Kitchen Pantry Computer (Hidden)




About: I am a graphic designer from Canada that enjoys electronics, technology and blending the two with my love of wood working.

I was excited to start this project because I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while, and when I saw Instructables was opening a contest, it gave me the motivation to give it a try. My wife and I love cookbooks and music (music in the kitchen is a must), but when you’re using a cookbook, inevitably you spill something on it. That's when I got the idea of placing an old computer and an LCD monitor in our pantry door. It will be used for looking up recipes, watching videos, and listening to music that will be integrated through the whole house. But who wants to looks at an ugly black screen all the time?.......aha! Let's hide it behind a dry erase calendar.

If you enjoy this Instructable, feel free to vote for me in the Hidden Doors / Secret Compartments contest.

Step 1: Materials Needed

So the materials for this is a guideline, mostly because I used a lot of stuff on hand. I like to call myself a precision pack rat, I only throw stuff out I know I won't use (or at least that's what I tell myself)

  1. So first we need a door, I originally was going to alter an existing door but scrapped that idea and found making one allowed me to have more freedom with placing parts. So for the door I used :
    3 - 2x3x8 studs
    2 - 4'x8' sheets of 1/4 Masonite or Hardboard
    And the rest was out of my scrap bin, which you will need random pieces for blocking/supporting and the
    keyboard tray
  2. Trim - Low profile for the door panels
  3. A motor - I had an old 18v cordless drill with a dead battery and a broken switch (yeah! pack rat)
  4. Dry Erase board (we already were using it on the existing door)
  5. Power supply for drill motor (check my stash and found a 9 volt dc adapter)
  6. Switches for motor and computer on/off switch (local computer store sold me 5 switches for $2)
  7. Computer
  8. LCD monitor
  9. Pulleys (I used the line tensioners from our clothes line, it's winter and we don't need them right now ;) )
  10. String or Rope (Let's continue a Canadian stereotype and use Hemp string)
  11. Bluetooth Keyboard
  12. VGA monitor cable (12 feet)
  13. Computer Power Cord (12 feet)
  14. Cat5 cable (12 feet)
  15. Random Screws (5/8",1",1 1/2" and 2")
  16. Nails for nail gun
  17. Glue
  18. Foam Board
  19. Tape
  20. Paint (I use Kitchen and Bath paint, for my trim)

Step 2: Design and Conqure

So the easiest way to wrap my brain around this build was to divide it in to separate components. So after the initial sketches and sleepless nights, I came up with the general framework of the build.

1. Build the door - Measure existing door and use those dimensions; also design the style of the door from others in the house
2. Figure out the motor/pulley system involving the sliding panels
3. How will the monitor be able to mount into place?
4. Keyboard tray needs to slide out
5. Extend Power button from computer

Okay so now that you have those questions and answers figured out on paper, and I'm sure that everyone on this site is like me and has built this thing in my head a million times before, we are ready to build!

Step 3: Door Assembly (skeleton)

Okay, so I’m lucky to live in an older house and I can get away with a more elaborate door with more panels to blend my sliding panels into. So I started by measuring the existing door and replicating the frame with 2"x3" pine studs. Once you have your basic frame made, you can cover the front with your 1/4" Masonite board using glue and nails. Once the Masonite is in place, map out the areas of your panels. In my case I will have a "top", "middle" and "bottom". Also, take this time and measure the placement for the door knob. Once you have your panels marked, plunge cut them using a circular saw or jigsaw. Now that you have your panels cut out, we need to build up the profile of the door to give it the illusion of a real door. For this I cut strips of Masonite to "frame" the panels. Glue and nail your strips around the open panel. Next we will cut the low profile pine trim for the inside frames. Miter the corners and glue and nail them as well. Once you have that finished you can repeat these steps for the remaining panels.

Step 4: Door Assembly (dry Erase Board/buttons)

Now that you have the door skeleton finished we can mount our dry erase
board. We were already using a dry erase board for messages and grocery lists, so I will use the same one, but I will have to trim it to fit my new panel. Since the dry erase board is also magnetic it is two sheets of metal with cardboard sandwiched in between, so for this I used my grinder to cut it to size (use painters tape to mark your line and reduce scuffs and scrapes on the board). Now that the board is cut to size inlay it behind your panel using glue and screws. We now need to tape off the area that will be your sliding panel for your screen, so using the same steps as before measure and cut your hole. While we are in the mood for cutting and slashing, let's make the holes for the open, close and power buttons. I mounted the button using a scrap piece of MDF and glued it to the back side of the dry erase board. Okay we made a door....sort of. So grab a sandwich maybe a cold beverage and lets move onto the motor/pulley system with the sliding panels.

Step 5: Motors, Pulleys and Sliding Doors Oh My!

So we have built a door (a mighty fine one I might add), let's figure out this motor. So for the motor I used what I had lying around which was an old 18v cordless drill that had a dead battery and broken handle. So I figured this would be perfect for opening and closing the sliding panels, but obviously any motor that has enough torque that you can find will work. So start by disassembling the drill until you are left with the bare motor, I left the chuck on because I wanted to change out the pulley or change the elastic belts if need be. So with just the bare motor in front of me I mount it to a piece of scrap wood with zip ties.

