Architectural Dissimulation

[Image: “Louise Kircher raises the staircase in her home in Mesa, Ariz., to reveal the secret room behind it.” Mark Peterman/New York Times].

“On a recent Saturday morning,” The New York Times writes, “Cami Beghou, 13, pushed the right side of the tall, white bookcase that is built into one of the powder-pink walls in her bedroom. The bookcase, holding rows of books, a stuffed dachshund and a volleyball, silently swung outward, revealing a tiny, well-lighted room. Containing a desk, a chair and a laptop computer, it serves as her study area.”
Apparently, the family gets a kick out of fooling people – it’s suburban normality in an age of architectural dissimulation: “When the home inspector came by to examine the house, our builder shut the bookcase, hiding the room. The inspector went up and down the stairs a couple times – he knew that something was unusual – but he couldn’t figure out what was there.”

[Image: “David Lee of Plano, Tex., got a bookcase door to hide the mess of his workroom, but also because he had wanted a secret room, he said, ‘since watching Scooby-Doo way back when.'” Misty Keasler/New York Times].

And therein lies a Kafka novel for the suburban twenty-first century, in which a real estate appraiser from a national bank is sent to a small town in the cloudy hills of central Pennsylvania to find that all the houses he’s meant to review are similarly unusual: the outsides are bigger than the insides – or vice versa – and indoor corridors trace around what should be whole wings the man can never find. He returns to his small room at the Comfort Inn every night, and, in between watching endless Bruce Willis films on the hotel television, he begins sketching out the neighborhood from memory…
Then he realizes something…
In any case, The New York Times adds that these secret rooms in suburbia have become increasingly popular: “The Beghous’ architect, Charles L. Page, who is based in Winnetka, said he had designed seven other houses with hidden rooms since 2001, after designing none in his previous 40 years as a residential architect. ‘Absolutely, there has been an increase,’ said Timothy Corrigan, an architect and designer in Los Angeles, who noted that he has been practicing for 12 years but was not asked to design a secret room until four years ago. Since then, he has created five.”
Unfortunately, there is no mention of whether anyone has commissioned secret rooms accessible only from other secret rooms – M.C. Escher, Architect, perhaps – or complete, non-intersecting houses built in parallel to each other on the same small lot. Otherwise inconceivable geometries in home improvement form. Knotville.

(Via Archinect).

9 thoughts on “Architectural Dissimulation”

  1. There’s a house in Marin County, CA that was built as a wedding present. Different wealthy friends & family members paid for and designed each room. The front door enters into a hallway that goes straight through the building and out the back door. This hallway is lined with concealed doors. In a way, every room in the building is secret.

    At least, this was the story told to me by my geometry teacher, who had tutored there. Certainly could have been an exaggeration. I heard about it in 1992 or 1993, and it’d been there for a little while at least.

  2. Then there are the secret rooms that people keep secret from all but their swinger friends, if you know what I mean.

    I’m sure there are a lot more of those already around than anyone would care to admit. A walled off section of the basement, perhaps …

  3. My apartment had a secret room. Until I told you all about it. It’s under the floor. The building was converted from a house to flats, and part of the basement ‘between’ two flats was bricked up. I had to lift a floorboard to do some wiring, and found the space, half filled with earth. So now the question is how to excavate, and what to build down there.

    But that’s all incidental. The interesting thing about the secret room trend is that the trend itself seems to be a secret. The architect didn’t know about it, the clients don’t know it. This is the trend that nobody dares discuss….

  4. To add onto what Timothy says…

    Amazon link: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

    Basically the “Kafka novel for the suburban twenty-first century” you mention, already in print.


  5. Way too cool! I’ve wanted something like this for far too long. Alas, I live in a rental. I WILL have this when I finally own!

  6. This reminds me of Gregor Schneider‘s Totes haus ur located in a cosy German suburb: “Wall in front of wall, wall behind wall, corridor in room, room in room, wall in front of floor, floor above floor, ceiling beneath ceiling, lead around room, lead in the floor, light in room, cube in front of wall, red stone behind room, black stone in wall, piece of wall in front of wall, piece of wall beneath ceiling.” This description and what photos one find on googledom don’t compare to the actual experience, or even adequately describe it, unfortunately.

    In any case, it’s worth noting that he (still?) lives in the house.

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