You are *in* your birthday present
August 9, 2014 2:15 AM   Subscribe

Best birthday gift ever: the secret treasure room.
posted by MartinWisse (37 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Class. I'm not surprised the lad was excited, stories of secret rooms and passages in houses are like catnip for kids.
posted by marienbad at 2:26 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you kidding, marienbad? They're catnip for anyone who is alive.
posted by ZaneJ. at 3:23 AM on August 9, 2014 [35 favorites]

In my childhood home the laundry-chute was the closest I got to secret room/passage and it was awesome every time we played hide&seek. So yes, catnip for everyone.
posted by dabitch at 3:30 AM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have a birthday coming up and now I know exactly what I want.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:31 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by lazycomputerkids at 3:32 AM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's so great that they kept it a surprise! It makes me think of dreams I've had about childhood home suddenly having other rooms.
posted by marimeko at 4:39 AM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Dang, I really need a cash windfall right now to spend on remodeling!

My apartment is large and rambling and there's a windowless box room we use for storage, about 8' x 6'. The interesting bit is, it has a weird wedge-shaped vestibule at one end, with a door to the corridor ... it's about 2' deep, with shelving on two walls and a door frame on the other side leading into the room proper. I need to get a contractor in to overhaul the room, then build a fake set of shelves that open to conceal the room proper. That way, the corridor door will seem to open on a storage closet (not the only one in the apartment) unless you know about the secret door.

Got the home. Got a suitable room for conversion into a secret den. Got everything except the tuits to do the conversion ...
posted by cstross at 4:55 AM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Build a secret room with a planning table and a big map on the wall? I always wondered how people raised their kids to be Bond villains.
posted by grajohnt at 5:06 AM on August 9, 2014 [42 favorites]

Don't forget the box of disguises in there, as well.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:08 AM on August 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

When I was a kid, my grandparents had a closet in the living room and a closet in the bedroom that were the same closet. I suppose it may have been designed as a short, narrow corridor for some reason but by the time I was around it had racks for clothes hangers and hooks for jackets and floor space for lots of shoes that one wondering, mystified four-year-old would constantly crawl through. The idea that you could enter a clothes closet in one room and leave it in another was to me like a sort of cut-rate Narnia.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:49 AM on August 9, 2014 [25 favorites]

Love the idea, and I wish we had such a room for Fleebnork Jr.

Having to push the dresser out of the way seems a bit clumsy, though. A piano hinge could be attached so it would swing neatly out of the way. I suppose they didn't want to damage their furniture.

A small child pushing a dresser around seems like a recipe for accidents.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:56 AM on August 9, 2014

That project is made of squeee and cat videos. Well done.
posted by localroger at 6:40 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Generally, when I hear of secret rooms in houses, they aren't there for kids to play in.
They are there to hide away people who have been kidnapped, and held against their will.
They would have been better off to turn it into a safe-room, fully electronic, and bullet-proof.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 6:48 AM on August 9, 2014

My great-grandmother's house had originally been a duplex and so, weirdly, had a small door connecting the closets of two bedrooms that had been at the far end of the duplex homes. Since the two sides of the house were connected only way back on the other end, that you could mysteriously pop over to the other side was really cool, from a kid's perspective. This is actually a childhood memory I have in common with my mother and her sisters -- they, too, as children enjoyed that secret door. The only problem was that I wasn't really supposed to be in my great-grandparent's bedroom, especially their bedroom closet.

It seems like parents really dote on their children these days, so maybe this is very passe by today's standards, but one of the best gifts I ever got from my parents was the birthday when, while I was out of town visiting relatives, they completely redecorated my room in my favorite color, dark red. They didn't paint it (that would be going too far), but they put in red carpet and red curtains and red valences, including for the huge sliding-glass door that took up much of one wall. And a red bedspread and pillowcases, all matching. It was just All Red. I was eight. It made me very happy.

Years later, when I was in high school, I became good friends with a guy whose family moved into that house and that room was his bedroom. The red carpet and valences remained. That was sort of weird.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:10 AM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh man, when she recounted the reveal... onions, I tells ya. Onions.

