June 30, 2005 2:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm building a home library with the walls covered with floor to ceiling bookshelves. Instead of a door, I want to have a bookcase that slides (or hinges) to reveal a five foot opening. Any brainstorms?
posted by vega5960 to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What, like Bruce Wayne's entrance to the batcave ?
posted by curtm at 2:38 PM on June 30, 2005

Cut a bookcase vertically down the middle. Place the base of each half on inconspicuous rails, to allow the halves to open up to the hidden room. Or, put each half on a sliding pivot to allow them to open outwards, like a fan.
posted by Rothko at 2:46 PM on June 30, 2005

What kind of floor will you have in that space? With the weight of a moving bookshelf, a single hinge probably won't be sufficient. You should support the far end of the bottom of this swinging bookshelf with a wheel or a caster. There are casters available that can be installed sunken into the surface, so that very little of the wheel is showing. This is probably what you'd want, it would help take a lot of the load off the hinge. Of course, this would work best on a hard, flat floor that was completely level at least up to the threshold of the doorway.
posted by odinsdream at 2:51 PM on June 30, 2005

The Hidden Door Company might have something that would work for you. If not you could at least get ideas from their products.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:02 PM on June 30, 2005

My brainstorm is that that rules. Please find a way to show us how it all works out!
posted by redteam at 3:37 PM on June 30, 2005

Given how much weight it will have to hold (as odinsdream points out) I think I'd do something that slid from side to side, such that when closed it would reveal some art or pictures or something.

Alternately and a lot lighter you could get a pocket door (that slides into the wall) and make minor modifications to it so it had an additional few inches of clearance on one side and glue book binding edges to it to look like a loaded shelf. Similar seamless-ish look but w/o the engineering extremes.
posted by phearlez at 3:41 PM on June 30, 2005

The Hidden Door Company designs (very cool by the way) are all set into the walls, which I am guessing is not what the rest of your bookshelves will be? If you're putting bookshelves on the wall rather than in it, you need to worry about clearance as the shelf swings or rolls. Obviously, putting it on rollers is going to require leaving more empty wall next to it than using a hinge.

Either way, you definitely need to find a mechanism for opening the door by tugging a certain book.

Good luck. Take pictures if you get it working.
posted by Hildago at 3:44 PM on June 30, 2005

Could you have 2 shelves that are half as deep as the rest, so that the 'door' shelf would just slide in front of the other shelf to open? Maybe use them as display shelves for CDs or art or somesuch?
I, too, would really like to hear how this works out.
posted by willpie at 4:09 PM on June 30, 2005

If you use a sliding mechanism, you either need to have a chunk of blank wall adjacent to it (which would detract significantly from the wall o' books effect) or do something like willpie is suggesting, where the "door" of shelves is recessed, allowing it to bypass behind another shallow shelf.

In the first case you have useless wall space. In the second you have a recess that looks like a door. Not very bat-cavey.

My vote is for a hinge. It obviously has to be at the front edge of a shelf (for an in-swinging door), and probably needs to bear some load to the floor (a caster?) - on a carpeted floor that is an issue, as it will disclose the location of said door. You also need to account for the slightly larger sweep radius of the back corner of the shelf by leaving some sort of gap (another door giveaway), or by having a non-rectangular frame (which will require some sort of wider stile at the face of the shelf, or your endwall of the shelf will be non-orthogonal).

Many pitfalls, one sweet end result. Good luck!
posted by misterbrandt at 4:47 PM on June 30, 2005

I knew someone who had a door exactly as you describe - basically the back of the bookshelves made up the 4th wall of the secret room.

It swung out on hinges into the non-secret room.

It had a LOT of BIG hinges - books are heavy.
posted by falconred at 5:05 PM on June 30, 2005

How about some casters that push then a hindge that roates? You might have a track inside, but perhaps you can cover it with a bust of something that fits in.
posted by sled at 5:08 PM on June 30, 2005

If you're most interested in having the *inside* of the room look good, and you care less about the room *outside* of the batcave, then maybe there's a way to do it.

I'd have the entire shelf push outward through the doorframe and into the exterior room. Then it could slide on tracks (facing inwards) to the left or right out of the way of the room. This would force you to have a) a small track in the other room that the door-bookcase could slide down. This might be something very small and not so noticeable. And you'll need b) a way to close the after you come inside -- because the action that I'm suggesting needs two movements, the push/pull and then the slide. This could be done with two wellplaced handles, one on the side so that you can slide the shelf, and then another (underneath the waist-high shelf of the bookcase) to pull the bookshelf inward.

You could even put a poster or framed picture or something on the back side of the bookshelf. And even paint the back to match the walls of the room outside. This would make that room look better when the door is closed. If that matters to you.
posted by zpousman at 5:10 PM on June 30, 2005

I see three ways to go about this: hinged, overhead track, and floor track. A hinged arrangement will have a heavy cantilevered load, making it more difficult to engineer well. An overhead track can certainly be done, but will involve more framing work, and the hardware is relatively expensive. I'd recommend using a floor track.

I'd use v-track in the floor, with fixed v-groove casters on the underside of the bookcase. You'll want some kind of overhead track as well for stabilization (and you'll find those there too), but not one that is suspending the weight.

