From secret rooms only accessible through the opening of a play slide, to a tiled room with no windows, construction workers share the most bizarre thing they had to build in a client's home.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
"I am a contractor. I built a nightclub in a guy's basement that had a $250,000 commercial sound system and a full-blown nightclub lighting and video rig.
Also, an underground waterfall flowed down behind the DJ Booth from the main entry, driveway water feature.
The whole thing was in glossy black marble, with a bar kitted out with commercial appliances.
Total fit-out cost would have been north of $750,000.
The first time it was used, was the owner's 15-year-old daughter's birthday party."
"I'm an architect. I once worked at an office that designed houses for the mega-rich. We did a project for a Russian oligarch once who requested a room with no windows in his basement that was empty for an unspecified use. Normally, we also populate rooms with furniture, depending on how the room will be used, so it was already weird to leave it empty. This room - by his request - had only a water outlet for a hosepipe, was all tiled so that it could be hosed down, and had a drain in the middle of the floor.
I didn't work there much longer after that."
"I did carpentry and tile for a year. We installed a panic room for a gentleman, happened to be named Kennedy, and also worked for the Department of Defense. I thought these were all weird coincidences. What we did was put a doorway in the back of their bedroom closet, this led to an enormous area of unused space above their garage. We framed and drywalled this space and turned it into a walk-in 'closet' with a trap door in the floor that released into the ceiling of the garage. This was a fun project but had a panic room feel to it the whole time. They had K's all over their house. For Kennedy. Weird."
"I did a lot of tear down work on older houses. It was surprising how many had secret doors and hidden rooms. You know those window seats with a storage area inside some are connected to the seat in the next room so you could just crawl through. Also found a lot of rooms or spaces that had been walled up, some big enough to be bedrooms, but often only about closet size. The best was a hidden door opening to a stairway leading to the second flood servant's quarters over the garage also a secret door on that end."
Shutterstock/ Beyond Time
"The 'dressing' room, which made sense as it had huge closets and a table with one of those make-up mirrors surrounded by lights. A door off this room led to a full bath, which had a second door leading to another bedroom. In the (first) door was a 'one-way' mirror so that someone could look from the dressing room into the bath, but from the bath side of the door, it would be a mirror. Good for seeing if the bathroom was occupied, but also for viewing someone stepping out if the shower."
"Years ago, I installed a kitchen in a house for an older couple. While we were there, they showed us their 'playroom.'
It was a huge room set up for his toy train sets that go in a circuit around a central platform stage area for karaoke. It was impressive."
"I hung a $10,000 Swarovski crystal chandelier in Papa John's house. It was even motorized so it could be raised and lowered for cleaning and service.
I swear his basement looked like a 15th-Century dungeon.
I also worked on an old house that was built by the Bingham family of publishing fame. Part of the basement had a dirt floor with two tombstones."
"When traveling, we visited my wife's aunt who had been widowed by her electrician husband. Our first hint that the house was strange was that the doorbell was a large red button like you'd find on an industrial machine. It was weird considering this was a typical middle-class bungalow in Calgary.
Once inside, we asked the aunt about the button and she started showing us other odd electrical setups, several that she did not know how to work properly. There were drawers you had to open to get light switches to work. There was a large industrial panel near the front door with about 20 buttons on it that controlled different things in the house. There were microswitches hidden all over the place.
By far the strangest thing though was the master bedroom. It housed a large circular water bed and the walls were covered with four-inch-tall shaggy fur. Hidden inside the fur were many tiny switches that controlled things such as spotlights or a radio."
Shutterstock/ ALPA PROD
"The company I did work for installed vinyl siding, windows and metal roofs on new construction and remodels. We had just finished installing vinyl on this blind man's house, and he said he wanted to inspect it. So we kind of laughed to ourselves as he was walking around outside with his walking stick, when he said, 'You guys aren't done. There is a piece unlocked.' And we were like, 'What?' He walked right up to the only piece of vinyl that wasn't completely 'locked,' and pulled that sucker off the wall."
Shutterstock / Saaras
"My dad is a contractor. A few years ago, he came home from work one day pissed off. He was working on a wealthy Chicago businessman's second-weekend lake house in Springfield, Illinois. He was installing wood floors in the upstairs and came across the most beautiful wood furniture piece he had ever seen in his life. He asked the homeowner about it. The piece was a huge armoire from 14th-Century France. It had been in museums but had been sold and now this guy had it. It had ornate vines and flowers carved all over the surface.
What had my dad so mad was that the guy had paid to have it stripped and refinished, shelves mounted in it, and holes drilled into the back (for power cables).
He had turned it into the world's most expensive TV stand. In a bedroom. In a house, he occupied no more than 10 days a year."
"A client requested two bathrooms from one bathroom because 'I can't stand sharing a bathroom with my husband and his smelly morning routine.'
