Hidden Room, Bookcase Door, Secret Room, Hidden Door, Safe Room, Hidden Bookshelf Door, Panic Room, Hiding Place





Introduction: Hidden Room, Bookcase Door, Secret Room, Hidden Door, Safe Room, Hidden Bookshelf Door, Panic Room, Hiding Place

About: Live in the Netherlands but originally come from Ireland.

I created this bookcase/ hidden cupboard door for our craft room.

There was a closset in the corner of the room approx 1meter deep by 80cm wide.

Having looked to several other instructables on here and google for inspiration, none quite fitted the bill. Some required metal fabrication or expensive hinges. A lot had the door swing into the hidden room etc which wasn't an option in my case. The sloping ceiling also added another dimension.

Step 1: The Room

The inspiration came after adding insulation panels to the roof and a new ceiling. This dropped the height of the new ceiling cutting a corner from the door. I could have simply cut the door and hinged it on the other side but that would never have looked right and being in full renovation mode after 6 months of solid building I was ready to tackle the project :)

Some requirements I set for the build were it should't cost to much $$$ and the materials should be readily available in the local hardware or what I had free to hand. Saying that I wanted it to use good quality materials that would last and have a high quality finish.

Step 2: Materials

The materials used were:

  • 18mm Plywood (4x sheets 2440mm x 1220mm x 18mm)
  • Salvaged oak floor boards plained to 1cm thick x (6.5cm wide and 10cm wide )(Various lengths)
  • 4x gate hinges. Also known as lift-off strap style hinges or Upright Pintle and Strap Hinges. A strap hinge set without the bend can be found Link here. I used equivalent to a 12" Strap with a 5/8" Pintle. Home Depot also sell the parts separately here and here. I couldn't find an online source in the states for a strap hinge with the bend but if you place a spacer/piece of wood between the strap and the bookcase you will get the same result.
  • 1x Automatic Gate latch to keep it closed (Again cheaper non rust resistant version here)
  • 3x kitchen cabinet hinges. (at least a 90 degree hinge movement) Something like this.
  • 8x M8 nuts and bolts (to attach gate hinges)
  • 1x under bookcase wheel preferably with Non-Marking Rubber Caster like this.
  • Various size screws and wall plugs.
  • Paint

Tools used

  • Router
  • cordless drill
  • jijsaw
  • circular saw
  • electric sander and sandpaper
  • plainer
  • Adjustable set square (to measure the odd angles)
  • level

Step 3: Making the Bookcases.

I won't include a lot of measurements here as if you are making one it will need to be made to fit your particular situation. But I did make a cutting list (see photos) where you can find the measurements. These were for the main bookcase construction and bigger panels.

The Bookcase door was 798mm wide x 1625mm high and 289mm deep.

The second bookcase was 798mm wide x 1976mm high and 289mm deep.

A 62mm gap was more than enough clearance to allow the bookcase door to swing past the second bookcase.

As the weight of the bookcase door would almost be floating on it's hinges the construction needed to be strong. To make it strong without making a steel frame I used a router to cut channels about 9mm deep in the side panels so the shelves could be glued and screwed to make joints.

To cut the channels straight I placed the 2 bookcase sides flat on a table. I clamped a straight metal bar on top, made sure everything was lined up and ran the router with a 19mm bit along it. Repeating this for where every shelf would come. I used a scrap piece of wood to measure the offset between the router edge and where the cut would be made. It's important to route the channels on both sides of the bookcase at the same time to make sure they all line up.

I also used 18mm plywood to make the back panel which was screwed in place. This made an extremely strong and rigid construction. In hindsight the back panel could have been made of a much thinner and lighter 9mm plywood.

Step 4: Hanging the Bookcase Door

First a little on the hinges. The gate hinges or lift-off strap style hinges come with both the mounting plate (which is attached to the wall) and the strap (that is attached to the book case) in 1 package. This allows the bookcase to be removed entirely from the wall by lifting it off the mounting plates which is handy as you will will need to remove it to attach attach some of the trim plates and the wheel.

To hang the bookcase door I first needed to prop it up so the shelves of the 2 bookcases lined up. As you can see in the photo the bottom 3 shelves of each bookcase line up. Make sure you are happy that it's all level and in the position you want it. Depending on the gate hinges you buy the distance between the wall and the bookcase side may vary. You can slide a hinge in between to make sure this gap is correct. Make sure the gap is even all the way from top to bottom.

Then I used a level to draw a level vertical line on the wall exactly where the left front edge of the bookcase door is. This line is where the front edge of the hinge mounting plate will come behind. Take note where you want to place the hinges. It's best if the mounting plate is positioned just below the shelves so once finished the back of the bolt will be less visible in the bookcase.