Now that we have a motor that can drive our project we need pulleys to raise and lower our panels. So after hours of searching the house I found two "Clothes line tensioners", which are basically two pulleys attached with a metal bar. After dismantling them I also needed to find a rod to mount them on. A trip to the hardware store later, I came home with a 5/16" threaded rod, and to my surprise/delight, the pulleys were such a snug fit they threaded on perfectly. To make sure that they stay put and not spin, I threaded two 5/16" nuts on either side of the pulleys. Also to make sure the rod spun freely and with out resistance, I made another search around the house and this time found an old pair of roller blades in the basement (and I thought to myself......who still roller blades?....not me apparently) So with that discovery I have two new shiny bearings, that inexplicably also thread beautifully onto the threaded rod.

Okay, we have our motor.....check, we have our pulleys mounted on a rod......check, now we need our sliding panels. I had some trouble with this one, only because I had to experiment with different materials that would work with my motor, I tried some of the 1/4" Masonite and it worked, but only with the top panel attached. The moment the bottom panel was attached the motor said "no thank you". So again after some searching the house I came across some foam board, it was light enough to lift and lower, but stiff enough to mount the calender as well as being stiff enough to still write on it. So with your foam board cut out made I attached them with some hemp string we had on hand. Also to hold the panels flush to the back of the door I made some support from scrap wood to hold them in place while raising and lowering.

Okay the door is made, we have a motor, pulleys and sliding panels but I needed the motor to raise and lower with buttons. Unfortunately I live in a small community and I don't have access to a electronic store with resistors and breadboards and such so I used the wiring diagram from on how to use 4 Single Pole Single Throw switches. I then decided to "hide" the buttons under my daughters magnetic alphabet letters.What better way to show "O" for open, "C" for close and the red "P" for power. I think if I have more time I will introduce a more sophisticated was to raise and lower using micro switches and maybe Adriuno. Okay things are shaping up now let's keep moving to the next step.

Step 6: Mounting Monitor and Keyboard Drawer

These steps are pretty straight forward and will likely be customized to your own door if you choose to make this same project. I needed the monitor to be mounted as close to the cut out panel as possible without conflicting with the sliding panels. So I attached a support piece of wood to hold the monitor up and used two "L" brackets to fasten it down. I was then able to put a spacer at the top of the monitor at the front that would do a double duty of holding the monitor away from the sliding panels, as well as being a "stop" for the sliding panel. I then built a simple enclosure around the back to hold it in place.

The keyboard tray was also a bit of a struggle because I didn't have a lot of room for a full keyboard/mouse combo. So I went with a slim Bluetooth keyboard with a mouse track pad. So basically with the keyboard tray you are trying to accomplish the same thing as the monitor, be as close to the door with out obstructing the sliding panels. So with some scarp plywood I constructed a small tray that slide in and out on "rails" made out of plywood (*Tip for wood on wood friction is to rub both surfaces with wax). Again with the keyboard tray extending out past the back of the door like the monitor I decided to build an enclosure for it as well using scrap plywood.

Okay let's move on to the next step which is Sanding, Prepping and Painting.

Step 7: Extending You Computer's Power Button

This task was surprisingly easy, unless you already knew how to do it, and in that case it was the exact amount of difficulty you expected. Any who, all you have to do is locate the existing power button on your computer and cut the wires leading to it. After you disconnected the current power button, You can splice in the Cat5 wire and the new switch. That's it.....the new switch I used was a computer power switch, so it was a matter of swapping them out.

Step 8: Sand, Sand and Paint

Once you have finished the door, worked out the motor/pulley and door system, it is time to make it pretty. Remove all of the motor and pulley and sliding door components and start sanding the entire project. Once you have the whole door sanded go back around and use wood filler or painter caulking on any nail holes or cracks in the door. Once the wood filler is dry, give the door another sand and see if any of the wood filler has shrunk, you may need to re-apply. If so wait again for the wood filler to dry and sand again. Starting coarse (60 grit) and finish fine (220). Once you are satisfied with the door mark and cut out the hinges on the side of the door. I decided to add extra hinges and longer screws because of the added weight.

Now with the door ready to just that. Like all door and trim in our house I use a "Kitchen/Bathroom" paint with Melamine, I find that it coats really well as well as it makes it easy to wipe off dirty two year old fingerprints (love you kiddo). So after two good coats of paint you are ready to mount the door!

Step 9: Finally Assembly!

So we have come along way, I feel like we are all friends now....right?, anyway let's mount this door. So with just the bare bones door, attach your hinges to the door first and then to the frame. Now that the door is hung we can start putting the guts back in. Start with the motor, then the pulley's and the followed by the sliding panels. I designed a 12 month calendar and had it laminated so I could still use our dry erase maker. Re-attach the panel slide supports, and the monitor mounts. Place the monitor in position and run all the cables down the hinge side of the door. Now attach the keyboard tray. After all the components are mounted, let's tidy up the cables and make sure they all run down the the hinge side of the door. Place the rear panel of the door on while feeding all the cable out the back, leaving enough slack to allow the door to open and close smoothly. I ran all of my cables to the computer in our basement so I drilled a small hole in the floor to run the cables down.