They are at this house maybe three months a year. The original bathroom was somewhere in the $35,000 range. The new bathrooms were close to $90,000. The tile guy decided to buff the polished marble floors with a car polishing compound which dulled the whole thing.
We are also currently doing a hidden weapon storage room. It will have a flush door inset in a paneled wall."
"One of my first jobs was painting the insides of houses with my brother-in-law's company. We had this one guy who had a nice house. He was single, lived alone and wealthy. We painted his house every year. The same colors. The majority of the house was all one color and each of his bedrooms was a different color.
The color of the main part of the house was Mauve Blush. I'll never forget that color as long as I live. It was a horrid dark Pepto Bismol color and his ceilings and trim had to be Cream. I have no idea why anyone would want that color let alone a single guy. One bedroom was bright turquoise blue, one lavender, and the other seafoam green. He just loved it though."
"I've been painting houses since I was 15, two of which had secret rooms. One was a room behind a bookcase for the kids' playroom. The second was in a millionaire's summer home. On the fourth floor of the house, there was a closet on the same wall as the elevator. A section of drywall came away and lead to behind the elevator. There was a wooden ladder that went up and down the entire house, at the very top was a trap door that led to a small room that was about six feet by six feet. It had windows and vents that could be opened or sealed completely."
"I built a Narnia closet for someone. Their daughter had one request for the new house: she had a built-in armoire, white and modern looking with nice shelving units on the right side and a bigger opening on the left. However, when you pushed the back of the left, closet side, it opened up into an actual closet that was about five feet by ten feet on the inside; not too shabby at all. It was a fun build, albeit somewhat challenging."
Shutterstock/ Roman Samborskyi
"I was a custom interior carpenter and I worked on two secret rooms. One was a bookcase that opened up into a large storage area.
The other was a hidden room behind their adult beverage cellar. We installed a custom adult beverage rack on a piano hinge, with a latch in the space behind one of the bottles. In the room, they installed a safe and a weapon safe. All of the electronics for the house lived down there, as well as a panel that opened up into the main living room, in case you wanted to shoot an intruder from the safe room.
Adult beverage, weapons, and safety all in one place. I guess what I'm saying is that I know where I'm going when the zombies come."
Shutterstock/ Marian Weyo
"I'm an architect. I just finished designing a home where the client LOVED their cats. And I mean loved. They wanted a room dedicated to cat feeding. Also in this room was a narrow, cat-sized ramp that led into a basement room dedicated to litter boxes.
It didn't occur to me until long after the drawings were done that this looked like a food chute into an otherwise isolated, windowless basement room.
(Yes, there was a door into the litter room for the changing of the litter boxes.)"
Shutterstock/ Olena Zaskochenko
"A lady wanted a headboard built into the wall in her second-floor master bedroom. After some preliminary layouts were made, she came up and asked if it was too late to make a small change. She wanted the center of the headboard to have a door accessing some unfinished attic space above her garage. She said that if someone came to get her in the middle of the night, she wanted to be able to slip into the attic space, then out through the garage. The end product was a person-sized mail slot at the top of her bed. Funny thing, she was a bit of a hoarder, so the garage was filled with junk. If she didn't drown in that getting to the narrow passage that ran along the garage door, she wouldn't have been able to lift the door, as she readily admitted it was too heavy for her to lift."
"A fairly wealthy friend of my dad bought this historic house in the city center (built in the 18th Century, renovated half a dozen times for several different purposes and now converted into a two-bedroom house with two bathrooms and six or seven other rooms) and wanted a secret office. One of the smallest rooms was connected to another room of roughly the same size by a narrow corridor that led nowhere else, with no doors. The owner decided to use the first room, the one connected to the rest of the house, as a closet room (I don't know the technical term for it in English) so that the wood panels that usually support the shelves and the drawers would also hide the access to the corridor that led to the secret room. The room itself we furnished in a breeze: a desk, a single office chair, two containers with drawers on wheels, and a safe.
The closet room was a nightmare. Everything was custom, and we had to come up with a system to make the panel that covered the access to the corridor mobile. Of course, the mobile panel didn't have the space to slide on a rail, so we had to cut the first panel to size, stick it to the wall just above the opening and cover that and the opening itself with another detachable panel with some shelf modules attached to it. Just to give you a better picture, the guy has to manually detach a 30kg panel to access his secret room. He cannot place the module back from inside the corridor, so he has this huge wooden slab with moving parts to leave around if he ever wants to access his office, and putting the main panel back is an absolute pain. Not to mention the fact that you can tell that there's an empty space behind the prop panel if you inspect the seam between it and the real panel next to it. But hey, the guy wanted a secret office."
