“Hidden” Spaces in Demand For New Construction

by Rachel Mazanec


We’ve all seen the movies with hidden rooms behind bookcases waiting to be discovered, but those rooms are no longer solely a screenwriter’s creation. Builders nationwide are receiving requests from homeowners for hidden home offices, reading rooms, home theaters, wine cellars, children’s play spaces or security zones.

“People are realizing they’re not just for the movies; anyone can have one,” said Steve Humble, president of Creative Home Engineering in Arizona.

Humble’s company designs and creates disguised entryways to hidden spaces using a variety of materials, from the classic bookcase to stone walls that open up to reveal a concealed room. While those hidden rooms vary in purpose, over the past few years, Humble said requests for incognito doors have increased with a shift toward security.

About 30 percent of Humble’s business is creating designs for high-security rooms, which can involve bullet- and sound-proof doors, integrated alarm systems with surveillance, and retina or finger scans. In some cases, clients are so concerned with concealing the whereabouts of a hidden room that they don’t even want the people building it to know the room’s purpose.

“Occasionally, there is someone who doesn’t want the contractor to know the secret,” Humble said. “The crews and professionals think the room is an ordinary room, then after they go, we place the secret door.”

Of course, security comes with a price tag. Adding a simple bookcase that conceals a hidden room runs around $3,000 to $4,000, while a more shelter-like space could cost $10,000-$15,000, according to luxury homebuilder Greg Alford of Alford Homes in Texas.

In addition to high-security rooms, hiding wine cellars underground has become a trend amongst homeowners. According to U.K.-based Spiral Cellars, the ground helps keep the cellars at the right temperatures and humidity levels for wine storage. Many homeowners are disguising concrete spiral staircases that lead to the cellar with either a door that fits in with the existing floor, or one made of glass. Customers are split pretty evenly with their door choice, said Lucy Hargreaves, the director of Spiral Cellars, who also stated the average cellar costs around $37,116 and takes no more than eight days to complete.

While installing a clandestine space may be pricey, homes listed and sold that included a secret room from 2010-2014 in 48 markets had a median sale price of $409,400, well above the $235,000 for homes without a clandestine space, according to Redfin.

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