The secret to hidden compartments

Updated: Mar 13, 2019

Tea caddy with drawer

Hidden drawers and secret spaces have always been a part of our nature since we could build and modify our environment. We’ll look at some notable secret places in furniture and household items, and how you can own your own hidden compartment.

example of Pennsylvania Spice Box

Spice boxes, secretary desks and blanket chests

Hidden compartments in furniture were meant to keep small important items out of site and safe, and can be found in common items, both large and small. Blanket chests, sometimes referred to as dowry or hope chests, often had false bottoms. Jewelry boxes were great places to keep that special treasure or forbidden keepsake away from curious onlookers.

Spice boxes are items from antiquity that function just as you would expect. In the 17th and 18th century, spices often came from great distances, and were often expensive. Spices were sold in small doses, and not in bottles and containers like today. Thus, a spice box came in all shapes and sizes, and had many small drawers, including secret compartments to stash away the most rare and valuable consumables. Pennsylvania spice boxes, primarily a product of Chester county in Pa. during the 1800s, were known for their craftsmanship and multitude of hidden spaces. As spices became less expensive and more abundant, the storage was used for coins, papers and jewelry items. Another known keeper of secrets is the secretary, or butlers’ desk was often a standard item in a parlor or study. Meant to keep papers, bills, stationary and writing instruments, there were often small nooks and hidden panels tucked behind decorative panels or behind a usual drawer.

Today’s secret spaces

The art of using seemingly wasted spaces in furniture continues to this day. Today’s furniture makers still use time honored methods to conceal or make use of spaces, but can make use of plastics, resins, titanium or carbon fiber as their building material. There is a specific niche of furniture makers to provide safe keeping from anything to fire resistant safes to firearms, all hidden in plain sight behind false doors, sliding panels and false bottoms.

So next time you pass by that yard sale, auction or used furniture store, there may be a secret space hiding in plain sight. If you want to own your own piece of hidden compartments, check out Neubauer Artistry’s collection of jewelry boxes, valets and keepsake boxes, or ask for a quote on your own customized stash keeper.

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