Or I'm just a big softie.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:49 AM on August 9, 2014

Probably best that they did it this way. I don't think a 4 year old should be going into John Malkovich's brain.
posted by ecorrocio at 8:22 AM on August 9, 2014

We have exactly the same thing under the eaves in our house, a little half-height triangular storage closet under the roof, with the teeny door into my sons' bedroom. It's not insulated and it's full of random luggage, but every now and then I think about doing basically exactly this, turning it into a little reading nook where they can hide away. I have no idea how much it would cost, though. Probably a lot since there's no insulation or finishing at all.

I content myself with the secret tunnel I made them in the back yard.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:53 AM on August 9, 2014

They would have been better off to turn it into a safe-room, fully electronic, and bullet-proof.

Odds are that it'll get far more use as a play room than a panic room and the kid will grow up without an underlying air of nervousness.
posted by arcticseal at 9:06 AM on August 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

I don't think they left the dresser in front of the door, Fleebnork. It was just to hide the existence of the room prior to the big reveal.
posted by purenitrous at 9:06 AM on August 9, 2014

Eyebrows, DIY insulation and finishing is really not that difficult. You can even do everything but the mudding (many people say that is the hardest/worst part) and only pay someone to do that part, which isn't too bad.

I say this as a completely unhandy human (unless it has a logic board). We finished a few rooms and only paid so someone to mud and it was very affordable. Can cut your costs by 50% easy.

You should go for it!
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:08 AM on August 9, 2014

isn't that the room where the ghosts live?
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:18 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

They would have been better off to turn it into a safe-room, fully electronic, and bullet-proof.

I'm glad I don't live in that worldview.
posted by absalom at 9:29 AM on August 9, 2014 [13 favorites]

The only way that could be better is... no reveal. Just set it up and wait for The Boy to actually discover it on his own. If he hasn't discovered it yet, maybe go in once a year or so and redecorate based on The Boy's current interests.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:46 AM on August 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is fantastic and adorable!

I actually got the same present for my sixth birthday. It wasn't a secret room, but it was a spare/junk room that was only occasionally used, while I shared a bedroom with my two younger brothers. Two of us had bunk beds, while the littlest one slept in a crib; it was a bit crowded, but we didn't know any different. A few weeks before my birthday, our parents told us we weren't allowed in that room any more, which we took pretty much in stride. Then on the day itself, they let me in and announced that it was my new room!

They'd painted the walls pink, moved in a bookcase, a desk with a rolling top and a chair to go with it, and bought me new bedcovers to fit the adult-size bed. It was like a fairyland -- and to top things off, there was a big cage with a hamster inside it! I named him Hammy, of course. "Since you stay up all night reading, we thought we'd get you a nocturnal animal for company," my mum said.

It was a wonderful surprise, which had almost been wrecked by my youngest brother a couple of days before. He'd snuck into the room, seen the hamster and run around the house in a state of high excitment, crying, "There's a dahdo in the spare room!" -- 'dahdo' being his word for 'creature'. Luckily, my other brother and I, superior older siblings both, hadn't taken him at his word.
posted by daisyk at 10:35 AM on August 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

My first room in grad school (which was mostly a nightmare because of the roomies, each terrible in their own distinct way) had one of these. It was an attic room, with the remainder of the roof off to the left side, used for storage, accessible through a half-height door.

Friends of mine had lived in the house during undergrad, and had actually named the area "Narnia". When they moved in, it had been painted with mushrooms and swirls in psychedelic colors, and had tie dyed curtains hung up in it.

When I moved in I found a mattress and a crate up there, and it didn't smell great. I asked the landlord, and he said that he had suspected that a vagrant had made a room there during unoccupied summer months, but he hadn't gotten around to removing the bedding.

One of the few benefits of the room (and it's a marginal benefit) was that it was poorly insulated, and stayed around 40 degrees in the winter months. I put 30s of beer in there, and used it as a walk-in cooler, which meant that I didn't have to worry about my beer being drank during the "ragers" (their words) that my idiot roommates threw every weekend.

Anyway, I'm glad to see such a place inspiring childlike wonderment. Great parents.
posted by codacorolla at 10:46 AM on August 9, 2014

The only way that could be better is... no reveal. Just set it up and wait for The Boy to actually discover it on his own. If he hasn't discovered it yet, maybe go in once a year or so and redecorate based on The Boy's current interests.

