How should I decorate my secret hidey hole?
September 3, 2009 11:20 AM   Subscribe

We're renovating an old building, what supercool thing can I do (what would you do) with a 6 foot deep space we've just discovered under my office?

I have recently bought an old building and am in the process of renovating it. Underneath the floor of the room that is going to be my office we have found that there is a space about 6 feet deep, as wide as the office (approx. 4 metres) and about 4 metres long.

I think this is very cool but haven't actually been able to think of anything especially fantastic to do with it. I could just use it to keep my safe and archive files etc but that seems like a waste.

I could make a trapdoor so that I can push a button and people will fall... 5 feet onto a mattress or something, but that is, well, frankly, silly and likely to lead to litigation.

What would you do?

(For the record: this space serves no purpose at the moment, it's only there because the building is on slope. Please do not worry about building regulations or any of that nonsense either.)
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (57 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Panic room!
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:22 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nap room! Use that mattress idea for a real purpose!
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 11:23 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wine cellar!
posted by Jinkeez at 11:24 AM on September 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Glass floor.
posted by R. Mutt at 11:24 AM on September 3, 2009

Ball pit.
posted by Loto at 11:25 AM on September 3, 2009 [14 favorites]

Mock dungeon/solitary confinement to threaten employees with.
posted by That takes balls. at 11:28 AM on September 3, 2009

Pillow-filled reading room.
posted by Jairus at 11:29 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hot tub!
posted by Mwongozi at 11:29 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just lower everything? Maybe put a railing up to keep people from falling on your desk.
posted by GuyZero at 11:30 AM on September 3, 2009

If you were a superhero, this is where you would keep your uniform and weaponry, along with your trophies and medals and framed newspaper stories about your exploits. Presumably you're not a superhero but still, you could make a private museum of people and things that matter a lot to you.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:30 AM on September 3, 2009

Depends on what business you conduct in your office, anonymous. Using the space to house some sort of machine works that does something cool. Maybe as a wine cellar, beer brewery, or cheese cave.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:30 AM on September 3, 2009

Walk in (or drop down) liquor cabinet? Photographic darkroom. Mini art gallery. Fit it out as a dungeon. Put in a fridge and coffee pot, wet bar and sound system, use daylight balanced lighting, install a hammock and go there for daily vacations. Substitute a comfy chair and line the walls with books for your very own library - bonus points for making a secret door into the space. Put in a worktable for hobby breaks. Meditation room. Make it a sauna.

Jeepers, now I want a secret room.
posted by faineant at 11:30 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Mount your desk on a hydraulic lift, so that as visitors enter the office, you can menacingly arise from the depths. Add dramatic lighting and fog machines for maximum effect.
posted by leapfrog at 11:31 AM on September 3, 2009 [52 favorites]

actually, no. hot tub ftw.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:31 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

If I had this, I would seriously use it for a root cellar. I always want to buy cases of nice organic apples and whatnot at the farmer's market to take us through winter, but have no good place to store them. This sounds perfect.
posted by HotToddy at 11:31 AM on September 3, 2009

Could you turn it into a big fish tank? Then your office would be like a glass-bottomed boat. You could even eat a couple of the creatures inside the tank every once in a while (going fishing in your office, how fun would that be?)
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:31 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hydraulic lift platform. Your whole office raises and lowers depending on your mood.
posted by minervous at 11:31 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, that would make an awesome cellar!
posted by ddaavviidd at 11:33 AM on September 3, 2009

I'm loving the nap/reading room idea. Kind of like a couch-cushion fort, only permanent.
posted by usonian at 11:34 AM on September 3, 2009

Grow room.
posted by box at 11:34 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Bathtub and wet room
One of those mini swimming pools with a current so you stay in one place
Illuminated fish tanks all round the side walls
The biggest subwoofer you can lay your hands on
LCD screens covering the bottom floor, and then loop videos to make it look like you're flying or under the sea
Barber's chair, no explanations for anyone who asks
Four-person cinema
Oak-pannelled miniature library / drawing room, LCD screens for 'windows'
posted by dowcrag at 11:34 AM on September 3, 2009

an interrogation room
posted by raztaj at 11:35 AM on September 3, 2009

Three words: two-storey office.

