Odd-Shaped Niches

I was visiting friends in their new-to-them house. They’d already done a number of needed updates and improvements. All older houses need something, especially when the former owner has lived there for a handful of decades or so. One of my friends opened the pantry door and said, “Eventually we’ll shift some of this around. And there’s this.”

A waist-high, narrow, nondescript door covered something just beside the pantry door’s hinges and frame. My friend opened the little door and revealed a shallow space that would be almost invisible unless someone really looked for it.

“Shotgun cubby,” another friend stated. “A relative had one.”

The idea makes perfect sense. These houses were in the country back when they were built, and coyotes, rabid skunks, and other things posed a serious problem. As did the possibility of two-footed predators. Those who needed to know where the shotgun was would know. Other people would be distracted by the canned goods and other pantry things, and given the dimmer indoors light back then, would probably never see the shotgun cubby’s door. It’s a great concept, because what woman wouldn’t retreat toward the kitchen, a place she knew well? And intruders would probably assume that she’d go to the bedroom and the shotgun or pistol there, but the kitchen? Mostly harmless.

I’ve been in a few other houses like that, where an oddly shaped or located door reveals an excellent idea. I’d love to have a shotgun cubby, or handgun drawer, in my office. Lockable would also be good, although at the moment that’s not as great a concern as before (no small people who open things they shouldn’t.) Or it held a certain size of canned goods, one that’s not made now. I saw one kitchen that had a hundred small pegs, like cup-holders but too many of them. The home-owner, the great-granddaughter of the man who built the house, smiled and said, “Canning rings.” When not needed, the rings hung on the pegs. If you looked closely, there were differences in the distance between the rings, top to bottom, for quart and gallon sizes. As cans got used, the rings went on the pegs so they weren’t lost. Brilliant!

RedQuarters has a small door in a hallway by my office. A nondescript square with trim that matches the rest of the molding in that part of the house opens to reveal plumbing. It’s an access hatch for cleaning out a trap and checking fittings. Someone decided they didn’t want to ruin the wall and so made a nice little door instead of leaving the wall plain.

11 thoughts on “Odd-Shaped Niches

  1. The modern version is concealed compartments for guns in furniture. Unless you know its there, you’d never spot it, and they can be magnetically locked to keep the small ones out if needed. Too many to describe, but search for “concealed gun furniture”. Fun winter DIY project…

  2. Yep, those ‘odd’ little nooks are not unusual in the old country houses, and don’t forget ‘Haint’ doors!!!

    • And coffin doors at the foot of the stairs, because there’s no space to turn a corner with the coffin. (I was told that in some parts of Germany, those are also used as the wedding door. No, I don’t know why, unless it is so that any bad fortune will be waiting at the wrong entry, and the wedding party can come in without being caught.)

      • Not only at the stair landings, but in a ‘corner’ of the parlor in the old salt box houses in the north east.

  3. The only cool thing we have is that the linen closet by the bathroom has an iron pipe set across it, about six feet up.

    …eventually figured out that the older gentleman that owned it the longest couldn’t do stairs, so he slept in the sitting-room next to the bathroom, and that was his closet.

  4. One of the houses I grew up in (built in 1880) had a laundry chute, with “mysterious” little doors in the walls of the kitchen and upstairs bathroom. The chute ran all the way from cellar (where the laundry was) to attic (3rd floor). When we visited the house before my parents bought it, the then-family’s 12-year-old son demonstrated how he could climb inside it from the kitchen and squirm up and down.

    My mother later observed that everyone else in the family merrily threw all their laundry down the chute, but SHE was the one who had to carry it all back up when it was clean!

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