How to Build Furniture with Hidden Compartments

Secret compartments in furniture not only give you extra storage space, but they also allow you to hide precious or sensitive items. And since not every piece of furniture comes packed with hidden compartments, you might have to go the extra mile to set them up. So how can one build furniture with hidden compartments?

To build furniture with hidden compartments, you’ll first need a plan to guide you through the process. You’ll know which type of hidden compartments to set up based on your furniture design with a plan. You’ll then need to build a shallow, false bottom drawer to match the other drawers.

Still here? Awesome! Read on as we discuss the steps to follow when looking to build furniture with hidden compartments.

Steps to Observe When Building Furniture with Hidden Compartments  

Plan for the Secret Compartments

Planning for a secret compartment is arguably the most important (yet highly overlooked) part of the DIY building process. Before you start making purchases of vital tools and resources, it’s important to understand what exactly you’re after.

Do you want to modify existing furniture, say a floating shelve, and integrate a hidden compartment? Or do you prefer to build a brand-new table with hidden compartments? With several options to choose from, it’s pivotal to have a plan to guide your project.

When planning, you’ll need to take important factors like dimensions, fixtures, joinery, and even type of finish into consideration. You can choose to draw your desired complete structure manually or rely on computer programs to help you out.

Once you’ve drawn the final product’s blueprint (with secret compartments), it’s time to create your cut list. Be sure to list the right amount of lumber and sheets, depending on your project’s scope.  

Please note that there is no standard way of creating hidden compartments in furniture. Projects tend to differ based on the type of compartment and design of furniture you’re working with.

Get a Matching False Bottom

If you’re looking to integrate hidden compartments to a piece of furniture, say a drawer. You’ll need to make a false bottom.

When making a false bottom, it’s crucial to choose an ideal location that isn’t frequently accessed. For instance, when working on a drawer, you can place a hidden compartment on the second last drawer. Try as much as possible to avoid placing the hidden compartment on the bottom drawer since it usually attracts a lot of interest during searches.

You cannot afford to compromise on quality when adding a false bottom to a piece of furniture. The trick is to choose a bottom that matches the material used at the bottom of the drawers. Therefore, if the drawer bottom is made from plywood, be sure to purchase plywood from your local store.

Take the Measurements

Once you’ve gotten the plywood that resembles the bottom of your drawer, it’s time to cut it to measure. While you can cut the plywood on your own (if you have the right tools), it’s best advised to request the hardware store to custom cut the plywood for you. This is because such stores usually have accurate, high-quality equipment that cut perfect edges.

After cutting the plywood, place it on the drawer to see if it fits well. Ideally, the plywood should have a slight allowance to allow you to tinker with the dimensions before placing it on the drawer. Fine grit sandpaper is preferred to tool-cutting objects when looking to make the plywood fit perfectly.  

Support the False Bottom

When looking to add a secret compartment to furniture, it’s vital to find the right support items. While you are free to use corks, bottle tops, and other identical items, using small supports (under an inch high) is highly recommended. This is because a secret compartment should be small enough to avoid attracting unnecessary attention but still big enough to store your sensitive items.

Once you’ve found four identical supports that are under an inch high, place them on all four corners of your drawer before placing the recently customized plywood.

Lower the plywood carefully down the drawer until it rests on the four supports. If you find it hard to lower the plywood to the supports, don’t hesitate to sand it gently until the edges fit snuggly.

Place a Piece of Cloth or Layer on the Original Drawer

Since you’ll be using the new compartment between the false bottom and the original bottom, you might want to place a piece of cloth to reduce noise (due to motion) that can get your hidden supplies discovered.

Remember, as the drawers are opened, chances are the items might move if enough force is applied. Setting up a small piece of cloth or a cotton layer on the original bottom will help absorb sounds that might arise when the components are shaken or moved abruptly, thus keeping your items well-disguised.

Note this step is optional, meaning you can avoid it if the objects you intend to hide have a rubber coating or don’t make too much noise when moved.

Create an Opening Mechanism

The ideal opening mechanisms should suit the design of the furniture. For false bottom drawers, most DIY experts prefer leaving the compartments free of handles or knobs to eliminate suspicion in case of a search.

This means that to open your false bottom drawer, you’ll need to poke one corner and grasp the opposite corner once it pops up. But since there is no golden rule that governs the installation of opening mechanisms, it’s advisable to use a method that suits you best.

Tips when Looking to Build Furniture with Hidden Compartments

Think Outside the Box

Setting up hidden compartments in furniture isn’t as straightforward as most people perceive. A great compartment that isn’t well hidden won’t do you much good, hence the need to plan for secret compartments carefully.

Therefore, think about the less obvious furniture and how they can be modified to include a hidden compartment. If you’re using drawers, set up the compartment on the hard-to-access drawers.

You can also set up a hidden drawer on a floating shelf, provided you keep it small enough. Coffee tables, stools, and beds can also come in handy when looking to create hidden compartments.

Get the Measurements and Colors Right

For a compartment to remain hidden, you’ll need to get the measurements right, lest it stands out from the entire unit. An oversized or different colored false bottom can easily blow your cover. Due to this, it is highly advisable to use similar items to the ones used in the construction of your furniture.  

Use the same type of finish and handles (if needed) to ensure the hidden compartment gels in perfectly. And while you might be tempted to build an excessively large secret compartment for convenience, small compartments work best as they don’t attract unnecessary attention.  

How to Build Furniture with Hidden Compartments: Final Takeaway  

Incorporating a hidden compartment into any furniture isn’t easy, but it isn’t rocket science, either. The first step is to plan for the type of secret compartment that suits your preference. That is, do you want to build furniture with hidden compartments from scratch? Or are you more interested in integrating secret compartments in already constructed furniture?

Once you know what you want, you should proceed to your local store to get the right equipment. Remember to buy products that are identical to your furniture if you want to keep the new compartment well hidden.

Disclaimer, if you don’t have the right cutting tools to get the job done, then it’s best to outsource the wood-cutting task to experienced professionals.

Keep the hidden compartment as simple as possible to ensure it blends perfectly with the entire unit. 


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