Built-In Bookcases and Mantel Surround #4: Possibly adding a drawer, or discreet compartment?

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Blog entry by Jonathan posted 06-12-2010 04:54 PM 1508 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: MDF prices are soaring! (Or maybe it's the riftsawn white oak veneer on top of that MDF?) Part 4 of Built-In Bookcases and Mantel Surround series Part 5: Joinery Woes, With a Potential Solution. »

Before I address the title of this blog entry, I must back up a bit here. I have not been working on the bookcases and mantel for several weeks because near the end of May, my grandfather became very ill and passed away on June 1st. Our family left town at the end of last weekend after the service was held. In the midst of all this turmoil, several sections of our back fence blew over during some 50-60mph winds. We were going to replace this fence either later this fall, or possibly next spring, as this was the last bit of old fence in the yard, which was at least 35-years old, according to one of our neighbors.

However, when the fence blew over, my wife and me agreed that it had to take priority over other projects we had either started (such as the bookcases and mantel), or projects we were going to start, such as painting a couple of rooms inside and finishing up painting the outside of the house, laying a 300+square foot paver brick patio out back, and a couple other smaller projects around the house.

Now that I’ve caught you up-to-speed, I wanted to take a few minutes and update the progress of the bookcases and mantel. I can only do this because it started raining last night and is going to continue raining through the course of the weekend. I should be working on the fence, but it’s kind of hard to dig holes in mud, or get concrete to set-up in the midst of the rain. So it’s back to some indoor work, and honestly I think I need to relax a little bit as I’m feeling run down from the last several weeks.

As you’ve guessed from the above paragraphs, no physical progress has been made on the bookcases and mantel since my last blog entry. We have been talking about possibly modifying the design ever so slightly of the bookcases to include an extra storage compartment on either one, or both bookcases.

There will be a 4-5” tall section that is about 3-feet wide below the bottom shelf on each bookcase that is essentially vacant space. It’s the area below the shelf and behind the front trim. And as we actually like to use our woodburning stove during the winter time, I’m thinking this area would be well-suited as a small storage nook for a few newspapers, leather gloves, the nylon wood tote, and a lighter. We normally keep this stuff next to the fireplace, either in, underneath, or around the little metal wood bin. All this stuff clutters the room up though. However, the vacant space at the bottom of the bookcases seems like a prime opportunity to remove these none-too-aesthetically-pleasing items from the floor, by incorporating either a drawer at the bottom of the bookcases, or a hidden nook accessed via a hinged door that opens towards the fireplace like a wide, but very short door.

Herein lies a bit of a design dilemma: At this point, the bookcases will not stick out as far as the pillars at each end of the mantel. The pillars will protrude farther into the room than the bookcases. The obvious choice here would be to add a simple pull or knob to the door/trim strip to open the compartment. But in so doing, there would be an awkward, broken line along the bottom of the trim. Your eye would gravitate to this knob, as it would certainly appear out of place within the overall design.

The other option would be to turn this vacant space into a sliding drawer. In so doing, I’d be significantly reducing the useable space of the compartment, which is fairly small to start with. However, this might make it easier to access the contents, rather than having to fish out invidividual items from a dark, floor-level, recessed nook. This would allow for the addition of a knob or drawer pull at the center of the trim and would look more visually “correct” to the eye than the other option above.

While typing all this out, I just thought of a third option: I could still go with the idea of having a hinged, but hidden front door that opens toward the fireplace without adding a pull to it. I could simply build the door wider and tie it in to the bottom of each pillar. Think about it this way, it would be a door that has 3-pieces to it to include the bottom of the bookcase trim strip, then 2-of-the-3-sides of the mantel pillar trim strip. And on the inside edge of each pillar, I could route out a small finger slot. This would produce a visual break in the trim, but it might not be as noticeable as putting a handle on each side as I listed in the first option above.

Each 3-sided section would swing out into the room as 1-unit or door, with the hinge side being along the outside wall… the left side would have the hinge at the left, and the right side would have the hinge at the right.

I would also need to leave a small gap at the bottom so the door doesn’t make contact with the wood floors as the door is opened, maybe 1/16-inch, or so. I haven’t gotten out a straightedge and run it along the floor in the areas the doors would swing out into to see how level (or not) the floor is on either side of the fireplace. The gap might be able to be smaller, or it might need to be bigger.

I wish I had an actual plan I could show you, but everything is in my head at this point.

