearance.

The 4.5 inch trim left and right of the shelf-door, the right side is fixed to the fixed shelf, the left side moves with the door.I had to bevel notches in the trim on the right because the horizontal trim dives under it as the door opens. I also had to slightly round the horizontal pieces to slip underneath smoothly.

I am not the best woodworker, and the materials ( mdf and particle board ) are less than optimum, and the walls are crooked, but the results were great. Nobody would ever see the finished wall and think "Hey I wonder if that is a door?"

all in all i have about $350 in the project.

Step 5: Videos

Picture of Videos
Just posted some videos --
open the door

close the door

thanks for all the feedback!


LexMaker (author)2017-01-01

Love it! I'll be building a very small version of this for the kiddos.

blaind10787 (author)2015-04-11

alot of work

julieeckert (author)2015-02-11

I really like this idea, it looks great. I love the shelving style you chose. GREAT JOB!

jvubutler (author)2014-03-17

This one is Superb! Really awesome hidden spaces. I agree with this storage because there are times that we want our spaces to be discreet and other reasons are the things that we want to hide from others. Thank you for your idea and for the tutorial!

designforhire (author)2014-02-02

Really well done! I have always wanted to build one. There is something awesome about "hidden" spaces

burhan saifullah (author)2013-12-16


sunshiine (author)2013-09-27

Wow! One of these would be great in my craft room! Will show this to hubby and maybe he will build me one! Thanks for sharing all your hard work!

rlasebikan-karlsson (author)2013-07-03

Hi Ken, this is fab! I came across it when looking for how to build a lifting staircase. I literally want to lift the stair so that I can wheel my bike in off the street! Any idea on how to go about this?

@rlasebikan-karlsson - love the concept. I don't have any plans that would transfer over. I think you are probably on your own for the engineering. My approach would be to design a pivoting metal frame with a way to add counterweights. Then add the step material and add weight to compensate. alternatively you could adapt a garage door opener to open and close the 'door'. They are reasonably powerful and already have the electronics to move between two limit switches.

exquzmwa (author)2013-05-06

Thanks for the information regarding attachment (apologize I had to send this as a new comment rather than as a reply to your response, as the website keeps telling me to type the two words even though I already did so and only recognized that when I posted this as a new comment). At any rate, I'm in the middle of building one based on what you documented and wasn't sure until now how the attachment to the frame went - I haven't worked with metal much (the welding was a bit of a stretch and new thing for me =) so wasn't aware that metal screws would be able to thread into the square tubing to hold well. I was down to the part of putting the inner bookcase shell into the frame and trying to figure out how to hold it there solidly without having something like bolts that would show (anchors I found at home centers didn't work out very well in my tests in scrap material so I gave up that route). Appreciate the insight and your excellent instructions on what you built as well. Thanks again.

exquzmwa (author)2013-05-06

That looks awesome. One question - how did you affix the bookcase to the metal frame and / or hide the hardware used to connect the two?

kenbob (author)exquzmwa2013-05-06

Thanks for the complement! The metal frame is about 1/3 of the shelf depth back from the front. I cut two pieces of 3/4" shelving to width of metal box. Placed one inside the frame against the top and clamped it in place. I then drilled holes through the wood and into the metal tubing. I countersunk the holes then inserted sheet metal screws to hold it in place. I did the same thing on the bottom. Then i did the same on each side. Just "snuggness" made everything pretty solid. When i attached the plywood to the back it became "bullet proof". I covered the screw heads with a bit of white caulk. They are typically covered by items on the shelves anyway.

enagel3 (author)2013-03-23


dj.bri.t (author)2012-11-29

Such a great design, and thanks for going above-and-beyond and providing well-made diagrams.

You mentioned that you bolted the angle iron to the floor; is this your foundation that you mounted to? Could you elaborate on the type of bolt, depth of holes, etc used to support the weight? Given that (I assume) this is your foundation, was there any risk of structural damage?

mitakskia (author)2012-11-24

this is awesome!! .. but theres 1 problem :D half of the world know it now ,,,but thx for showing us how to make it

Pixie Puddle (author)2012-09-30

that is wicked I would love a hidden cubby hole,I would be able to hide from the family :)

RangerJ (author)2012-05-03

I love secret compartments. Great job!

Just Bill (author)2012-03-01

These things always fascinate me. Good job.

tinker234 (author)2012-02-20

wow awesome place to hide to bad its not a secret anymore

AxlTxl (author)2011-10-03

that's awesome!
Great job, kenbob!!

szulli-randall (author)2011-09-24

Secret Bunker:
I'm going to combine these two to make a Secret Bunker Under my House with a Bookshelf door. It will be AWESOME! I will post a video when it is completed and when I find a good house to do it with.

It is going to be like the Bat Cave from Batman.

You say Bat Cave, I say MAN CAVE

fmachado1 (author)2011-09-09


bon0410 (author)2011-07-27

OMG! That was totally awesome!

higgster (author)2010-04-05

 Love you work man!

