Hid­den door­ways are a hot trend

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ES­TATE -

Buell said. Walling over the door was an op­tion, “but,” she said, “I didn’t want guests to have to go through the bed­room to get to the bath­room.”

The so­lu­tion be­gan with door hinges bought from Se­cret Door­ways, a com­pany in Sun­bury, Ohio, owned by a cousin. With the help of her fa­ther, Buell con­structed shelves and mounted them on the ball bear­ing hinges to cre­ate a book­case that swings open to re­veal the loo. “It’s fun to sur­prise my guests when they visit,” she said.

Now se­cret doors are go­ing main­stream. “It has be­come more of a trend than we ex­pected,” said Jeff Watchko, in­te­rior door buyer for Home De­pot.

Three years ago, Home De­pot be­gan to of­fer, on­line, pre-hung book­case-doors from Mur­phy Door in Og­den, Utah. “The over­all draw to the site was more than we ex­pected,” Watchko said. “It’s very pop­u­lar on the East Coast and any­where there is a large metropoli­tan area.”

The Mur­phy doors can come pre-hung — al­ready mounted in a frame — in stan­dard door sizes, so it’s a sim­ple mat­ter to in­stall one in a door­way.

Watchko said the pop­u­lar­ity of the se­cret doors — which range from $850 to $1,750, depend­ing on size and fin­ish — has prompted Home De­pot to in­tro­duce dis­plays of them in sev­eral cities. “We are look­ing at rolling out a pi­lot pro­gram in se­lect stores,” he said. “It will be the first time peo­ple can walk into a store and touch and feel a Mur­phy door.”

Julie Pa­trick, of Alexan­dria, Va., added a Mur­phy door to the condo she pur­chased al­most a year ago. The build­ing was con­structed in 1939, and her unit had clos­ets so small that “you had to turn jack­ets in side­ways to get them in,” she said.

But a tiny hall­way closet backed up to her bed­room closet. Open­ing the wall be­tween the two gave her a closet big enough that “in a pinch,” she could dress in it. She could have closed off the hall­way closet en­trance, but af­ter see­ing book­case­doors on Pinterest, “I re­al­ized this is some­thing peo­ple do. I could do this,” she said. “It was re­ally just for the cool­ness fac­tor that I did it.”

She didn’t pur­chase through Home De­pot, she said, be­cause her closet door was not a stan­dard size. “I re­al­ized what I needed re­quired a spe­cial or­der,” she said. “The range they can do in their cus­tomiza­tion is amaz­ing.”

She was sent wood sam­ples to choose from. Cus­tomer ser­vice helped with de­sign — whether to get shelves or shelves and cab­i­nets (she went with just shelves). When the com­pleted door ar­rived, “the hard­est thing was to take it off the pal­let,” she said. “It was ready to go in.”

The re­sult is a 24-inch book­case-door. “It’s small,” she said, “so you have to think skinny thoughts to get through.”

Leigha Basini, of Lor­ton, Va., de­cided to save on a Mur­phy door by pur­chas­ing it in a kit, which ar­rived ready for her con­trac­tor to con­struct. Kit doors save $200 on assem­bly and $125 on ship­ping, said Jeremy Barker, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Mur­phy Door.

“We were re­do­ing our master bath­room and closet, and I don’t know where I saw hid­den doors, but I was a big mys­tery reader as a child, and when I saw we could have a hid­den door, I wanted one,” Basini said. “It was prob­a­bly three-quar­ters fun, one-quar­ter stor­age.”

Basini’s con­trac­tor as­sem­bled and in­stalled the door while she was at work. “I was shocked, be­cause I just came home and there it was,” she said. The shelves on the bath­room side swing open to re­veal a walk-in closet. “That is ex­actly what I wanted. It brought me back to my child­hood, want­ing a se­cret room, and I loved it,” she said.

The shelves hold non­break­ables, such as tis­sue and cot­ton balls. Items that might roll off are in bas­kets, and Basini also bought some putty to se­cure items as re­quired. “I haven’t needed it,” she said of the putty. “I just have to re­mem­ber not to push the door open too force­fully.”

She has shown the pas­sage­way only to se­lect friends. It is, af­ter all, in the master bath. “Ev­ery­one said they think it’s unique,” she said, “but I don’t know if any­one would tell me to my face that it’s stupid.”

The ef­fect of a hid­den door on the value of a house is de­bat­able. Man­u­fac­tur­ers say hid­den doors in­crease mar­ket value.

But Vic­tor Brown, a real es­tate agent and a home ap­praiser with Cap­i­tal Mar­ket Ap­praisal in the Dis­trict of Columbia, said that is un­likely.

“My ini­tial re­ac­tion is, no, it wouldn’t raise value,” he said. “It isn’t a big enough item.”

But Brown said that men­tion­ing a hid­den door in ads might at­tract more traf­fic to an open house. “Indi­rectly, it might help you get a higher value be­cause you are get­ting more peo­ple in­ter­ested, which might drive the price up,” he said. “The key word there is ‘might.’ ”

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