Friday, October 6, 2017

Decorating With Jib Doors.......Secret Doors Hidden In Plain Sight

My first encounter with jib doors ( known only as secret doors at the time) was as I perused the pages of Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew books. I read them voraciously and it seem like there was always a hidden room behind a secret door. Remember The Hidden  Staircase? These mysterious doors have since fascinated me as they have others throughout the history of mankind. 

These wonderful portals of my childhood did actually serve a much needed purpose. European castles and palaces often had jib doors and secret passageways to provide an escape route in case of an enemy siege. Many led down to underground water sources so there would be water to drink in case of a prolonged siege. They are still stylish additions to new homes as today jib doors conceal secret entrances to what is now called panic rooms.

A jib or secret door should be nearly invisible, hardly recognized as a door as one walks past. It is usually disguised by having the same moldings or wall treatment as the surrounding wall, but door hardware is usually absent.  Also missing is the wooden casing and door frame. This is what allows the jib door to remain flush with the wall. 

The secret jib doors in this post are more the functional yet aesthetically charming old world style........the kind you read about in historical romance and mystery novels. Enjoy!!

Everybody needs a jib/secret door just in case pitchfork carrying mobs come looking for you.

Marie Antoinette understood that fact all too well. This is the jib door and secret passage in the Queen's State Bedroom at Versailles through which Marie Antoinette escaped the Parisian mob on the night of the October 5, 1789.

The President of the United States has two secret jib doors in the oval office.

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And Batman has his secret jib door too.

Here is another jib door in the Palace of Versailles. Secret doors like this have played many integral roles in history. Maybe this one was used to allow someone to hide or escape from some kind of danger or even to carry out a more sinister purpose.


Secret doors are popular features in mysteries that are staged in castles, dungeons, old mansions and haunted houses.

It is impossible to imagine historical escape stories without hidden doors and secret passageways.

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The use of moldings and wallpaper on jib doors finished them off to look like the walls and make them quite innocent looking.

Another common use for the jib or secret door was to hide people. When England was converting to Protestantism (and back to Catholicism, and back to Protestantism, etc.) in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was relatively common for well-off crypto-Catholics to hide priests in their houses. If the houses were searched, they would want the priests to be hidden, of course. So they would build priest-holes, which are secret rooms/compartments for the priests to hide in.

Jib doors and secret passageways are always a cool amenity to any house as they evoke old-world artisanship and charm. Many were covered in handpainted wallpaper and wallpaper murals.

Or in this case the jib door is covered in damask fabric to blend in with the fabric panel.

Here is an example of a jib door decorated in a grisaille wallpaper mural in the NY apartment of designer Howard Slatkin.

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Wainscoting, murals and tromp l'oeil have always been popular methods of conceling jib doors.

Many secret jib doors were created to have no visible trim or operable components. They were designed to visually to be a part of the wall. In this case even a piece of furniture was added making it very tricky to spot.

You can see the jib door in this picture of Marie Antoinette's bedroom in Le Petit Trianon.

Secret jib doors (sometimes called blind doors) were often wallpapered with an intricate pattern that provided a continuous flow to help conceal the door's location.

Chinoiserie patterned wallpaper was a great pattern for covering jib doors. The busy pattern made it especially hard to detect the secret door.

Nancy Lancaster

This jib door features a clever use of art to help in it's camouflage.

Many people still like to use jib doors as closet doors to keep the room from looking chopped up with doors and their casings.

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A large portrait of King Edward VII by Archibald Stuart Wortley cleverly disguises a pair of built-in wardrobe doors in the State Bedroom. Old Battersea House, London.

Julie Garman Interiors

Secret jib doors many times took on architectural features such as a built-in bookcase.

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Some entrances are more elaborately concealed and can be opened only by engaging a hidden mechanism or locking device.

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Old world style libraries are magical spaces to begin with and having a jib door to conceal your private little space is icing on the cake.

Robert AM Stern Architects, LLP

John Saladino

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Seems like no matter how old you get, the desire to have a secret door leading to a passageway or hidden room in your house is something you never outgrow. Wood paneling makes a perfect disguise for this hidden door.

This jib door is made from the same French boiserie covering the rest of the walls.

The more cleverly disguised the better the secret jib door is at concealment. This door features artwork and looks like the rest of the gallery walls.

This jib door with intricate moldings and maps would be especially hard to notice unless you knew it was there.

This secret door looks like part of the built-in cabinetry.

This secret door isn't a jib door but was so clever I had to add it. You would never know it wasn't part of the cabinet unit.

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Three years ago we almost bought an old house built in 1845 that had armoire doors that acted as a secret door just like this. It was so well done and deceptive that I never realized it was hiding a corridor.

Be warned !!


While it might be fun having a secret door in your home, just be careful........

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they can be dangerous!!

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer
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