"The most fun I had on a project was a custom build for a rich country guy who had an architect design his home from scratch. Because of a quirk in the building, there was about a small space off to the side of a loft, which he made into a secret playroom for his kids. Drywalling it was a hassle, but he had the interior painted in pastel colors and put images of cartoon characters on the walls. The best part was that the door was totally a bookshelf activated by a special 'book.' I am sure it was the 'Jungle Book,' but I never saw the actual cover he put on it, that was just the rumor going around with the boys."
"I had a lonely old German widow get her entire house switched over to tile flooring. She kept saying she didn't like it even though it had been done exactly how she asked and had us rip the entire thing out and do it all over again multiple times. She paid every time, so I think she just got used to having men working in her house and didn't want us to finish and leave her back to her lonely life. She had almost her entire house walls covered in large mirrors, and she used to own a circus, so there was a circus performer and who lived in a trailer on her property who would do weird balancing acts for us. They had all kinds of circus machinery lying around the property. It was an odd place. We were there for months on a job that should have been a couple weeks."
"When I was 19, I worked construction being a helper on this multi-million dollar house here in south Texas. The house was awesome. It had a panic room in the center of the house that you would get either from behind this tie rack in his walk-in closet or by a spiral staircase down that attached to his kids' bedrooms. The panic room had a massive safe door and surrounded by concrete full of security cameras that he had around the perimeter and a ton of weapons around the room. The guy also had hidden pals in his library that would probably be used for like a wad of cash or something I suppose. I doubt that he did this for illegal narcotics reasons because he was the co-owner of a telephone company that serviced the town he lived in and the one over."
"I work at a contracting company as an administrator. We had this house that was discussed and legendary around the office. Mainly because while our subcontractors were doing work, the family insisted one employee from our company be present at all times with the subcontractors and family. And not a project manager, but one office employee. So lots of our administration met them. The family had weird pasty-pale kids who ran around like Donnie Thornberry all wild and dirty.
The house was historic and the woman who owned it wanted everything done historically accurate. Which is fine, but some 'historic' methods are not necessary to keep a house as historic. For instance, she wanted the walls PLASTERED not drywalled. We tried to convince her to do drywall but she insisted on plaster.
The creepiest thing though was all the closets had these pre-existing tiny doors in them. They were maybe two-feet-tall and were all around the house in the closets that connected to little tunnels. You can imagine the number of theories we came up with about those."
"I spent a few glorious years as a project manager in the greater Seattle area working high-end residential remodel and new construction. Putting a hidden or hard to find small safe was commonplace. Never did a safe room (aside from basement storm shelters when I worked in the Midwest). We installed a hidden passage once, but it wasn't a secret; every single person that has ever stepped in that house has been shown and then used the secret passage. Lastly, I have a couple of friends that I've helped with their last few houses and they like to squeeze every bit of sleeping space out of a house, so you can find twin beds stuffed into little custom alcoves all over the house. Never any wasted space in one of their houses."
"We have a family friend who is a builder, and built his own house (obviously). I haven't been over to his house in a while, but last time I was there, they were still finishing it. Their house is seven stories, has elevators, a full-size basketball court (indoors), several kitchens and living rooms, a huge theater room, an apartment that is attached with its own kitchen, living room, dining room, and four bedrooms, and the main house has countless bedrooms and other multipurpose rooms. The house is ginormous.
The coolest part is the house has those McDonald's slides in it. There are two of these slides. One goes from the top floor to the bottom, and one goes from the top floor to ground level. In the biggest one, however, there is a secret passage, that's kind of hard to get to. When the slide gets to its steepest point, you have to brace yourself against the walls so you stop. If you can, the slide actually has a tunnel to the side that you can take. When you go through that secret tunnel, it takes you to a secret balcony in their in-home theater, with a fridge and chairs and stuff. It's a pain in the butt to get to, but it's cool.
They have a few other hidden rooms, but unfortunately, the guy who owned the house wouldn't tell us where. He said we had to find them on our own. Every time I was there, I spent the entire time knocking on walls, inspecting bookshelves, etc."
"My dad was a building inspector in an affluent town for many years. You had your standard crazy stuff (20,000-square-foot houses, ripping out a year-old kitchen because the homeowner was 'tired' of it, nine-car garages, etc.).
He's been gone many years now, but I remember these two stories.
1) A couple is renovating a master bathroom. My dad goes to inspect the rough-in plumbing and asks the contractor why he ran pipes for two tubs. Ends up the second tub was for the couple's dog. And, when my dad went to do the final inspection, it was marble and had brass fixtures. Some dogs live the life.
2) A rich businessman owns two houses on a corner lot. They're each on an acre, so they're far apart and one faces one street and the other another street. Pretty normal, nice colonial houses. Ends up there was a TUNNEL put in connecting the two houses. Guy had his wife and family in one and his MISTRESS in the other, and he wanted to go back and forth between the two houses without the neighbors seeing it."