I write mystery, so is there any wonder I have a fondness for hidden spaces/magical places? It’s the cornerstone of every project I tackle. I tend to look at things, not by what would be most practical, but with the premise, “how can I make this a magical experience?”
One of my favorite toys ever purchased for my kids were those little Polly Pockets – not the larger lanky dolls that came out afterwards, but the original little compact Polly Pockets, the ones that were the size of a finger nail that came with their own little world in a plastic box. Open the compact, and then you could expect three surprises in each little doll’s world – a swinging door, a slide, a secret compartment, etc. within the compact. It made a pretty cheap thrill, a plastic thing that probably cost pennies to produce, but somehow, it took on magical properties in that it provided a sort of scavenger hunt to uncover the hidden bits and bobs within. (And holy wow, they’re worth a fortune now. Guess I should have saved them.) I loved whenever we found another one at a yard sale or thrift store. It was like opening an I Spy book…
I love that rule of three that should be a staple of design. It’s in each I Spy Book. The I Spy Spooky Night and Can You See What I See On a Scary Scary Night Halloween themed books are probably among my favorite. The goal is to find the list of hidden objects in each image, but around that, there are 1) surprises in the photography – items used in unusual ways, 2) a recurrent object in each picture, and 3) a hidden story that beautiful color photographs depict. They are all about playing mind tricks through perspective.
So when I found a need to reach an awkwardly placed bedroom in our home, the obvious solution was to install a staircase solely for accessing that room. But this staircase needed to be unique, in that it had to fit in a very tight space. So how about a unique design I once saw in an old, antebellum house? An alternating staircase. (Psht. Building codes are for rule followers.) And what if I made the handrails into bookshelves? And trifecta, what if I installed books shelves under each tread? Bibbidy, bobbidy, book!
Basically, the design involves building a half tread on alternating sides. Each tread falls at double the height of a usual stair tread, requiring one to always lead with their right foot. It climbs at a rise:run ratio that is double:half of a normal staircase, thus, requiring half the space of a typical staircase. Whoever came up with the design was brilliant… and probably very nimble. The first one I saw when touring a home for potential purchase, I knew it was a magical place, (and possibly haunted. 🙂
In keeping with that theme of magical spaces, hidden places, I think my next few blog posts will explore some of those secret cubbies throughout my house and yard.
And the alternating staircase? Well, sadly, it was sold along with that house, but I still dream of possibly installing another one here, in our forever home. Until then, I’ll just look back fondly on that deathtrap staircase… and plot my next hidden space, magical place.
So I hope you join me next week for a tour of another favorite magical corner of my life, and I would love to hear about the magical spaces in your home! Until then,…
…read a book! Make some art!