Hidden Door Bookshelf




Introduction: Hidden Door Bookshelf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just posted some videos --
open the door

close the door

thanks for all the feedback!



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    299 Discussions

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

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

    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!

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

    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!

    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?

    1 reply

    @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.

    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.

    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?

    1 reply

    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.

    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?

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

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

    These things always fascinate me. Good job.

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