Secret Rooms & Gardens and Hidden Appliances

Door is Camouflage to conceal entrance to a secret room

Secret room for kids - stair niche

Secret rooms, hidden appliances and landscaped gardens with unexpected features are the latest trends in home design. Whether it’s in new construction or the remodel of an existing home, architectural features and accessories that would appeal to Bond, James Bond, are popping up everywhere.

Imagine a house with a stacked-stone fireplace that discreetly opens to a hidden room, or an ornate, built-in armoire with a back panel that conceals a walk-in closet, or a gourmet kitchen with wood finishes so beautiful it’s difficult to tell where the woodwork ends and the appliances begin.

“People want something that makes their house unique, different from their neighbors,” says Steve Humble, president of Creative Home Engineering. “A lot of people are doing them for kids’ playrooms and entrances to wine rooms. I’ve even had some people get them for what they feel a secret room will do for the resale value of their house. It’s definitely going to make the house stand out against all the other houses they’re competing against to sell.”

For the last 14 years, Matthew Quinn, principal at Atlanta’s Design Galleria Kitchen & Bath Studio, has stood out in the kitchen design industry by creating sleek paneling and hardware that resembles custom furniture to hide everything from refrigerators to dishwashers, warming drawers, ice makers and wine coolers.

“I’ve always been a huge proponent of paneling refrigerators so they don’t overwhelm the space. It’s an easy solution to give your kitchen a facelift and make it feel larger,” Quinn says. “The only thing that can’t be paneled is your oven or cooktops.”

Quinn also designs retractable pocket doors to conceal pantries, cabinets, wall ovens and doorways to the kitchen. The look not only is more pleasing to the eye, but also it helps unify the room. The hardware for pocket doors starts at $150 per door and the door itself is about $3,000 depending on the finish, according to Quinn.

Door is Camouflage to conceal entrance to a secret room

The trend is not limited to contemporary designed homes.

“It used to be just for modern homes, but we are really doing quite a bit of it in traditional homes,” Quinn says.
Humble has been building hidden passageways in homes since 2004. A mechanical engineer, he started Creative Home Engineering in Gilbert, Ariz., after he purchased a large home for himself and wanted to do something fun by adding secret rooms.

“I was surprised to find there wasn’t a company with the expertise to do it, so I started making them for people,” Humble says.
Now homeowners from around the country come to him for secret passageways that are concealed by such features as mirrors, bookcases, stairways, armoires and fireplaces.

Bookcases are one of the most popular amenities to hide rooms because they can be retrofitted into almost any home without adding to the square footage. It’s also easy to subdivide a walk-in closet or convert a storage room by adding a secret door. However, more elaborate amenities, such as a rotating fireplace, should be created when a home is under construction.

Here’s how the process works for long-distance customers:

A representative from Creative Home Engineering will talk with a homeowner either online, on the telephone or in person to discuss what the customer wants and how the feature can be added as a retrofit or in new construction. After the client selects the wood, finishes and hardware, the company provides an estimate and design package outlining specifications such as how large the wall opening needs to be and where power outlets should be installed. The company then builds the product or door to fit the designated space.

Prices range from $2,500 for a shelf to $6,500 for a custom-built passageway.

While hidden features make a home stand out in the resale process, they don’t necessarily add value to the overall selling cost.
“If you’re doing it for a return on your investment, you’re not going to want to invest $10,000 on a secret door on a house that’s worth $100,000,” Humble says.

Outside Landscape Group, hidden garden

Secret amenities aren’t limited to closets and doors. Homeowners are taking them outside by installing hidden gardens and concealed landscape décor and outdoor room accessories.

“It’s nice if you can see them from the house, but it’s also nice if you can see them walking along a path. It creates a whole new experience,” says Samantha Spitale, assistant project coordinator at Outside Landscape Group.
The company works with owners of yards of all sizes to create a unique design to fit their space.

For example, Charleston-style gardens work well in small yards because they can be enclosed fro­­­m neighbors with fencing or trees such as Wax Myrtles, Cryptomeria and Green Giant Arborvitae. For larger spaces, the landscapers often incorporate water features hidden in urns behind plants and Japanese gardens with discreetly placed sculptures, plants and outdoor accessories that are hidden from view until you walk past them.

Arbors, pergolas, statues and even faux stones that conceal speakers and other electronics are other treasures the company likes to hide in gardens to provide an element of surprise.

“People have also started incorporating hidden pockets into gardens they already have to give them somewhere to retreat to when they want to reflect or read,” Spitale says. “You’d be amazed at what plants can conceal.”



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