Friday, May 6, 2011

Concealed Doors: Gunnebo

In Christina Hall's bedchamber, the concealed door allows a strict accordance of Neoclassical symmetry.
The Devoted Classicist loves traditional architectural features and concealed doors are high on the list of contributions to making a home a classic design.  Almost all of the new houses and major renovations by John Tackett Design include at least one concealed door it seems, sometimes a necessary feature to ensure a pleasing balance within an interior space.  As a point of reference, these doors are sometimes referred to as "gibb" or "jib" doors, but The Devoted Classicist prefers to reserve that terminology for the double hung windows that have hinged panels below that open to allow access as a doorway.
Wallpaper painted in green and white stripes imitates silk wallhangings.  The concealed door disguised access to Chistina Hall's wardrobe which was later converted into a library.
Gunnebo is a magnificent country manor near Molndal, Sweden, built for John Hall, one of the country's wealthiest merchants, and his wife Christina. Starting with a commission in 1784 with Carl Wilhelm Carlberg, the city architect of Gothenburg, it took 12 years to build and cost 38 barrels of gold, the equivalent of 7,000 times the architect's annual salary.

Although used as a summer house, Gunnebo is also noted for the remarkable heating stoves.  Here Christina Hall's bed is a fine example of a lit imperial in the Gustavian style.
The main house, outbuildings, series of formal gardens, unique custom furnishings, and sculpture were not only original but avante-garde, anticipating the great enthusiasm for the Neoclassical styles that became fashionable following the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum.  King Gustav III brought in French architect Louis-Jean Desprez in 1784 launching a clamour in Sweden for the Gustavian interpretation of the Classics, usually using painted wood to achieve the desired effects.
The southern elevtion of Gunnebo features a sheltered carriage entrance.
John Hall, Jr, had no interest or training in his father's trading company business, and the fortunes dwindled rapitdly after his father's death in 1802.  After selling the town house, Gunnebo was held as collateral against debts in 1818.  After the fall into what has been described as a sleeping beauty experience, the whole estate has been restored in an on-going process with funding from the European Union with a social services program that offers internships and jobs to re-educate craftsmen in forgotten techniques. 

In John Hall's bedroom, the bed is placed in an alcove flanked with concealed door cupboards.
An impressive history of Gunnebo has been preserved in Christina Hall's letters and inventories as well as the comple set of the architect's meticulous drawings.
The concealed door in the bedroom of John, Jr, is shown slightly ajar.  The bed is original, with replacement textiles that follow the architect's drawings.
 The Devoted Classicist will take this opportunity to also present another favorite conceit, the false door.  The complete opposite idea of a concealed door, the false door creates balance where no opening is needed except for aesthetic reasons.
A false door provides symmetry in the upper vestibule whose original wallpaper survives intact.
All photographs shown here are by Eric Morin for The World of Interiors magazine.  For more information on Gunnebo and their programs, visit the website at


  1. what a marvelous place

    And of course, those hidden flush doors always appeal.

  2. There are several fine castles in Sweden, many of them very old. I will send you a link to one interesting place, as soon as I find it.

  3. Check out Stora Sundby. Its architecture is inspired by the calendar. 52 rooms (weeks in a year), 365 windows (days in a year), 12 little towers (months in a year) and 4 large towers (4 seasons). If I got it right.

  4. D.E.D., you would appreciate all the fabulous stoves, but that is a whole other topic.

    M.F., I have been to Sweden several times and absolutely love it. But so far, I have not been far outside of Stockholm. Hopefully I can travel to other areas of the country next time I visit.

  5. Love the sense of mystery and the practicality. The painting that does not move with the door...reminds me of those signs "if you are taller than this you cannot enter!"

    ps Hope you are safe from the flooding area. Our community flooded in 1992. Such heartache.

  6. M.F., I was not familiar with Stora Sundby but saw the website at The English version has not been developed, but the short film gives a good idea of the great house, a wonderful example of its period. And that is a great concealed door to bathroom!

  7. H.B.D., I probably would have liked that picture a little lower, but it would probably really make it a head hazard, wouldn't it?

    My house in town is adjacent to a pond which thankfully has a substantial spillway. The house on the farm is on a hill although a creek running through the property has been threateningly high. I am ten miles from the Mississippi River, however, and that is where the problems are. Many thanks for your concern. Best wishes for the safety of all the people and the animals.

  8. I think I'd put my eye out with that picture, but "38 barrels of gold" I'd be willing to try.

  9. Beautiful images! Concealed doors are such a delight. I have a couple in my entrance hall.

  10. I've seen quite a few concealed doors here in the States, but not so many false doors. Is this something that you have used before in your projects?

    Glad to know that the flooding has not affected you!

  11. T.P.O.C., yes, I sometime use a false door, also referred to as a blind door, for balance, especially in new construction. I always hinge mine which might open to reveal the electric panel, a full-length pane of mirror, or a bulletin board.

  12. What a delightful post, and such an intriguing subject! I am mad for concealed doors, and this post has turned it into a fever pitch. Thank you.

  13. Beautiful post, thanks for sharing it! I love concealed doors! I installed a few of them in a recent project.

  14. Always fascinated by the inventories of old houses. Every well run home seemed to always have one. I appreciate your inserting- "sometimes a necessary feature to ensure a pleasing balance within an interior space," rather than just putting one there for show,(not always- though I wouldn't say ever- a good reason)Gaye

  15. You just don't see enough concealed doors these days. I love them and try to put them in as many projects as I can.

  16. I must say dahhling I wish you would have a post dedicated to many different examples of concealed doors from your interesting perspective. I am inspired by this post!


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