Move the bookcase for space and attach the hinge mounting plates to the wall. The left edge of the hinge plate should line up with the vertical line.

The next bit is tricky as the space is confined. With the bookcase back in place with everything lined up place the strap part of the hinge on the mounting bracket. Using a pencil mark a horizontal line top and bottom where the strap comes in contact with the bookcase. Then measure the distance from the front edge of the bookcase to where the hinge comes in contact with the bookcase. If you can make a pencil mark for this do but if not note the measurement.

You will need to move the bookcase to attach the hinge strap to it using the markings and measurements you made. Drill holes and pop the M8 bolts through securely attaching them to the bookcase. If you can only get a strap hinge that is straight (Not like the one I used that has a bend) you can add a piece of wood in between the strap and the bookcase so the bookcase will hang further from the wall.

Before you lift the bookcase on to its hinge pins it's best at this point to drill the holes where you will attach the trim with a pocket hole jig on both bookcases. Using a pocket hole jig means the trim can be attached from behind and you won't have any unsightly screw heads showing from the front. You could also use small angle brackets for this.

It should now be easy (with a second pair of hand) to lift the bookcase into position on its hinges. If the strap part of the hinge is not full hitting the bottom of the mounting plate on one or two of the hinges it's possible to buy some metal washers that you can slide on to fill this gap. It's important that each hinge is sitting correctly so each one evenly takes the weight of the bookcase.

Now take a measurement under the bookcase and add the wheel. My wheel wasn't high enough so I added a piece of wood with a few screws to get it to the correct height. The wheel doesn't take a lot of weight but it smooths out the action of opening and closing by giving a slight breaking action.

Step 5: Finishing Up

Now that the bookcase door is hanging you need to move your attention to the second bookcase. You need to attach the bottom piece of trim. This stops about 19-20mm short on the left hand side. The trim on the door will cover this gap

Move the 2nd bookcase so it lines up perfectly with the door. In my case it's an old house so the walls weren't entirely straight. To fix this I put a few different size pieces of wood behind it to get it just right. I then used a small angle bracket near each corner to anchor it to the wall.

Next I painted the white and then measured and cut the trim. I attached it from behind using the pocket hole jig holes made earlier. I left a small gap of a mil or so between each join of the trim. This is because there needs to be a slight gap in the trim were the door closed so this way there is a consistent gap overall making it less obvious that there is a door.

Between the two bookcases I had a 62mm gap. This was more than enough clearance for it to swing open/close without hitting. Combining the 62mm gap with the thickness of the bookcase sides 18mm plus 18mm gave a total of 98mm. The upright centre trim was 10cm wide so when it was attached it gave a nice mm or two overlap which covered any little slight gaps/cracks. Hiding these gaps is the difference between a door and a hidden door.

I next had to build the fixed shelf above the bookcase door. This was a lot of measuring angles and cutting, then measuring and cutting the next piece and so on until the 3d puzzle was solved. All of this was made onsite to size so I have no measurements for it here. I needed to cut a hole out of the back panel and a notch under the shelf to allow the gate latch to pass under it.

The upright trim panel on the left side is attached with 3 old kitchen cabinet hinges. They need to have a movement range of at least 90 degrees to allow the trim when in the open position to sit flat against the wall. The door won't open if this trim panel is closed there so it has to move out of the way first. I had considered using magnets to attach it but that would mean having to take off the panel every time you wanted to open it. I had the hinges from an old kitchen so... It's just a lot of measuring to see exactly where it should come. The hinges could be adjusted slightly once fixed so I was able to get the trim to fit exactly right.

I then added some wallpaper just because I had a spare roll in the cellar.

I cut another piece of 18mm plywood and painted it white to finish off the right hand side of the bookcase.

It was a lovely project to do a bit at a time. I probably goes without saying but to make a truly hidden bookcase that no one will spot you need to make accurate and straight cuts. The trim panels also need to be straight and not warped, otherwise things will never line up just right without any giveaway gaps. Success :)



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    38 Discussions

    Dear hpat,
    Thanks so much for sharing this idea/project. You’ve done a great job here. I’ve actually been asked to make a secret bookcase entrance for one of my neighbors and had thought I would have it sliding straight back, running on two sets of tracks, top and bottom, but seeing your version I can see that swinging it open could also work, just a case of moving the gate hinges forward rather than using the existing door hinges.
    My only question to you is could you not have hinged it in such a way that you retained a fixed (false) surround/boarder on the hinge side? I know you mention that this had to hinge separately (and I can see how that works very ingeniously in this case), but could you not have positioned the gate hinge in such a way that the boarder outside edge is the (false) pivot point in front of the gate hinges similar to what you commonly see on a dishwasher door?
    Once again many thanks for sharing - your example will definitely give me a few things to think about when I begin my neighbors project.
    Cheers Toni

    2 replies

    One thing I might add is you could mount the mounting plate part of the bookcase hinge offset from the wall with a piece of wood etc. As I have made it the bookcase can't open fully flat against the wall. The hinged trim panel gets in the way. Offsetting the bookcase hinge out from the wall at least the thickness of the trim panel would fix this problem. I was aware this would happen but the opening was more than enough for what I needed. Offsetting the hinge also means the trim panel would need to be wider and the wood I had was not wide enough.


