Elizabeth: Hidden in plain sight

As is often the case, I had one thing in mind for today’s post and then – squirrel! – something else caught my attention.

In this case, it was an article in the New York Times that I read over dinner.  It had the enticing title, If Only These Walls (and Bookcases) Could Talk, so naturally I had to read it.

As I may have mentioned (a time or two), I’m a big fan of books.  Not just of reading them, but having them.  The physical dead-tree versions with their smells of ink and paper and (in some cases) old dusty leather bindings.  Fiction, reference, cooking, travel, the Napoleonic Wars and much more can all be found in the room designated as my home library.  Technically, it’s a spare bedroom but the bed is long gone, though in a pinch, I guess one could sleep sitting up in the big comfy reading chair.

But I digress.

Being a fan of books means needing a place to put them, preferably in an organized, easily accessible fashion (unless one is like 8Lady Kay who apparently gets rid of books after reading them – gasp!).

My home library currently boasts a wall of floor-to-ceiling shelves (thanks to some help from my brother), but there are still a number of books that have been relegated to boxes, pending the building of even more shelves.

That task has been on the ToDo list for . . . .well let’s just say “quite a while.”

With a limited amount of space to play with (and no intention of getting rid of the excess books – shudder!), I have pored over magazines and internet images for creative storage ideas, which has led me to whole sites devoted to building “hidden” rooms.

Now, I have always loved secret hiding places (I blame Nancy Drew for that), so the idea of building some kind of hidden space in my own library struck me as exactly what I needed to do.

Life, alas, has interfered in recent months (or possibly years), so my magically hidden library space has remained only a figment of my imagination.  Something I visualize as I drift off to sleep, but have yet to actually implement in the light of day.

Cue today’s New York Times story which, it turned out, was about the current trend in office design for hidden rooms – many of which were liocated behind bookcases.

“[A] taste for hidden places still runs deep.  They have appeared throughout history, from secret passageways in medieval castles to Prohibition-era speakeasies. Secret rooms are now popping up in workplaces and other commercial settings, providing the thrill of seeing a room materialize unexpectedly”

I took the article as a hint that it was time to dust off my library renovation plans.

Apparently I’m not the only one tickled by the thought of hiding something in plain sight behind an innocuous bookcase or door.  Though my house won’t quite lend itself to concealing a full-sized speakeasy bar behind an unassuming bookcase as one of the featured companies in the article did, I do have some options for something on a slightly smaller scale, even if it means sacrificing a closet for the cause.

After my activities last week tearing down a decrepit old gazebo in the backyard, I’m thinking it’s now time for me to turn my attention to  building something new.  Sure, I should probably be focusing those attentions on repairing the rotting backyard deck (where the gazebo previously sat), but where’s the fun in that?

As with last week’s demolition efforts, I’m hoping this spurt of manual activity will resonate with the Girls in the Basement and trigger some new, creative ideas.

If not, at least I’ll finally be able to unpack those remaining boxes of books – who knows what is hiding in them?

Now that I think about it, perhaps my current story could benefit from a hidden room of its own.  Heaven knows my characters have plenty of secrets – they could probably use a place to keep them.

The possibilities are endless.

6 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Hidden in plain sight

  1. Last fall, while getting estimates to insulate our 95 year old house, one of the estimators stumbled across a hidden “room.” In the 18 years we’ve lived here, my husband had, of course, noted a discrepancy between the inner and outer dimensions of our master bedroom. I, spatially challenged as I am, never had.

    What Mr. Estimator pointed out was a space maybe 4′ by 3.5′ in the front corner of the house. In addition, there was another segment that was 8 or 10″ by 6′ leading up to that little pocket room. (The presence of a stairwell accounts for the remaining space.)

    I don’t know why the builder chose to wall in all that space instead of using it to enlarge the bedroom, but they did.

    Since then, I’ve been dying to turn that tiny alcove into something useful.

    • I’m envious, Jeanne. I’m afraid my house has no such discrepancies. Yours sounds like it could be a perfect little hidden alcove for reading or writing.

  2. I think my mother must’ve watched too much Alfred Hitchcock or read too much Edgar Allan Poe when I was in the womb, because every time I think of hidden rooms, I think of mummified bodies hidden back there. Did you open up that space, Jeanne? Why do you think it was closed off? I mean, besides the mummified body.

    • Lol. I didn’t crawl back there with Mr. Estimator, but Old Dog (aka hubby) did and he reports no mummified bodies. He’d really like to unwall that space and use the alcove to house his dresser. But, as is typical with 95-year-old houses, the wall is plaster and lathe and taking it out would be a big job. Not one, sadly, that is in our current budget.

      • What a shame, Jeanne, that you live so far away. I love taking things apart. It’s the putting back together that slows me down 🙂

  3. Oh, Jeanne, how thrilling! I hope you guys can figure out some way to use the space.

    Elizabeth, you know I’m a big fan of secret doors (particularly, I’ve often got moving bookcases that reveal a secret space or passageway on my mind). What I think would be great is a bookcase (floor to ceiling) on wheels that I can wheel in front of our basement door, and then we’d have a whole hidden basement! (We don’t really use it that much anyway.) But alas, it’s still a dream.

    I hope something works out for your secret spaces, and that your Girls are so delighted, they spill all their secrets!

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