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Notes from an interior designer: The secret door

Posted by Richard Smith on

The joy of surprise in an interior can never be underestimated. Everyone will recognise that reaction of taking in a room when entering a new space, wherever that may be. Some might perform this discreet appraisal more politely than others, but whatever the social etiquette, the joy of seeing something surprising and unexpected reveals the inner child in all of us.





I was delighted to see such an opportunity when producing an interior design scheme for a client’s principal guest bedroom. The period details in the room were enchanting. Considering the wide, low Georgian doorway, the restored hob grate and broad pine floorboards together with the plan for the ensuite with an additional doorway, I was determined to preserve this finely balanced Georgian setting.


Secret doors, or Jib Doors Jib Secret Dooras they are known, have long graced beautiful homes and were designed to conceal the coming and going of servants, as well as in fine country houses where the symmetry of a room could be threatened by an additional doorway.

The door becomes hidden when hung flush with the wall and having no frame. Decorated to mimic the surrounding walls, the effect can be finessed by continuing cornice, skirting, shelves and ornate wallpaper across the door to trick the eye.

I have always loved the photo of Pauline de Rothschild peeking through her own jib door into her Parisian bedroom. As an example, it’s spot on and the curious amongst us might wonder what occasion she was walking in on.

Such a project is not that easy to achieve well, but with my client’s ensuite bathroom now concealed, I am glad to admit my delight was not!

To admire the door hidden discreetly within the chinoiserie wallpaper, masked by the delicate botanical motifs and flying birds, was a moment worth every hour of careful planning and careful workmanship.

It’s always lovely to surprise guests with some thoughtful gesture or gift, and what could be more enchanting than their own secret door?




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