One thought that I recently had while installing baseboard in my house. I painted my baseboards white like your bookshelf and later realized that if they had been a darker color or dark stained wood the gaps wouldn't have shown as much. just a thought to help hide your door.

I appreciate your instructable, i hope to build one to hide my staircase.

helifino (author)higgster2010-04-05

What would be cool is if the crown were designed to open up the same way as the upper window channel "door flipper" on a 55-57 Chevy Bel Air hardtop does.  When the window is rolled down or the door opened, the channel (attached to the roof) flips up out of the way...

kenbob (author)helifino2010-04-05

I like that idea, it would definitely add "moving parts, but be pretty easy to tie to movement of the door.  as the door opens it pushes/lifts the crown.  it holds it out of the way until the door closes.  It would be "tricky" at the corners as crown meets crown in room... so would need vertical slits to allow crown to swing.

Irecreateit (author)kenbob2011-05-17

Do you have a different link to the vids for the project? The one posted does not seem to work.

kenbob (author)Irecreateit2011-05-18

Thanks for catching that! The yahoo video links must have expired... I re-posted the same two clips.

uniquo (author)2011-04-16

i think this design would be good for a built in wardrobe. Instead of spending money on 2 plain wood/mirror doors, you could have one side that is the bookcase, therefore doubling storage.

Richard May (author)2011-04-08

I really like this and want to make a bookshelf / cabinet exactly the same. I have been through the measurements and am preparing a drawing to work from but am struggling with the top and bottom measurements. Any addtional information would be greatly appreciated. What is the dimension from the top of the steelwork of the door to the bottom of the 2" x 2" ceiling anchor? What is the distance from the bottom of the steelwork of the door to the top of the box section floor anchor. What is the depth of the top facia which hides the ceiling anchor and what is the depth of the second section of facia below this? Also what is the depth of the facia a the bottom of the cabinet.

What is the depth from the front face of the bookshelf to the plywood at the back?

Sorry to ask so many questions, Your design is so well thought out that I want to make my measurements as close to yours as possible.

kenbob (author)Richard May2011-04-08

Richard, thanks for the kind words. As to master plans and dimensions, I added the attached pdf to show cross sections of the pivot points. I collected all my parts, measured my floor to ceiling, and then sized the frame to fit with the parts I had. the 1/2 inch plastic spacer was my "wiggle room" I the ceiling pivot point loose, inserted the door pivot into it, and held the floor pivot onto the lower pin and placed the frame. When it was square and level I tightened the bolts to the joist, and bolted it to the floor. Everything after that was cut to fit the resulting dimensions which then included drywall, carpet, etc.
Hope this helps.

Richard May (author)kenbob2011-04-11

Hi Kenbob. Thanks for the PDF, it was really useful. Sorry to keep asking questions but I wonder whether you would mind me asking some more dimensions. I notice that there are two trims at the top of the bookshelf, one hiding the ceiling anchor and one hiding the steelwork of the opening door, what are the vertical dimensions of these. There is also a trim / plinth at the bottom which hides the ground achor, what is the dimension of this?

To allow the door to open and close I notice that you refer to the cabinet "passing through" the trim and that it has a 45 degree angle on it. Do you have any additonal close ups of this, either additonal diagrams or photographs showing this? Any images showing this would be greatly appreciated.

Just one other question, did you use 3/4" MDF / particle board (18mm) or 1/2" (12mm).

Thank you for your help with this.

kenbob (author)Richard May2011-04-11

I attached crown to the ceiling, then custom cut top trim on the cabinet to set "one credit card" thickness below the crown.

On the floor i just used 2.5" trim along the base, then cut a strip short enough to clear this ( about 2" ) and placed it on the floor inset as far as possible. looks like a toe kick area... if you lay next to the cabinet on the floor you could tell there is a gap back there,,,, but my floor is too cluttered to allow that:)

Check the pictures above for the close up of the trim gap cut.

Richard May (author)kenbob2011-04-12

Hi Kenbob, thanks for the additional information. Much appreciated.

Richard May (author)kenbob2011-04-10


Thanks for the PDF, and the explanation, it is exactly what I need and is greatly appreciated.

EmmettO (author)2010-08-25

I love bookshelf doors! My upstairs bathroom is behind one. My family always has to show new people that visit the house. It kinda kills the "secret" but it's fun showing people. For anyone looking to do something similar, regular door hinges are strong enough (I did use the beefyer looking ones) just use 3 or 4 instead of 2. The real trick is to keep the bookshelf from sagging. A good peice of plywood screwed into the frame on the back is enough. I looked at bank vault doors when I made mine and realized that the door would have to have an angle on the opening side. I figured it would have to be a 30 degree or something. As it turned out it only needed a 10 degree angle. I made my hidden book with a fence gate latch that poked through into the bookcase and then attached a hollowed out book to it. My bookcase is short and only 32" wide so it isn't extremely heavy. Another trick is that it's only 6" deep to keep down the weight, so it won't hold all our large books but it does hold all our novel sized volumes. Sorry I did this before instructables existed, so I have no pictures of the build. The door has been working fine for many years.

kenbob (author)EmmettO2010-08-25

I started to go with the hinges, and actually was going to build concentric steel frames with the inner hinged to the outer, and hinges welded in place. I ended up going with the pivot as it gave me a way to mask the pivot side. When I had the bare frame in place I had three adults stand in it, so yes, it is a bit over built:) I wish I had taken pictures of that.

applefanatic (author)kenbob2011-02-20

im gonna make one with heavy duty hinges and a basic bookcase + molding do you think this will work? thx

EmmettO (author)applefanatic2011-02-20

No, the "basic bookcase" isn't going to have enough rigidity. It would sag, drag and quickly fall apart.