Close the door and test it out, and if you are pleased,,,,,then fantastic we achieved success! Now don't say anything to your friends when they come over and see if they notice anything weird, that's the true test.

FUTURE UPGRADE* I am generally happy with the functionality of everything, although I will be upgrading the sliding panel controls to micro switches and proper circuits

Well kids, this has been my first Instructable/Contest entry, and let me tell you it has been a blast. I love this stuff and I'm glad I found a place where others feel the same. So let me know what you think, I'd love to hear feedback. And if you really loved it maybe you could send a vote my way for the Secret Doors/Hidden Compartment contest.

Till next time!

Secret Doors and Compartments Contest

First Prize in the
Secret Doors and Compartments Contest



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    39 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Project amazing, really amazing. Interesting if it can integrate well into various kitchens, I have seen similar things in , interesting Outeda, really impressive about the honor.


    2 years ago

    Merlin the Great! That would be pretty cool. Definitely going to give it a try


    2 years ago

    Nice work.

    Works like a charm and most important, your own make, and that's what counts.

    Sure, there are other possibilities like a tablet, but you tackled this very good.

    It's a pitty the keyboard doesn't slide out and in together with the sliding pannels that go down and up. That would give it that little extra.

    Can be done with a couple of guides, maybe a tilting slat and the drawer being connected to the pulley system so that it changes from vertical stand to more or less horizontal while sliding outward and back.

    Keyboard held in place with some velcro, so it doesn't drop off the drawer.

    The postioning of the drawer has to be precise so it doesn't collide with the pannel.

    How's that for a challenge? ;-)


    2 years ago

    Beautiful and most ingenious, like a spy movie. It is unfortunate that the keyboard is set so low. How will it hold up to all the door shutting? Don't have an argument with a teenager while she is standing with the door open...


    5 years ago

    Using an Ipad would save lots of work, in my opinion.

    3 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    iPad loses the "coolness" factor. Plus, when you have to access buttons you have to remove it from it's hidey hole (not hiney hole...)

    All in all it's a very cool project and congrats on the award! I tried a smaller one in a cabinet with touch screen but no one used it and my feelings got hurt and I removed it.


    Hey MoserLabs, Thanks for the comment. This project is a hit or miss for people for sure. I like to think Instructables is more for inspiration than straight up recreating. Everyone will have different needs or wants, the least I want people to take away is an idea to create something that works for them.


    5 years ago on Step 9

    Great Instructable! I was thinking about doing something like this. I never thought of puting it in the pantry door, what a great idea. I will probably use XBMC with it as well.

    1 reply

    Really good idea! I'd dismantle an old laptop, connect the external power button [this would require pretty good soldering skills] and build the motherboard and display into the door. That'd leave only the power wire to route, and we could use a spiral or hi-flex variety so that it won't break due to material fatigue after opening/closing the door many times :).

    BTW. Is that a Linux box with LXDE desktop?

    1 reply

    Hey there, I actually planned on using an old broken laptop (broken hinges, power plug and missing keys). But with limited time to enter the contest I went with the monitor idea. I just didn't want to run into problems and not have the time to fix them. And the computer is an ATX case running windows 7 with Omnimo UI.

    Thanks for the comment!


    5 years ago on Step 9

    Great job. Congratulations! A touchscreen kit would have been better methinks. See my instructables, I managed to find one on ebay.

    3 replies

    Hey there, thanks for the comments. I did think about the touchscreen option, definitely in the makes for version 2.0. It's funny that after I started my project I did a search for kitchen computers and found your instructable. It was excactly what I was going for as well, you did an amazing job at blending it into the kitchen. I do have a 2 year old and so far I'm lucky that she hasn't really bothered it yet :) What type of design do you do?

    You're lucky. My little rascal got used to the Windows 8 tile screen (that kitchen PC is running it now) and anytime he sees on, it he knows there are pictures, games and videos waiting to be seen. He even learned how to call out the charms bar.

    A word of advice: If you want a touchscreen PC, don't settle for a touchscreen kit like mine. Instead, find a Windows 8-compatible touch screen display. You won't be sorry.

    As for my work, see my website at Mainly commercial print design.


    Reply 5 years ago on Step 9

    Oh, and I'm a graphic designer too! :-) That's weird. As a sidenote, you might want to hide your project should you have small kids (or planning to have). That was the only thing I haven't foreseen. And I'm paying the price now as my 3 years old wants to see nothing else but that touchscreen and the games in the Microsoft Store.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Absolutely fantastic! I've been looking for a good project to take up some time, and I think this is it.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you, it was really fun and I think it adds a lot to the kitchen, send me pictures of your final project when you are done