Designers Love This Door Design for Hiding "Secret Rooms" — And It's Even Something You Can DIY

Whether you opt for a store-bought kit or want to do it yourself, bookcase doors are such a fun addition to your home

a blue room with a hidden room behind a bookcase door
(Image credit: Tim Lenz. Design: Mendelson Design Group)

There's a sense of magic in including a hidden room in your home, and there is, probably, none more magical way to do it than the bookshelf door. It's the sort of idea you imagine in old mansions with secrets to keep, but in reality, it's less of a gimmick than you think.

Using a hidden door is something that, beyond the fun of the design, is something that can be a solution to a problem — a (somewhat complex) way of simplifying the overall look, or avoiding everything feeling too crammed into a small space. Doors draw attention, and sometimes that's not where you want the eye to go.

But is a bookshelf door actually easy to achieve? A case of expensive custom millwork, or something we can recreate ourselves with ease? I spoke to interior designers who like to use this idea in their own projects to find out a little more about them.

You might think of bookshelf doors as belonging to historic estates but, actually, they're something of an interior design trend for now, too.

'We're definitely seeing a trend towards doors concealed in bookshelves and millwork because it's something unexpected,' says Jenny Martin, founder of Jenny Martin Design. 'It's a great way to keep a space looking seamless.'

'The hidden door serves a purpose by housing books, of course, while also adding a layer of playfulness,' adds Gideon Mendelson, founder and creative director at Mendelson Group. 'We use it when we want to add a bit of mystery and surprise to a space.'

Built-in storage continues to be a bit of a status symbol in interior design right now, and the bigger the better. Including a bookshelf door within a larger run of shelving allows you to not only maximize the storage you have on offer, but add that little bit of wow-factor that will surprise guests.

Are installing bookshelf doors difficult?

a bookshelf door with wine in a kitchen

A bookshelf door isn't just for books — this design in a kitchen is used as a wine display.

(Image credit: Dasha Armstrong. Design: Jenny Martin Designs)

There are a couple of routes to achieving a bookshelf door, but for the most expensive, integrated look, you're going to have to go bespoke. 'We traditionally do these pieces custom,' Jenny says. 'Wanting them to be as seamless as possible, they're often integrated within other custom millwork we've designed, so we want everything looking cohesive and custom.'

It is, however, also possible to buy bookshelf door kits which you can hang in standard doorways or to create hidden storage. They're not actually as expensive as you might think for the most basic styles, but it may be harder to achieve the integrated looks of the storage we've shown you so far with a kit. But, you can still create a stand-alone bookcase look, concealing a door — not as huge as surprise, but a welcome one, especially in a space like a hallway that can sometimes feel cluttered with doors.

Plus, there's the option to DIY one from scratch (but more on that later).

There are some other challenges with a bookshelf door you may need to consider, too, especially if you're not choosing a kit door. 'Width and weight of the door and specifying an appropriate system to support the weight is a big consideration,' says Jenny. 'Integrating lighting can be challenging too and may look disjointed if the rest of your unit is lit.'

'Plus, be mindful that the depth of the shelves affect the swing,' she adds.

Is a bookshelf door a good idea?

a door hidden behind a bookcase

(Image credit: Ben Gebo. Design: Georgantas Design + Development)

It's basically a door with extra storage, so replacing every door with a bookshelf door is a great idea, right? Well, no — realistically, they're not as practical as standard doors.

'Great for secondary spaces, these oversized doors take a little more time and care to open so not ideal for a door to a room that you open 20 times a day,' says interior designer Jenny Martin. Thanks playrooms, laundry rooms, home offices — these aren't the sort of doors you want leading into the most trafficked areas of your home.

Can you DIY a bookcase door?

Yes, it's totally possible to DIY a bookshelf door from scratch, especially if you're familiar with the basics of woodworking. What it all hinges on is, well, the right hinge. Picking up a specialist bookshelf door hinge, like this one from Amazon, isn't super cheap, but it does mean you can customize everything else you want to your own specific desires.

I've not built one like this from scratch myself, but I found this viral video below which is a good oversight of what you need to do to build one yourself.

@realiferenovation

♬ Rock and Roll Session - Canal Records JP

How should you style a bookcase door?

With all these moving parts, you might be worried about what you should actually put on a bookshelf door to style it. 'Since the door will be moving, I would say things that are less fragile or can be safely secured to the shelf,' Gideon says.

However, remember that by in large, these doors aren't being swung around like a standard door, you don't have to be too conservative with your shelving ideas.

'It depends how often the room behind is used,' Jenny adds. 'These hidden bookshelf doors are often very sturdy (when done correctly), so you don't have to be too careful what you put on them. That being said, you need to make sure that you're mindful when opening/closing them if there is any loose decor sitting on top.'

Luke Arthur Wells
Freelancer writer

Luke Arthur Wells is a freelance design writer, award-winning interiors blogger and stylist, known for neutral, textural spaces with a luxury twist. He's worked with some of the UK's top design brands, counting the likes of Tom Dixon Studio as regular collaborators and his work has been featured in print and online in publications ranging from Domino Magazine to The Sunday Times. He's a hands-on type of interiors expert too, contributing practical renovation advice and DIY tutorials to a number of magazines, as well as to his own readers and followers via his blog and social media. He might currently be renovating a small Victorian house in England, but he dreams of light, spacious, neutral homes on the West Coast.