I'd just build (or have a carpenter build) a freestanding bookcase that will fit the required space, and that resembles the built-ins in terms of shelf spacing, kickplate height, etc. Lay the v-groove track in the floor, install the overhead track (perhaps along with a cosmetic valance), and tip the bookcase into place.
posted by adamrice at 5:23 PM on June 30, 2005

Second the floor-rail idea.

You could resess the rails inside the floors, and have them gently curve inwards as they approach the door frame itself. You'd be covering a wall of books on either side while the doors were open, but that's not a big problem.

The key is to split the door/case in half. Less weight would need to be supported, there'd be less wear on the mechanism, and you'd only cover half a door's worth of books on either side when the door is open.

Think French sliding doors on slightly curved rails.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:53 PM on June 30, 2005

I'm sorry. All I saw was "sliding book case" and "batcave" and all I could think of was this. Dude, you've got to get one of these to go with it.

Of course, I'm the guy that's building a pair of automated swiveling 10 million candlepower search lights with detachable bat silhouette, so you it's not so much of a leap.
posted by cptnrandy at 5:54 PM on June 30, 2005

These guys do sliding doors on horizontal tracks. You would probably have to round-out the back of the side of the bookshelf in order to run it on a curved track (in order to clear the shelves in the wall). That, or curve the shelves in the wall that are closest to the door.

Here's another sliding bookshelf/door, done for this.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:08 PM on June 30, 2005

If you decide to go the hinged-door route, you'll have to settle for a shallower bookcase. Here's an example.

(Sorry for the multiple posts, I'm just excited about this idea.)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:14 PM on June 30, 2005

If there's anything I know about rearranging my furniture from time to time, it's that bookshelves are impossibly heavy if you try to move them while they are full of books. One alternative is to not fill them completely so that the door requires as little force as possible to open and so that the door doesn't drag because of the weight. Or maybe instead of books, you could stock it with CDs or knick-knacks instead. Perhaps you could design your bookshelf door with pocket-like edges, so that objects in it don't fall off, and install wheels underneath so that it rolls more easily. A hinged door saves more space than a sliding door, so I think your best bet will be that.

The kinds of secret bookshelf doors I see in movies are almost always rotating doors that pivot on their axes automatically (and rather noisily) when you activate a trigger like pulling out a book, pulling on a bust statue, or pressing a certain piano key. Then again they are almost always in castles or really big mansions, and are on fictional movie sets or cartoons.

That said, companies like The Hidden Door, Hide A Door, SpaceXDoors, and American Saferoom Door specialize exactly in this sort of thing (albeit quite expensively), so it's doable. Maybe you could also catch this Weekend Handyman episode for Do-It-Yourself tips. Also, Hotel Metropole in Monte Carlo has "a secret bookshelf door opening to the restrooms."

Good luck!
posted by Lush at 6:15 PM on June 30, 2005

Gary Katz is the trim carpentry guru for the Journal of Light Construction. He has excellent, detailled drawings on his homepage for a hidden pivoting bookcase door. There's also a discussion thread on the JLC forums about it.
posted by klarck at 6:33 PM on June 30, 2005

You want to hinge a five foot opening with a bookcase, which I assume will be loaded with books. You may have to go with a welded metal frame, covered with wood. Use a thrust bearing at the bottom and top. This would take the weight of the shelves and the books no problem. klarck's link to Gary Katz's page is a great start.
posted by Marky at 6:54 PM on June 30, 2005

See the movie Houseguest with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. S. Martin plays an architect in that movie. He has moving walls for the loft area of his house.

Hire a really, really good contractor who understands the weight of books, invite him over for a bottle or five of wine, and watch the section of the movie where Mr. Martin shows how those walls move. Hire that contractor.
posted by yesster at 9:14 PM on June 30, 2005

Just a suggestion--five feet is pretty wide, but maybe you could do a center pivot? Pivot the five foot bookcase around its center, and suddenly it's a lot easier to deal with as the weight is more or less balanced on either side of the pivot. And, it doesn't project as far in the room.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:59 PM on June 30, 2005

I don't think a pivot will work, just because of the practical considerations of moving furniture inside the room. Well, I suppose if it were a really big wall of books...
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:48 AM on July 1, 2005

[fixed mistyped URL which now no longer goes to pr0n site]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:20 AM on July 1, 2005

I've got a concrete floor, but there are hydronics underneath so i needed to be careful about recessing a track. still, adamrice, i'm going to explore your option -- possibly with civil_disobedient's addition. Klarck's got the other option -- the katz link is incredible. The center pivot conceptually works but I want to have the bookcases out of the way when they are open. The bust control switch idea, renting Houseguest, Lush's resources are really helpful. Keep them coming!
posted by vega5960 at 6:36 AM on July 1, 2005

I don't know the best way to make this work, but the one thing I keep thinking about is making it in such a way that the books will not fall out when you open or close the door. Momentum is a powerful force. If the door opened into the batroom, and you were to slam the door shut, I'd imagine half of your books would fall to the floor.

Just something to think about...
posted by pwb503 at 11:53 AM on July 1, 2005

I have such a bookcase, thought he opening is only 36" . It uses several Soss hinges -- the second biggest that Soss makes. They need a thick, strong frame.

It's quite heavy, even without books in it.

You need to keep in mind that the depth of the bookshelves can interfere with the opening and closing of the door.

The floor needs to be perfectly level. You'll need one or more casters to help support the weight.

Feel free to email me if you think it would help to see the plans.
posted by wryly at 12:50 AM on July 3, 2005

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