Seriously. Meeting space above, desk and computer below. Becomes an instant "Don't bug me, I'm working" signal if you're downstairs.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:37 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

a. S&M dungeon
b. Grow room
c. Liquor fabinet
d. panic room
e. all of the above

I think you know the answer. :)

Seriously though - I can't really think of a more awesome thing to find. A secret room that's also full of jewels?
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:41 AM on September 3, 2009

This has nothing to do with your hidey hole, but since you are renovating, can you put some treadmill made to look like the rest of your flooring with a control button at your desk and freak people out by moving furniture or themselves closer or further away from you?

Regarding the hidey hole, I would leave your workspace at the current height and drop the rest of the floor and when people come into your office it looks like they are about to enter a Vulcan tribunal or something.
posted by spec80 at 11:46 AM on September 3, 2009

Secret passageway to somewhere outside your office, so that when you have an annoying visitor, you bend over behind your desk to "get something out of the drawers" and disappear, only to reappear outside your door, acting surprised to see the person in your office.
posted by greenmagnet at 11:46 AM on September 3, 2009 [7 favorites]

Radon storage area?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:47 AM on September 3, 2009

Grow mushrooms!

You could get rid of the flooring on half of the upper office, but leave some of the joists, then you'll have a two-level room.
posted by mareli at 11:49 AM on September 3, 2009

Weapons and food cache! BE PREPARED. about you make it flexible enough to change its function all the time? Use unistrut or whatever to make it reconfigurable. Mucking about with it for long enough, I bet you'll come up with a really ideal setup and you can later make permanent and pretty. It might work best as storage. It might work best as a kitchen. Model railroad? It might be nice to soundproof it and make it into a crazy home theater.

Who the hell knows? But being given an out-of-sight space like that is a godsend because you don't have to worry about aesthetics for now.

I like the glass floor idea, too. Glass floor in pretty room hovering over crazy funky always-changing space would be super cool.
posted by paanta at 11:51 AM on September 3, 2009

Glass floor with a Natural History museum-esque taxidermy wildlife forest scene! Yeah!
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:52 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Trap door for yourself, ideally with some sort of flash-bang in conjuction with the actuation, so you can suddenly vanish when someone walks in you don't want to deal with.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:53 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

It’s hard to know if this would work without knowing the dimensions, but… what if you put bookshelves on one end and the sides, then have a staircase on the other end, as wide as the pit. The staircase dimensions should allow it to double as seating for reading. Maybe carpet the stairs and floor with extry-plush carpet and padding. You’d need a railing around it for safety of course. Then invite me over.
posted by The Deej at 11:53 AM on September 3, 2009

Glass floor with a garden beneath. New LED grow lights are cheap to run and unobtrusive to mount, and it's similarly inexpensive to rig up a watering system. Tile the space, or lay down river-rocks over the basement floor, and then fill it wall-to-wall with whatever potted plants catch your fancy.

How cool would it be for a visitor to look down and see the a flower garden growing beneath their feet? With 6' of headroom, and a little work, you could keep a miniature citrus tree or two down there as well.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:54 AM on September 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

You could also turn it into a gigantic subwoofer.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:57 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you'd build a n-scale model train layout, you'd be able to reproduce 640 times 640 meters of real track, minus the corners. Depending on how old the building is, you could even choose a theme that fits its age (like, 1940s or something).
But I'd go for the wine cellar, actually.
posted by Namlit at 11:59 AM on September 3, 2009

Keep a huge collection of very disturbing pornography. Ensure that the room is accessible to anyone with access to your office, but only in a way that makes them say, "Hmm...that's funny...where does this door le....OH MY GOD!"
posted by jefficator at 12:14 PM on September 3, 2009

Echo chamber
posted by timeistight at 12:25 PM on September 3, 2009

posted by nestor_makhno at 12:38 PM on September 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'd probably want to put in an in-the-floor hot tub in that room. Have a ~2m x 2m section of your floor that fold up/flips up to reveal a sunk into the floor hot tub.

Another option would be to tear out most of the floor, and make a split-level office.
posted by fings at 12:41 PM on September 3, 2009

There are many fine options listed above, but I want to suggest something terribly impractical: a fake doomsday weapon.

First, remove the floor and replace it with industrial catwalk grating. Upon this grating, install pergo or similar laminate -- but not over the entire surface, be sure you skip a few spots.

Next, build a cinderblock enclosure in the center of the lower space. Again, leave a few gaps at the joints (as you did for the flooring), and install a metal door on one side. On this door paint, in block letters "REACTOR 5" along with a radiation symbol.

