Come to a locked or hidden door, and you are intrigued. What's behind it. If it's green, it has inspired stories by O. Henry, H.G.Wells and A.A.Milne (Christopher Robin lives "behind a green door in another part of the Forest"). There was a hit song by Bob Davie and Marvin Moore in 1956. A closed door suggests something beyond, the start of an adventure. Like a book, it seduces you to look inside.
In Tudor days, hidden doors led to hiding places for the clergy during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A hundred years later, they gave refuge to Royalists fleeing from the Roundheads.
Today's revival is design-led, a way to include the function of a door without interfering with the design of a room.
If you did not know it, these are jib or secret doors. A true jib door is all but invisible. David Hicks installed a small, lit vitrine to his jib door adding to the deception. One of the bedrooms in Studely Castle has a trompe d'oeil framed portrait painted on the wall and continued over the door itself. In the United States, jib doors have been a design "non-feature" for years. The Oval Office of the US President has one of the worst examples. The doors have been carefully shaped to match the concave walls of the room but the eye-catching door knob makes a mockery of the concept.
A jib door pull. By depressing the tip (top right) the handle rotates allowing you to pull the door open. From the front (see picture left), you can see how elegantly discreet this is.
The elegance of a jib door is its ability to disappear like the Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat. They can lead to other rooms or passages or even conceal the presence of cupboards. To be effective, they need expert installation and painstaking decoration with invisible hinges, special flush concealed handles and automatic closing mechanisms.
Jib door accessories are available at Fulham Brass along with good advice for their installation.