Even better, don't ever celebrate his birthday. No presents. No parties. When he finally one day uncovers the entrance the room will contain a row of rotting, moldy cakes, one for each year he failed to discover it. And a single card, handwriting still visible beneath the thin layer of dust: "Happy belated birthdays, child."
posted by nobody at 10:47 AM on August 9, 2014 [11 favorites]

Reminds me of the AskMe from a year ago, about books for a secret room like this (I guess for slightly older kids - so no discovery anecdotes yet...). Here are pictures of it.
posted by progosk at 2:34 PM on August 9, 2014

I honestly can't decide if I think these are the coolest parents ever or if I am deeply worried about any parents who would raise their 4-year-old to carefully call them "Mother" and "Father".
posted by jacquilynne at 3:51 PM on August 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

Dad built us boys a secret room, (a piece of carpeted plywood in the rafters) with a wall-papered over door panel that opened with a spring when you unscrewed the latch with a penny. We kept it a secret from my sisters for two years. I don't think my mother knew about it at first either.

It was dark, hot and itchy from the exposed insulation, but it was the coolest thing for us. It was a good bonding thing for my brother and I, to have a place in the home that was just ours.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:40 PM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am deeply worried about any parents who would raise their 4-year-old to carefully call them "Mother" and "Father".

As with the robots from Hell phrase "The Boy" I am confident this is more an example of bad writing than bad parentage.
posted by localroger at 5:48 PM on August 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I also refer to my offspring as Boy. I'm very careful never to use his real name on the internet.
posted by dejah420 at 11:00 PM on August 9, 2014

Oh goodness, I'm so relieved someone else was squicked out by 'father' and 'mother'! I seriously hope it's a kind of blog-speak and not the way an actual child refers to their parents.
posted by nerdfish at 4:34 AM on August 10, 2014

Projecting all sorts of thing onto people you know almost nothing about on the basis of which commonly-used terms are used between children and parents is so parochial and wrong-headed that it's tempting to read it as satire.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:50 AM on August 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

It was just a thing that struck me as weird about the entry. I was reading it and there were these super cool parents who would secretly build their kid a secret room and that's awesome but then his excitement is so unusually formal. I found the disconnect between the two images remarkable, and thus, I remarked upon it. Snarkily, I admit, but I didn't psychoanalyze them any more deeply than the comment I posted, so I'm not sure what you think I'm "projecting" exactly.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:00 AM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

"...but then his excitement is so unusually formal."

It seems "unusually formal" to you. That doesn't mean that it is.

I've observed a lot of variation in the US about this, variation that doesn't correspond in any reliable way with the family dynamics that you are inferring. Sometimes it does; most often, though, it doesn't. And phrases like "deeply worried about any parents who would raise..." and "squicked out" are pretty heavily-loaded.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:37 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've never heard a child of that age address their parents directly as mother and father so I think can safely conclude that at least among people I know, it is unusually formal. I'm really not inferring much past that. I was just being snarky with my comment, as I said - I don't really think these are secretly horrible people.

If they ever install manacles in that secret room, though...
posted by jacquilynne at 7:27 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree the Mother and Father stuff seemed off. I was giving it a bit of a side-eye myself, despite loving the concept of a secret treasure room. The formal address used by the boy felt like it came from another time and place, like something straight out of Dickens.

Of course, it could just be that I am personally not acquainted with this sort of youngster, and in fact little chimney sweeps with perfect diction are all over the place, demanding second helpings of porridge in dulcet tones, and I, secure in my twenty-first century privilege and not overly fond of porridge in any event, never noticed they were there.

Possibly someone else, more worthy than I, was upon reading this immediately reminded of a certain ruddy-cheeked urchin selling newspapers on a street corner most days from dusk til dawn [on Sundays, in the quaint little village church up the hill, a clear voice, sweet as an angel's, lilts over the valley; the boy, his tiny frame engulfed in (spotlessly clean, tirelessly mended but nonetheless well-worn and rather faded now) choir robes, has traded in his headlines for hymns and homilies].
posted by misha at 12:29 AM on August 12, 2014

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