Install large-diameter piping throughout the lower space, using industrial pipeline signage in a few places (eg: arrows showing flow direction, labels that say "DEIONIZED WATER") and the like. Valves aplenty. A burnt-out high-pressure sodium lamp, or similar industrial lighting fixture, would be helpful. Maybe hang an old-style clipboard on a nail, with some suitably official, tedious-looking and yellowed-with-age "checklist" on it (make sure the checklist says "SCRAM THE REACTOR" somewhere on there).

Now, in the middle of your cinderblock enclosure, install some neon-green (or red, or blue) lighting. A continuous recording of low-volume humming or "high voltage" sounds would be nice. Attach all of the electrical systems to a switch on your desk.

If you don't want to make your reactor enclosure out of cinderblock, some plywood framing that's had thin metal nailed to it can do a pretty good job of looking like it's heavily armored/shielded. Paint a few 1950s-style industrial messages on the walls of the lower space, and maybe the logo of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Once you're finished, you have a functional office. When someone new is around, turn on the "reactor" and act like nothing is wrong. The victim won't be able to get a clear view of what's going on down there due to your "half-assed" reflooring job, but they will be able to see tantalizing hints.

"Hey, Bob, what's with your floor anyway?"
"Huh, what? Oh, that! Yeah, this was an old lab or something. I needed the space, so we put flooring down. I think there's a some kind of old reactor down there, but we pretty much leave it alone. It gets a little hot in here sometimes, but I can just crack a window."

Alternate plan: same basic structure, but instead of a reactor, there's nose-cone of some kind of missile poking up out of a "launch tube".
posted by aramaic at 12:53 PM on September 3, 2009

How do you access the room now? You mentioned that it's below your office and you could make a trapdoor, but is there a side entrance? If so, you could make an Ames room.

If your clients have kids (or you have nephews and nieces) that come over it could be a neat place to have a kids' waiting room.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 12:55 PM on September 3, 2009

Well, if you do anything big with it, also include a sump pump at the lowest point. You never know....
posted by wenestvedt at 1:05 PM on September 3, 2009

You could have another small office... like this one.
posted by ecorrocio at 1:06 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I like the trap door option, but perhaps there could be alligators rather than a mattress. ;)

Given that it is only six feet tall it probably won't be much good for anything other than storage, but don't dismiss the value of storage space.
posted by caddis at 1:16 PM on September 3, 2009

I neglected to make a couple points about my missile silo idea...

First, if you don't want to mess with the whole nose-cone, you can simply paint the floor like it's a blast-door. A thin layer of leveling compound can be easily tooled to make it look like it's a more complex structure than it really is (eg: a V-groove can easily look like two beveled surfaces that are in close contact, as in a massive door which is closed).

Next, if you are willing, painting giant cryptic messages on the wall -- which get cut off by the intervening floor -- can be really effective.

If someone sees that your wall has vertical text that reads "WARNING: KEEP CL" their mind will immediately finish that as "Keep Clear" and the incomplete text will draw their eye downward to your "half-assed" flooring job. Which is where you want them. You can even hang a picture over part of the visible "warning"; that keeps it readable, but also makes it look like you're completely nonchalant about the whole thing. When someone mentions it, just remark that yeah, you were gonna repaint one of these days but things keep coming up...

If you really want to have fun, mount a klaxon somewhere and install some of those rotating "danger!" lights and a suitable recorded soundtrack. Set them off in the middle of a quiet discussion ("WHOOoooOOOOP! Five seconds to launch. Secure all access doors. Four...Three....")
posted by aramaic at 1:24 PM on September 3, 2009

I'm not sure what, exactly, but I think I would enjoy reproducing something from "Lost"
posted by antiquated at 1:32 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Root cellar! This is actually an ideal situation for storing potatoes, carrots, squash, apples, and other hardy produce over the winter. It sounds like it's sunken into the ground -- that is exactly the right conditions you need for a root cellar (presumably it's cooler than the rest of the house, and kept dry).

If it is indeed consistently cool, get a bunch of baskets, go crazy at the farmer's market and enjoy really good potatoes, onions and apples all winter.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:45 PM on September 3, 2009

Whatever you do, there should be a switch hidden in a book or a clock, so you can open the entrance batcave-style.
posted by clearlydemon at 1:55 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd go for the assassin-styled walls covered in weapons; you can order some very realistic airsoft guns for virtually nothing online. Throw in a microscope and some vials (poisioning), computer equipment, and some open briefcases filled with passports and foreign currency, and you'll have a great conversation piece if anyone ever finds it.

