I love the playroom in my house, but with the angled ceilings, it’s hard to get as much tall storage as I’d like. Then I had the idea- why not convert the door to the closet into a DIY hidden bookcase door?! That way I get storage AND it can be a fun element. What kid doesn’t want a secret door? I figure it’ll be perfect for hide and go seek. Now let’s get to building!
Note, this is a challenging project. I’d consider this an advanced DIY build because of the moving of the bookcase, the routing of the hinge, and the precision at building a custom piece of furniture that also acts as a door.
how to build a diy hidden bookcase door
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. It’d mean so much if you’d watch the video! I’m trying to get better at my video skills so I can grow my YouTube channel. If you have a few minutes to watch this and/or subscribe, I’d so appreciate it.
- Pivot Hinge
- 3/4″ Plywood 4’x8′ Sheets (we used 2)
- 2″x10″-8′ Boards (we used 3)
- Trim– we used this combined with door casing we already had on hand
- 1/4″ Plywood (we used 1)
- Wood Filler
- Construction Adhesive
- Paint- Farrow & Ball Teresa’s Green
- Corner Clamp
- Table Saw or Circular Saw Guide and Circular saw
- Miter Saw
- Nail Gun
- Loop Sander
- Finger Sander
- Measuring Tape
- Laser Level
Before starting this project, here’s what the door looks like that I’ll be working on in the playroom. This will be a more obvious hidden door because it leads to a little closet, but that’s ok. I still think it’ll be fun! Plus, I’m mostly excited about the open shelving (which I think is so important for kids. They’re more likely to play with what they can see).
Note, you can buy a pre-made “Murphy Door,” but those cost $1000-$2000. I’m hoping to make mine for much less!
step 1- prep
To start, begin with planning out the DIY hidden bookcase door. Decide where you want to install it and take precise measurements of the existing door frame.
Next, begin on the prep work- remove the door and the casing trim around the door.
Evaluate the existing door frame. It needs to be perfectly square and plumb and level for this project to be successful.
Our original door frame is very crooked. Since the bookcase has to be plum, level, and square to open, we chose to build a new door frame from 2″x10″-8′ Boards to support the bookshelf. We used shims to make the frame plumb and level and checked for square with a speed square while we mounted the new door frame.
If your door frame is perfectly square, plumb, and level, you can skip building the sides and top of the frame. However, a board needs to be added to the bottom of the door frame to mount the hinge to. This has to be level to work, so shim if needed.
step 2- template
Next is the most important step, cutting a piece of wood the size the footprint of what the bookcase will be and seeing how it swivels inside the frame. We had to try a few different dimensions before we got down to a size that’ll freely swing open without hitting anything.
It’s also crucial to choose the placement of the Pivot Hinge. This is where the hardware will be mounted. We choose the left side so that the door will swing towards the wall and the front because the bookcase swings outward.
When doing our testing, we put in a nail to check the pivot with our template. Where the nail is will be where we put the hinge. So this testing step determines both the size of the bookcase and the hinge placement.
For this project, using the proper hinge is really important. It needs to be something heavy duty because the hinge holds the weight of the bookcase and everything that goes on top of the shelves! Piano hinges or side hinges would probably sag from the weight. The Pivot Hinge will hold the weight and provide a visually clean way to open the shelves.
step 3- build the bookcase
Since the frame is complete, now let’s design and plan the custom built bookcase to perfectly fit inside the door frame to the closet. The width and depth were determined by the template from the last step. For the height, we measured inside our frame and make it 3/16″ shorter. Check your hinge instructions to see how much clearance is required.
Next, decide on the number of shelves and the spacing between them. For the shelves, I measured the games I’m going to put on the shelves. They’re a little over 11″ tall so I thought it’d be good to have 12″ between the shelves. That comes to 5 shelves for the height of our bookshelf.
cut list bookcase
And now, it’s time to cut the wood for the bookcase. Here’s my cut list-
- 2 sides 75-1/4″ x 8-1/2″
- Top and bottom (3 pieces so the bottom can be doubled up for added strength) 26-1/4″x 8-1/2″
- 5 shelves 24-5/8″x 8-1/2″
- 1 back 11-1/2″x 26-1/4″
To cut the plywood, use a circular saw or a table saw to trim the plywood sheets down to the correct dimensions. If you don’t have the tools to do this yourself, many home improvement stores can make these cuts for you when you’re buying the plywood.
Next, begin assembling the sides and shelves. Use screws to attach the top and bottom to the sides. Then, measure and mark where the shelves need to be screwed in.
Cut a piece of plywood to the same dimensions as the back of the bookcase and attach it using screws.
Note, one way to make this project more DIY friendly is to buy a ready-made bookcase. If buying a bookcase, make sure that it’s nice and sturdy so it can swing on a hinge while holding decor and books. It’s also important to ensure it can be modified to accommodate the addition of a hinge in the top and bottom section.
step 4- attach the hinge
Next, attach the hinge. The pivot hinge (also known as a hidden or concealed hinge) is the most important supply when building the DIY hidden bookcase door. Why? It allows the door to swing open while maintaining the illusion of a seamless bookshelf.