The backing needs to be of at least 1/2" plywood, preferably 3/4".

The shelves need to be very well supported. I routered a channel in the side boards, and then glued and nailed them in place.

kenbob (author)EmmettO2011-02-20

What Emmett said:)

EmmettO (author)kenbob2010-08-25

I did have the advantage of having mine open into the bathroom, so I could easily cover the gap with trim. You needed the door to open out so I can understand why you went with the pivot. Did you angle the strike side of the bookshelf? It doesn't look that way from your scale drawings. How did you get the turning shelf from hitting the jamb?

I can see why you went with the metal frame, If I was making one as large as yours I would go with the frame also.

kenbob (author)EmmettO2010-08-25

I didn't angle the strike side, as the vertical trim ( 4.5" ) was wide enough to cover the space. the three boxes that make up the wall are each spaced about 3" apart.

askjerry (author)EmmettO2010-08-26

I had build t bookshelf door some years ago, to keep the bookshelf from sagging and to be sure it didn't bind when closed, I installed a rubber wheel on the floor pointing up. I.E. the wheel was upside-down so that when the door closed, it rode up onto the wheel which then took the weight of the shelf and 900 pounds of books. When the door was open, the hinge point took the weight and the plywood on the back of the door kept the frame straight. But when closed... the bookshelf was supported by three points... the two hinge points and the wheel pushing up. In 5 years the door never sagged and nobody knew it was there. Jerry

EmmettO (author)askjerry2010-08-26

I find the phrase "I had to build (a?) bookshelf door" intriguing. Was it for work? If so how did you find such an awesome customer? I can't imagine someone saying "Jerry if you don't build a bookshelf door, it's curtains for you!" :)

Anyway that is a cool solution, all this talk has made me want to build another bookshelf door to the downstairs bedroom. I'd like to use your rubber wheel idea if it's okay with you. If my wife doesn't kill me at the suggestion I can make a ible about it.

askjerry (author)EmmettO2010-08-26

At the time the wife and I had some .... er... "stuff" I didn't want the kids to get into... and I wanted a place to hide it. (grin) I knew if there were wheel prints on the carpet they would figure out that it was there pretty quickly. By putting the wheel in the base of the frame it solved the problem. It was in a basement area, so needing to step up an inch onto the new floor in the secret closet was not a problem. I cut a rectangular hole into the bottom board of the frame and sat the wheel (non-swivel type into the hole. It worked fine. I put in a bit of epoxy to hold it in place... didn't really need to however. You could attach it to the door so that it is up from the floor 1/4 inch or so... then have a plate mounted in the frame 1/4 inch higher... that would also work... sand the leading edge to an angle to make closing easier. I also had a spring mounted to push on a bolt... the door pressed into the spring. When I released the catch the door popped open about halfway... made it look kool... and easier to use. I had a gate latch with a string tied to it... it went up over the room to the other side where I had a way to trip it. I would be on one side, and the door would open across the room. First time I did it the wife jumped a foot... that alone was worth it.

EmmettO (author)askjerry2010-08-26

Ok I wasn't expecting that. . . 8-0

The remote switch is a nice touch. Gives me a few ideas for modifying a regular doorknob latch. With a rope or cable, I could turn the mechanism for a doorknob latch by attaching an armature or just using a lever handle doorknob inside the wall. That way two cables (one for the inside also) could open the door. In the old movies they attach the latch to a candlestick because it's camouflaged with the decor. I have a thermostat on the wall right by the door. I could make it so that by tipping it the door would open!

kenbob (author)askjerry2010-08-26

I like your design. My goal was to avoid having wheels on the door that leave telltale arcs in the carpet. Your design delivers that nicely.

quillin (author)2011-01-11

Very nice project, thanks for sharing. I actually have a customer to whom I suggested this basic idea to, they want to hide a gun safe and have a very basic panic room at reasonable cost. I found your project while searching for ideas. I need a nice locking mechanism, that is hidden and or remote controlled that would work if power was off. I am thinking simple slide bolts on inside to secure once inside, but need something more solid than magnetic catch for keeping it closed, this will be in a large (16x24) red cedar walk-in closet so "bookcase" will probably have sweaters or linens in it . Have plenty of woodworking tools and knowledge but still puzzled on lock. Any ideas would be welcomed. I need the ideas fairly fast if possible. Thanks in advance. Again very neat project and thanks for sharing.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am an engineer in high tech. I like to make things. ( many of which are not high tech :) )
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