Friday, December 25, 2009

Secret rooms

Merry Christmas to all! Today's post was prompted by a biographical fact I learned yesterday about Charles Dickens: his study had a secret door designed to look like a bookcase. The shelves were full of fake books with witty titles, such as Noah's Arkitecture and a nine-volume set titled Cat's Lives.

Didn't you dream of having a secret room like this as a child? If you're serious about it, there are DIY instructions or companies willing to install the door for you. The bookcase-doorway pictured above was improvised without any lease-violating modifications by a couple who wanted to hide their computer room from the rest of their apartment. Here is a bathroom hidden behind a bookcase. The New York Times writes, "Although highly fortified rooms have become more widespread — and the idea reached a large audience with the release of 'Panic Room,' a 2002 movie that starred Jodie Foster — many of those adding hidden rooms are more concerned with creating a sense of wonder than defending against a home invasion. 'I think people like the mystery of them' [California architect Timothy] Corrigan said."

My sister was faced with that mystery when she was invited to a new book group with some local women. I've asked her to tell the story:
I went to my first meeting at the house of a host I was meeting for the first time. 
It was a lovely house in a very nice neighborhood. We sat around chatting,
nibbling, and sipping in the kitchen for a while until someone said "let's go talk
about the book now!" I went over to the fridge to refill my ice water and when
I turned around, they were all gone. I headed in the general direction that I
thought they all went. All gone, completely gone. I didn't know what to do
and I didn't know this house at all (and it didn't take me very long to fill up my
water glass so it was weird). Didn't really want to go poking around on my own.
I saw some stairs that looked like they led to a den or something so I headed
that way. A teenage boy was flopped on the couch watching TV. He did not
address me at all. I stood there for a second feeling like an idiot and then
stammered something like "Um, did a bunch of women come through here?"
Without bothering to look over at me and with an air of utter disregard he said,
"Just pull out the 3rd book on the left of the 4th shelf," or something like that. I
think I made him repeat this. Then, thinking "okayyyy..." I pulled on said book
and the bookcase opened like in a movie and all the women were in there quite
comfortable on chairs and a couch chatting away. I kind of had my jaw hanging
open for a while and didn't have much to say about the book. It was truly bizarre.

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