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Before & After: A $400 DIY Gives a Fun “Secret Door” Quality to a Hallway Closet

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Your home’s closets are, first and foremost, supposed to be functional. But these small storage spaces are a great place to add a little style and personality to your home, too.

See: this redo from Mariam Kipiani of Kipiani Designs. Mariam had a complicated yet common storage problem: a closet that couldn’t quite contain much of anything. She lives in a split-level house with her husband James Irwin, and at the top of the stairs sat a small closet with a bi-folding door. The lower half of the closet had a few rickety stairs leading directly into a wall — very Winchester Mystery House — while the upper half had two shelves. 

“Due to the fact that the closet doesn’t have a flat floor, it was very hard to utilize,” Miriam says. “So we had one hanger rod and kept all the nonessentials in there.” 

And yet, that wasn’t a system that particularly worked, given that the couple would always have things they needed to put away but couldn’t rely on this closet to do that well.

One day, Miriam and her mother were enjoying a festival at a winery when her mom showed her an architectural detail she heard about from others. “In the middle of a very long stone hallway, she turned and started pushing a huge arched brick wall,” Miriam recalls. “The wall opened up like a door and revealed a small, beautifully decorated dining area. The moment I entered that room, I knew I needed something similar in my house.”

Mariam figured that she could build out her closet to have sturdier stairs and shelving and conceal it behind an arched doorway. When the door was closed, it would look like a built-in complete with lower cabinets and upper shelving. “The hardest part was coming up with the plan and the material list to achieve the look,” she notes, adding that she did so using Sketchup. “Based on my renderings, my husband, who has an engineering background and works in the construction industry, helped me with the exact calculations and building.” 

To create the door, the couple picked PVC boards for the arch at the top and plywood for the actual bookcase, cabinets, and back. Later, they crafted a curved molding for the front of the bookcase to hold the brass hinges, and then attached the hinges to the wall studs. Finally, they mounted the door to the wall and painted it all in Benjamin Moore’s Nantucket Gray.

For a finishing touch, Miriam chose brass knobs to match the hinges. The entire process — from mostly working weekends to waiting for the interior wallpaper to arrive — took two months and about $400.

Inside, Mariam fixed up the once-rickety stairs to nowhere, turning them into solid wood shelves and painting them to match the door. Pretty striped wallpaper installed on the walls takes the final product from good to great.

Now, the closet is a centerpiece — which is something not often said of closets. “The door itself made a huge impact in the look and feel of the hallway,” Miriam says. “I was very proud of myself when the final product came so close to the image in my head.” 



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