The Double Lives of Design Objects: Secret Compartment Style


Whether you have a few secrets to hide, limited space, or you simply appreciate the element of surprise, designers have been responding to your needs by incorporating hidden compartments in everyday objects that conceal your prized possessions. Rather than stashing stuff under a mattress, or locking it up far from home in a safe-deposit box, why not try one of these stylish and fun ways to keep your valuables and unmentionables under wraps? After spotting a shelf that doubles as a drawer on DesignBoom — which we feature past the break — we felt inspired to investigate the double lives of other design objects. Click through for more.

Secret, Skinny Shelf-Drawer

It looks like a simple, wooden, contemporary shelf you might buy somewhere like Ikea, but Clopen — designed by Japanese firm Torafu Architects — contains a super skinny, secret hideaway. The shelving unit is actually constructed of aluminum with a veneer exterior and reveals a 23mm thick drawer that can only be opened with a set of magnetic keys. Passports, jewels, and other tiny objects could easily live inside the sleek unit.

Image credit: Takumi Ota

Top Secret Coffee Table

Apartment dwellers, take note: coffee table Kai will save you tons of space. Naoki Hirakoso and Takamitsu Kitahara designed the wood piece, which has a completely smooth surface. Owners of this simple and effective piece, however, know there are top secret drawers that lift and slide open to reveal deep cubbyholes within.

Mysterious Mattress

Slipping things under the mattress evokes images of teens (ok, and some adults) hiding diaries and magazines, but the Flou Bold Bed is the grown-up way to utilize your bed as a hiding place. Your mattress sits on top of a hinged platform that opens from the foot of the bed and provides access to a secret storage compartment inside the frame. Everything’s neatly covered in fabric, so the design is functional and attractive.

Undercover Cocktail Container

Gadget geeks, James Bond types, and Batman wannabes will covet this hidden bar, which is operated by a wall-mounted controller. Channel your undercover lover of all things alcohol by flicking a switch. Watch the column slowly rotate to reveal bottles of booze. You’ve come a long way from liquor bottle bibles, baby.

Surprise Puzzle Boxes and Tables

If you’re not over-the-top adventurous when it comes to design, but still want to maintain the element of surprise in your decor, try one of these amazing boxes or tables from Scott Dworkin Designs. Each unique, wooden piece has a folk art feel — several on the slightly demented side. A simple box actually contains an obsessive amount of miniature storage compartments, and the organic-shaped tables have boxes built into the surface.

Space-Saving Sofa

This space-saving sofa is trying to one-up the sofa bed by adding a storage unit tucked inside the furniture’s back support. Finally, there’s a place for the TV remote and all the loose change you can’t seem to keep in your pockets. SofaSofa’s black and white design is an attractive distraction from the secret compartment.

Masked, Minimalist Bathroom

This minimalist shelving solution hides your bathroom’s stark porcelain with warm woods when the fixtures are not in use. The slide-out portion of the Rapsel design provides additional surface space and a permeable, wood shower drain highlights the clean functionality of the setup. Modest or modern-minded individuals will adore it.

Disguised Gastro-Design

In an attempt to “amplify the spatial experience of eating,” a group of designers created Dinner in Seven Acts — a meal-based architectural event, designed by architect-artist group Warm Engine and built by craftsman Daniel Quinn. One of the main highlights of the evening was this incredible, custom-fabricated dining table that contained secret compartments revealed to guests as the meal progressed throughout the evening. “As the soup course arrived, a thin two-inch trench appeared at the center of the table. Before dessert, guests received notes asking them to lift up their placemats, revealing secret compartments holding garnishes,” website Architizer shared. One participant compared the experience to matryoshka dolls.

Cloak-and-Dagger Chair (for Books!)

While hardly the only chair with covert compartments on the market, this orange and white beauty from DEDE Design provides an unassuming place to stash your books. Open Book was created to look exactly like its title suggests, with a slot to tuck your favorite reads along the fold of the chair. We totally approve.

Secret Staircase-Room

Why settle for a piece of furniture with a secret compartment, when you can create an entire room that’s hidden from view? One couple moved into a contemporary Arizona home, which came complete with a very special staircase. Accessed with a remote control, the stairs lift up to reveal a hidden room. They display their antiques in there, but the possibilities seem endless.

The Lion, the Witch and the (Kinda Sorta) Wardrobe

Narnia beckons with this wardrobe that hides the entrance to a wondrous playroom. The large-scale, antique-style dresser balances child-like excitement with curious trepidation, but provides a big pay off once little ones brave its tall doors.

Private Victorian Garage

The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco is the kind of place you’d expect to see a Batcave-like garage that looks like a standard Victorian home on the outside. Beausoleil Architects designed the historical-minded facade where cars live and secret goings-on can come to life. Check it out in action, below.