Start by marking the location of the hinge on the bookshelf. To do this, put the bookcase on it’s side. Next, take the template and align it on the top of the bookcase. Ensure the hinge hole is on the side you want, in our case the front left corner, we marked the hole with the nail we used to check the template. Repeat the process for the bottom of the bookshelf.
The bottom of the door frame is already marked for the hinge from the last step. To mark the top, use a laser level or a plumb bob to find the same spot on the top of the door frame. Make sure to test with the template to ensure you have the right spot. Put the nail in and swivel the template to make sure it moves freely.
Use a chisel and/or a router to create a mortise (recessed area) for the hinge in the top and bottom of the bookcase and in the door frame. The hinge should fit flush into the mortise. Holes will also have to be drilled so that the hinge pin can go into the top and bottom of the bookcase as well as having an access point to the hinge.
Secure the pivot hinge to both the door frame and the bookshelf using the screws that came with the hinge.
attach the bookcase to the hinge
Attach the bookcase to the hinge and carefully test the door to ensure it swings open smoothly and closes without any obstructions. If needed, make adjustments.
On the bottom of our bookcase, the hinge is hidden because we used two 3/4″ plywood to create the base. But on the top, we only used one.
No matter what, the top needs a hole to access the adjustment screw in order to mount (or remove) the bookcase.
To make the hinge even more hidden, we added a piece of 1/4″ plywood to conceal the bottom of the pivot hinge. Another option is to cut off the end of the hinge so that it no longer shows.
step 5- trimming out the bookcase
Now that the bookcase is in, it needs trim to finish it off. Since our bookcase is swinging into the room, the trim to the left, bottom, and top of the bookcase will be connected to the wall. On the right side of the bookcase, the trim will be connected to the bookcase.
The trim for this project needs to be thick and sturdy. Why? Because the trim on the side of the bookcase that swings open is essentially the door stop, so it needs to be heavy duty.
I want to use some MDF trim I already have on hand for this project, so we used 1/4″ Plywood to layer behind the trim.
Because the bookcase moves, you’ll need to check the placement of each piece of trim by opening and closing the bookcase. I recommend only attaching the trim with one or two nails until you have tested to ensure the placement is correct.
Most projects I’ve seen doing this DIY hidden bookcase door use simple craftsman trim. Since that doesn’t match my house, we did a more ornate trim. The corner blocks in the top corners are vintage and add some nice detail. The trim is nice and thick so it covers the new frame and where the old trim used to be.
For the last piece of trim, we used construction adhesive to attach it to the plywood since we couldn’t nail it into the frame.
Doesn’t it look pretty with the trim on?!
step 6- finish work
Now that the bookcase is in and trimmed, all that’s left if finish work. Start by filling all the nail and screw holes with wood filler. Sand those smooth. Fill in all seams with caulk. But make sure to not caulk the door closed!
The exposed edges of the plywood don’t look very finished. To clean them up, we’re using wood filler where ever a side of plywood shows. Then it’ll be sanded and painted so it looks smooth. Another option is to apply edge banding with an iron.
Next, I primed the shelves and trim.
Once the primer is dry, paint the shelves and trim the color of your choice. I’m going with Teresa’s Green by Farrow and Ball. It’s the same color as the walls and trim in this room so I thought it’d look nice to continue that onto the bookcase and the trim. It’s a darker color so that helps any imperfections to hide. Plus by using the same color, it feels like it’s been here forever.
For the right hand side where the door opens, the new door frame looks very unfinished. To remedy that, we are filling the gaps with scrap wood, caulking, and then mudding over the top. This is a tempting step to skip because it takes a fair amount of time and when the door is closed, it looks fine. But it’s worth it to finish it off well!
It takes a few coats of mudding to get a smooth finish.
After it looks nice, prime the drywall mud.
Then, finish it off by painting the primed areas.
Finally, test the hidden bookcase door’s operation to ensure it opens and closes smoothly. If needed, make any necessary adjustments. Leave the bookcase door open while the paint dries.
And here is the finished DIY hidden bookcase door! I love it!
We now have a secret entrance to the closet and that element of surprise is so fun for a play room!
I styled it up with vintage finds and some board games that look like books. Note, stay tuned for a fun DIY on the white book boxes.
I’m really excited to have some vertical storage for the games. I’m hoping they’ll get played more now!
I think it looks beautiful, plus it’s functional as a door to the closet.
It’s playful and an unexpected element!
For this project, I thought I’d breakdown how much I spent! The Pivot Hinge costs $30. The Plywood 4’x8′ Sheets to build the bookcase cost $132. For creating the frame, the three 2″x10″-8′ Boards cost $53. The Shims to level the frame cost $6.
In total, this project cost $287
Since the custom Murphy doors cost over $1000, I feel good about that price. It is expensive for a project though!
So there’s my DIY hidden bookcase door! It was complicated to build. But I think the pain was worth it for this fun secret door! Would you like to try this? I LOVE the concept of taking a door and getting shelves while creating a fun false door. Do you have questions? Let me know in the comments and we can chat about this project!
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