    I had looked at other hinges to solve this problem but if you want hinges like that that are strong enough to take the weight (and it's really heavy even unloaded) your talking mega bucks.

    I had also looked at a pivot hinge under the bookcase but that would need a pivot on top too and there wasn't a great place to attach the top without welding up some metal attachment. I felt the gate hinges would spread the weight out over a larger are.

    Gate hinges or lift-off strap hinges as I see someone else called them are strong and cheap. An added bonus of having the side trim hinge out is that the door can't be opened without this being open. Add to this the latch on the other side it doesn't budge even you push/pull on the door. This would be a dead giveaway that it's something more than a bookcase.

    Success with the build. :)

    Based on the lines, I can see adapting this to the space under my stairs with only the bookcase visible. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1 reply

    That's great. I just updated some of the text so the instructions are hopefully a little clearer. Have a look at the new text if your going to make one

    I have built several of these type rooms. I notice in your parts list you have the gate hinge and the cabinet hinge, there is a third which is load baring to a larger degree than the others. Can you list a source for that one used for pvioting?

    7 replies

    Hi. Not sure what you mean by the "third". There are 4 the same gate hinges used which support the entire weight of the door/bookcase. The 3 smaller cabinet hinges are only attached to the front trim panel.

    After the heading "Step1" you have links to two hinges that are labeled Gate and Cabinet. Below that is a third object that appears to be screwed to the book case and has a bar with a bend at the end attaching to the wall. What is that and where did you get it from?

    if you are talking about this: F8ZL7YGJCAUONLZ.MEDIUM.jpg
    it is the "gate latch" which is a very regular bit of gate hardware you can get at most hardware stores here is an image of it without the rest of the project around it: https://www.locks4gates.com/heavy-duty-universal-...
    (it does not support weight) As you can better see in the store picture, the rod bit swings into the mouth of the bent part and a pawl grabs it as it goes in.
    Note: The pivot of the rod with the ball is important. It needs to be free to ride up the ramp of the catch. That screw can come loose so pay attention to it.

    Ya that's right. That one even has a hole where you could attach a piece wire to make all sorts of fun secret opening mechanisms.

    That attachment point for the lifting of the latch is key to remote opening... and more fun..

    Yes more fun. The latch I have has no attachment hole but that's easily fixed. Working on finishing off other projects at the moment so will get back to that at a later date. Just glad it's all finished up, looking good and working.

    Hi That's just a standard gate latch. It's not taking any weight. It's only there to keep the door shut.

    No the gate latch is pretty easy to see. The part I was referring to is attached to the wall and side of the book case.

    3 replies

    It appears all 4 gate hinges are lift-off strap style hinges; these hinges come with with both the mounting plate (the part you are referencing which is attached to the wall) and the strap (the part you are referencing that is attached to the book case) in 1 package. Weeding through this instructable it appears the author attached the mounting plates to the wall and the strap portions to the bookcase. This way the bookcase can be removed entirely from the wall by lifting it off the mounting plates which is significantly less difficulty than if the hinges were not of the lift-off style. There is no 3rd type of hinge used in this instructable.

    Thanks for clarifying that. I will update the text to make it clearer. Just an added bonus of these type of hinge is that if your door/bookcase ends up being slightly too low you could adjust the height by adding a few washers over the pins. Then when lift the bookcase back onto its mounting plates it will sit higher.

    The item in your picture is a "gate hinge." The gate hinge uses a solid metal "peg" attached to the wall and a metal "strap" attached to the side of the bookcase door. The metal strap has a loop on the end that fits over the "peg," on which it pivots. Each of the pictures here show the gate hinge from different viewpoints.


    5 months ago

    Very clever. Not sure exactly where the gate latch is on finished product but I think it would be important to have an emergency release in case a kid got locked inside by accident or otherwise.

    1 reply

    The latch is on top of the door so high enough that it would be hard to reach for a kid to open it in the first place. I adjusted the position of the latch bar to the point where it needs to be pushed closed with some force.

    Very cool, I like it! Talk about a precision build.

    Not sure if it matters, but the continuous oak slat/face on the right side could have been cut so it matches the one in the center on door and bookshelf? It would potentially make the secret door less obvious if there was more symmetry?