I don't think there is anyone on this earth that isn't intrigued by a secret door. So many movies have someone disappearing through a bookcase, or a fireplace swinging round to reveal a hidden chamber. The book "The Secret Garden" is built around the premise of a secret door that leads into a forgotten garden. That in itself makes it so much more intriguing that just a run down garden through an open and obvious gate.
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Traditionally, a secret door was employed for a few reasons: in a grand house it was to keep the servant areas concealed with direct access to the back stairs (Jeeves would just materialise in the room with a tray of G&T's). Often it was used defensively, to conceal an escape route out of a house/ castle, and more often it was used to conceal access from one bedroom to another, so that you could spend time with your Mistress discreetly.

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Today, a jib door (their proper name) is used as a device by Designers to stop a room feeling like a thoroughfare, which it can easily become if multiple doorways are obtrusively positioned. Ways to create a jib door are by either by using fake book spines to create a library type feel, or by incorporating it into panelling or wallpaper, thus losing the edges of the door.

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In our extension, I'm going to employ a jib door that opens to the stairs down to the cellar and Mr AV's office. To say that he is excited about the concept is an understatement. Isn't it every man's fantasy to feel just a little like James Bond? When I casually mentioned that it might be an interesting design device, he was all for it. I think he's looking forward to seeing the look on his friends faces when he opens the bookcase and takes them down to his cave. The door is from the kitchen area of the extension, and the long wall that will run along the stairs will potentially have three bookcases, one of which will be the door. Alternatively, we may end up doing a panelled look, with the door concealed in the panelling. I do quite like the idea of a library along one wall of the open plan kitchen though (it's an area that is far from the cooking/ prepping). And even better, a company I found in the UK will do a selection of books (including 5 titles that we can make up as we like - think of the possibilities!) that are beautifully leather bound will give a lovely feel and depth to the room, even if they are fake.

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The English are the Kings of this - you can buy book spines by the meter to fill up empty bookcases, and there are several that offer the doors as panels of books. You can also buy book spines that conceal lever arch files, or CD's. It's the ultimate in subterfuge.
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You do need to use special hinges and catches to open the door - obvious hinges will make it stand out as a door, and defeat the purpose. So will a standard door knob or pull. The jib door doesn't have to be Ye Olde Worlde in feel, either. Some of the modern examples are lovely, with simplified shelving and a much more modern aesthetic. So this is a slightly quirky addition to our renovation plans - and not a particularly expensive addition either. It's design devices like these that can add a lot of interest without much additional cost. 


15 comments:

  1. Each and everyone of those pictures is a pleasure to look at ; as for secret doors, I only saw one in the "real" house (as opposed to a castle)of somebody I knew. It had been designed to protect a priest during our very bloody French revolution. I must say it is the stuff that novels are made of !... Beautiful post !

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    1. How exciting that someone you know has one SB! We don't have that sort of history here in Australia, so the only ones I've ever seen in person were in Europe, and as you said, were in the Estates and Castles, rather than the normal house. xx

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  2. Love it! What a great idea. Agree re books, they add such a lovely warmth and personal feel to a room I think.

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    1. I find it sad that so many people are throwing their books out for the kindle. It's just not the same, books just add so much (even the fake ones!). xx

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  3. how cool, i would love something like this!

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    1. Your son's would love it too I'm sure Deanne! xx

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  4. What is it with the man and the cave? I will never understand it, probably like hubby will never understand the woman and the shoe.

    Love the books, will never understand the kindle either. I have had many a long debate about the destruction of man kind along with the book. Also great sound absorbtion for crazy houses like mine. Kx

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    1. Yes, there's something about being underground in their cave that appeals to men.... I don't know that they've evolved that much really! xx

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  5. Utterly gorgeous, I love this idea and can't wait to see how it turns out! My husband also focuses a lot of his energy channelling James Bond......he is currently investigating whether he could buy an Aston Martin in the UK, for a fraction of the price, and ship it to Hobart.....deluded, I say yet! Must say it would be nice if he was James Bond.....will just have to console myself with watching the real one in Skyfall! Rx

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    1. Oh yes, my husband also is keen on an Aston Martin. Dream on! My Uncles brought Jaguars into Australia in the 70's that way (fixed Aussie dollar made them quite cheap over there). I think you have to have owned it in the UK for a year before shipping it back now....my husbands work colleagues also seem a little obsessed and have been investigating it too! xx

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    2. It must be every man's dream. I've got an Aston Martin fan here too! I wonder if we'd get a better price if ordering 3? One day...
      x KL

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    3. I'm sure we could get a great deal on 3 - $180K instead of $250K (or whatever it is they start at!) xx

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  6. Love. Love. Love. And thoroughly enjoyed your well written history about these too. x KL

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  7. Dear Heidi
    It looks great - but a hidden door leading onto stairs sounds a bit worrying. I remember reading about David Niven and his first wife being invited to a Hollywood party not long after they arrived from England at the end of WWII. Everyone was playing a game where they had to find somewhere to hide in the dark. David Niven's wife opened the door of what she thought was a broom closet and fell head first down the cellar stairs. She didn't regain consciousness and he was left with with two little boys. Very sad. Sorry to come up with this, but it is worth thinking about. Best wishes, Pamela

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    1. That's such a sad story Pamela. Our doors have to open out from a stair by law for this reason. I was also thinking I'd put a sensor light on the stairs so the light goes on immediately that the door is opened. After reading your story, I think this is a definite must. xx

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