Closet With Hidden Safe Room




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

Various screws


EZ Anchors



Basic tools can be used to build this except for a section that requires a router.

I used:

Panel Pro Saw

Circular Saw

Miter Saw

Jig Saw





Paint supplies

As always, please use a dust mask at all times as well as safety glasses and hearing protection.

Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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!



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    23 Discussions

    I have always been afraid to have such safe rooms because I have always pictured myself being stuck in one of them without anyone else finding out. I could faint or even die in there only to be discovered after my body had badly decomposed. I guess this fear of mine that I have built up over the years is what's stopping me from having one of my own even if there is so much of storage space to play around with.


    Question 11 months ago on Step 3

    I have been trying to do something like this to the back of my son's closet (which has a huge attic space behind it). I've bee able to build the bookcase and get it hung, but the hinges I used have allowed the box to sag. I also didn't use a roller or casters.

    Can you tell me more about the hinges you used?

    1 answer

    Hi Sorry for the slow reply. If I recall I used standard generic door hinges. I had the same sagging issue and had to use a caster on the bottom. I experimented without a caster but it would sag. The shelving was just too heavy. I hope you will post a photo when you are finished. Let me know if you have any other questions!


    2 years ago

    Well done on a tricky build, not many so called pro's can pull this off.


    2 years ago

    Closets with hidden storage for valuable items are great to have. It is good to get your cabinet to have such. This way, you add more security to your valuable items, apart from having a safe installed in your place (safe can also be stolen, you know!).


    3 years ago on Introduction

    found a picture, they are kinda like this only older, and I would frost the glass or put sheers behind the glass


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Great Idea! I love the idea of hidden compartment.

    I have a similar idea (sorta) that I would like your comment on. I have a back "porch" or "Florida room" that I am fixing up. I want it to look nice, and I want to be able to continue to store cleaning stuff, brooms and stuff. I want to put an invisible closet on the back wall just deep enough for shelves of cleaning products and tools. At the local Re-Store (Habitat for Humanity) are some really pretty glass panel doors. What if I were to hang those doors on a frame built against the wall so they could swing out to open the storage area, and closed look like pretty doors on display? Or maybe, to save space for swinging doors, I could run them past each other like sliding closet doors. What do you think??


    3 years ago

    I think that little gap would just make me think the floor was not level and not give it any thought. I don't think it makes the closet look suspicious at all. Nice job!

    1 reply

    3 years ago on Introduction

    How about a floor plan so we can see how much room there is compared to the door size?


    3 years ago on Introduction

    The project is awesome. I wish I had enough space to do this myself. However, as a hidden spot for weapons it leaves something to be desired. This would have been the coolest possible place in the house when I was a kid. Unfortunately it would be a magnet for children and thus probably not the best place to stash items they should be avoiding.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the compliment. The person it was built for was unmarried and had no children so not an issue. It could also easily be converted to be lockable.


    3 years ago on Step 5

    looks good but I am a little bit puzzled by the description. Do i understand correctly that you replaced the existing shelf cupboard by a moveable cupboard/closet and the gunroom is behind that?

    1 reply

    Hi Yes I removed the existing shelf and rod and replaced it with the new shelves with hidden door. To the right I added new upper shelves for storage and two chrome rods for his hanging clothes. Sorry, I was thinking of this more of a secret door Instructable than a closet makeover. I'll amend the instructions later to include this.