I hope you can roughly visualize what I’m talking about. Please let me know if you need clarification on any of this.

What are your thoughts, recommendations, etc. regarding this possible addition of either a door, or drawer? The carcasses have not been built yet, so I can easily modify the design at this point. I just have the carcass frame pieces rough-cut to size, but not assembled.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

5 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#1 posted 06-12-2010 05:00 PM

I’m sorry for you loss . Photos would be a great aid in helping you work this out.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3050 days

#2 posted 06-12-2010 05:07 PM

I tried to do a quick “drawing” using characters from the keyboard, but couldn’t get it to line-up. I might be able to do a couple rough sketches and then take a picture of them and post that. I think I did post a couple of pictures of the mock-up carcass in a previous blog entry, but they might not be of much help.

I will see if I can take some pictures of the area in question and hopefully that will help.

Thank you for your condolences.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3050 days

#3 posted 06-13-2010 04:52 PM

I will definitely be using some sort of a door at the bottom of the bookcase for the hidden area as my wife said she doesn’t want a drawer down there. She did say that maybe a little tote bin or two that can be taken out, would be a welcome addition. Now I just need to find little rollers or wheels to attach these bins. So then, a door it will be!

I can’t believe I forgot to mention this as an option, but while my wife and me were discussing the design of the bookcases yesterday, an option I had thought of long ago came back to mind.

It would include keeping the space underneath the bottom shelf as a storage area and would still be accessed via a door, rather than building a drawer there. It would be secured via a magnetic latch/hinge and would either have two hinges on one side to open like a regular door does (side-to-side), or it would be similar to the old school one-piece garage doors where it would have a hinge on the left and a hinge on the right and then it would swing out and up. I’m just not sure how to effectively implement the swing-up type without using a handle.

The positive side on the first option is that the magnetic catch/latch would easily work for this. The negative side of the first option is that the door has to swing out into the room quite a distance.

The positive side on the second option that swings out and up is that it will not travel very far out into the room, allowing for furniture to be placed close by. The negative side of the second option is that I’m trying to figure out how or if I can use the magnetic latch/catch on this so there is no visible hardware since we want the bottom to basically look like a normal piece of trim strip.

I will be going to Rockler today to pick up one or two things and will also be looking at the various hinges and closure mechanisms to see what I can come up with.

I will also make sure to get a couple of pictures up on this posting about the area in question. As a sidenote, we might also raise the bottom shelf up another inch or two as we’ve decided to not carry the trim from the adjoining wall around the bottom of the bookcases (at least at this point). So, that will allow a bit more room underneath for the above-mentioned bins.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

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2608 posts in 3050 days

#4 posted 06-14-2010 06:14 PM

I have taken a picture or two of the area in question for the compartment underneath the bookcases. All of these images are of the righthand bookcase carcass. The pictures basically capture the bottom shelf area of the bookcase. The open area above the floor, but below the shelf that the magazine is on is the area in question. Keep in mind, this is just the mock-up, and the final bookcase may have a bit more height to this underneath storage space by 1-2”, but this should give you an idea of what I’m referring to:

bookcase floor storage 1

bookcase floor storage 2

I also went to Rockler yesterday to look at hinges and/or catches. I did find a hinge that Salice makes that is self-opening: I think this would work to at least get the trim piece to pop open. It would definitely be adequate for the task if I have the trim piece open like a door, from side-to-side. However, I would really like the trim piece to open like the old style one piece garage doors where it swings out and up. I think the Salice hinge would still work for that, but it obviously is only going to pop it open, then the trim piece will have to be held up by hand, or some sort of support. Ultimately, I’d like to find a hinge that opens by pushing it like the one above, but that also stays open at 90+degrees so the nook can be accessed without having to hold up the trim piece.

Keep in mind that this “trim piece” is going to be RS white oak hardwood. However, I can make it fairly thin to cut down on the weight. I’ll be starting with 4/4 stock, but can thin it out quite a bit (don’t have a planer, but have access to an old jointer that will accept anything up to 6” I think). There will be a faceframe and doors directly above this trim piece, so keep that in mind as well.

I hope this posting shines a bit more light on what exactly I’m hoping to accomplish.

Your thoughts and input, whether on design, construction, or hardware are certainly all welcome here.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3050 days

#5 posted 06-14-2010 06:22 PM

Would something like this hinge work? I just found it:

Or what about this one?:

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

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