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Humble Abode
(published in Costco Connection)
By Heather Larson

 

Steve Humble's secret rooms


HAVING SECRET chambers, hidden passageways, disappearing vaults and revolving bookcases in your home à la James Bond, Harry Potter or Indiana Jones has always seemed out of reach. Now, thanks to the ingenuity of Costco member Steve Humble, you can have these features and others installed in any room in your house.

Humble, who runs Creative Home Engineer ing in Gilbert, Arizona, says his company was the first to build covert spaces for homeowners. When he was considering starting his business, an internet search for “secret doors” didn't get any results.

“I was always fascinated by hidden passages and wanted at least one in my home someday,” says Humble. “Working in a cubicle all day as a mechanical engineer made me restless, and my thoughts turned to the possibility of building secret spaces myself like [the ones] I'd seen in spy movies.”


Getting started

To determine if he could make a living creating one-of-a-kind secret doors and rooms, Humble interviewed several builders. They all gave him positive feedback, so he found a “guinea pig” who let him test his skills.

Humble built two secret doors in this home: a classic bookcase where you pull on a book and the door opens, and a recessed wall niche that retracts when you twist a statue, which in this setting housed a gun safe.

Since that first success, in 2004, Humble and his staff of nine have created almost 600 hidden spaces. His favorites are the visually impressive builds, like a secret door disguised in a brick wall. When you push on a certain brick, the door pops out, you scan your fingerprint and then the entire wall opens up.

“Once we did a wall of bookcases big enough to drive a truck through,” he says.


A satisfied customer

When retired CIA officer John Gonzalez designed his new home, his son suggested he add a secret door in his office bookcase. Gonzalez, a Costco member in Salt Lake City, wholeheartedly endorsed the plan and hired Creative Home Engineering.

“The trigger to open the secret passageway just happens to be a book about the CIA,” says Gonzalez. “When you tilt that book, the door opens.”

Nobody would ever guess that there's a hidden door in the bookcase that leads to the master bedroom closet, Gonzalez says. At Humble's suggestion, all of the furniture—from the Frank Lloyd Wright–style wooden desk to the cabinets to the wall of bookshelves—looks the same. The wood and the styles match perfectly.

Humble and company designed the entry in their Arizona shop, then took it to Gonzalez's home and installed it.


Worldwide reach

Creative Home Engineering completes requests for homeowners and others from anyplace. “We have customers in practically every country in Europe, in China, Australia, Russia, Canada and even a royal palace in the Middle East,” says Humble. “When we don't do the installation ourselves, we supply instructions to the local builder, who does the work, but sometimes the passageways are so secret [we have to be the builder because] the homeowner doesn't want a local contractor to know about it.”

Until now, most of Humble's clients have been celebrities, CEOs and royalty with wealth and security concerns.

Making his clandestine doors, rotating walls, drawbridges and other clever home additions more affordable is one of Humble's goals. He says, “I anticipate being able to put secret doors in homes everywhere for a tenth of the cost of what we've been charging.” C

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