Also, you'll probably be put on all sorts of watch-lists, but that might be a price worth paying.
posted by quin at 2:14 PM on September 3, 2009

I freaking love this question.

My idea, after thinking for a while.. Make it like the ballroom illusion at the Haunted Mansion. I forget the term.... one sec...

Ah, yes: the Pepper's Ghost illusion.

Yes. I would do that. But also make it a man cave with lots of tasty scotch (as "set pieces", natch)
posted by pkphy39 at 2:26 PM on September 3, 2009

Install a switch on your desk that drops the occupant of the seat(s) opposite your own into this pit, where the unfortunate soul(s) will have to fight a yeti/rancor/pit o' acid for your amusement.

And get yourself a white cat.
posted by axiom at 7:47 PM on September 3, 2009

Bring in a bunch of sand (not the industrial kind, it's too rough on bare feet), mural or flatscreens with an ocean view on on wall. Hot tub disguised as beach inlet. Concealed refrigerator. Beach chairs. Hammock. Daylight lamps.

You'll still have room for the hydraulic lift for your desk, and a secret passage for escaping your office. Ocean view wall can slide open to reveal all your superhero gear. Illusions can go on other walls. People can watch movies from the hot tub or beach chairs on the ocean flatscreens. Lush "foliage" can be grown. Impenetrable secret passage door will make it a panic room. Underfloor heating for the beach sand, with some references to the secret doomsday weapon being the heat source. Perfect S&M dungeon for those combined beach/superhero/flatscreen scenarios.

There'll probably even be some room left over to store root vegetables and apples in a corner.

You are going to post a link to pictures, right?
posted by yohko at 9:10 PM on September 3, 2009

Human Maze!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:42 PM on September 3, 2009

Might be cool to build some square, hollow columns with shelves in them from the floor, through the sub-room to the sub-room floor. Some of the tops of the columns (the floor of the main room) could have lids and serve as hidden trash cans. Others can be open and you could put plants and trees in them, so that they'll grow right out of the floor! Indoor trees!

Those same columns would also serve as shelves and wall space in the subroom.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:48 PM on September 3, 2009

The bit above about opening it batcave-style struck me: Why not the batcave? Get a Shakespeare Bust Switch a sliding panel wall, a Batphone (under glass), and two fire-poles leading to your sub-room.
posted by fings at 10:06 AM on September 4, 2009

Take out that part of the floor and leave it open so that the office is six feet lower there. Up the resulting tall wall, have a climbing wall or very tall bookshelves (with rolling ladders) or the sky (huge windows from top to bottom) or a large fresco showing an artist's stylized interpretation (maybe in the manner of Diego Rivera) of you and your company and your business.

Or put a glass floor over it and fill the underneath with a fake underground stream full of cave fish or an endless swimming pool (use pumps to keep a current flowing past you) or a fake Indian burial ground or an active pig sty or huge scary spikes beneath the visitor chairs or your golden sarcophagus or terracotta soldiers or a dwarf or men who are willing to pay to look up dresses or a massive Heath Robinson/Rube Goldberg contraption or

Hmm. Build a thing that will let you make it look as if you've buried people up to their necks in sand. It could be one or more working hot-box saunas underneath, but on the surface visitors would see very sweaty people seemingly buried to their chins in sand. It would be noticed and remembered. "This... person? When he was a man, he was my friend and partner and I dealt with him honestly and fairly. Sadly, he told me a partial truth. I took him back nonetheless, for I am an honorable and forgiving man. However, he crossed me again, once more failed to reveal everything he knew about everything I want to know, and then I could not fail to act. I would no longer have been the man that I am if I had let him... remain a man at all. But of course these details are of no moment to you." And then place a light wooden chair directly over the head and offer it to the visitor. "Won't you have a seat? May I get you a cool drink? Tell me about your journey." (If you're actually a woman, so much the better.)
posted by pracowity at 3:27 PM on September 4, 2009

Use it as a repository for spare change. When it is filled, you can mount a diving board on the edge, put on a striped bathing suit and swim laps through the shiny coins.
posted by granted at 12:27 AM on September 5, 2009

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