View Full Version : What would you do with this room?

Malcolm Schweizer
02-09-2015, 12:12 PM
We call it "The Dungeon." It is an old cistern that was drained and made into storage. The only access is through a hidden hatch in the floor of the bedroom- look above the ladder in the pic and you see the opening. I want to put a split unit A/C in it and make it a man cave hideout with a wine cellar, weather station (for hurricanes), bookcases, and built in seating/storage. I am brainstorming. Looking for links to pics of cool rooms or ideas. For example, I thought about putting port lights that were actually fish tanks so it looks like you are in a submarine. I also thought about some sort of mural on the arched ceiling like Michaelangelo. I want something unique. I want you to feel like you are in a secret hideout, which actually you are, but I mean like a James Bond feel to it.

Just thought I would throw it out there and see what folks thought up. The room is 17' long and 7' wide.


Mike Lassiter
02-09-2015, 12:16 PM
looks like it could be a storm cellar if you live in tornado pron area.

Jim Matthews
02-09-2015, 12:26 PM

Kevin Bourque
02-09-2015, 12:37 PM
Did you watch Silence of the Lambs? :eek:

Malcolm Schweizer
02-09-2015, 12:52 PM
Jim I may need to doc a little deeper, but it gives me ideas about a "root cellar" where big roots make the uprights for the bookshelves and the stairs.

I saw Silence of the Lambs, and no... Just... NO! :-)

Kent A Bathurst
02-09-2015, 1:01 PM
Screams wine cellar to me.

Some venting to the outside for cigar smoke.

TV; comfortable chair.

Down here in these parts, that would be called "tall cotton".

Pat Barry
02-09-2015, 4:02 PM
Bomb shelter was the old term for something like this. I would go with the term wine cellar / storm shelter now unless you are in an area which could flood in which case death trap might be a better term for it.

Izzy Camire
02-09-2015, 4:08 PM
What is the usual temperature in there? I would consider a root cellar but then again I grow veggies in the summer.

Phil Thien
02-09-2015, 4:35 PM
I think it would accommodate a small hand-tool bench/shop.

Or a dissection chamber.

Bruce Pratt
02-09-2015, 5:20 PM
Put some mirrors on the walls, particularly the 7' dimension, It will improve the visual size and reduce claustrophobia... its going to get crowded if you bring in any furniture

Mike McCann
02-09-2015, 5:25 PM
you would need a spiral stair case to start. then think mobile home how they fit everything in the same size space.

Malcolm Schweizer
02-09-2015, 6:41 PM
Thanks for all the replies. A few clarifications:

This is a hurricane zone, so it will be a last-resort hideout if the whole house comes down, which is not likely, as the house is 18" thick stone walls that have stood for 178 years. So although it will have a few basic supplies and weather monitoring stuff, it's really more of a hangout place than a shelter.

I am in one of the only areas on island that has city water. Everyone else, including myself for the past 13 years, catches rain water in giant cisterns. This one is original to the house. There are actually two, and I use the other one for water, and the city water as a backup. (rainwater is free, and city water is rust-laden.) This would actually hold water if I wanted to, but I don't need it, as the other cistern is just as big, and holds what I need and more.

No chance whatsoever of flooding. I followed my dad's wise advise- he was always a stickler about drainage, and always built homes on top of a hill. I am at the peak of a hill, and water drains either direction away from my house. Also I am at about 200 foot elevation, so tidal waves are not likely to get to me. Since the whole thing has a masonary roof, the only entrance for water would be the 2'x2' opening at top, and the small vent to outside seen in the image, which actually used to be the overflow for when the cistern got full.

Mirrors are okay, but not too many. I prefer not to look at myself at the end of a long day. :-) I was thinking probably to have mirrors behind the shelves or something... so they give depth, but not to where I have to keep looking at myself. I was thinking creative lighting might make it look bigger.

I really really REALLY want a spiral staircase, but the problem is the thing is too short. I'd say it's about 7' tall. There's not enough room, and it would also make it hard to get things in and out. As I said, the only entrance is a 2' square hole in the roof that opens into the floor of the bedroom. You actually lift out some floorboards to get to it.

The usual temperature is hot and very humid, hence the split unit. I will eventually probably put a solar powered unit so I can just leave it on and not worry about energy costs, but since this thing is stone skinned in brick, over 2' thick, backed by solid earth, I doubt the A/C will run very much. It should hold the temperature very well. In fact, one of my concerns is whether or not the walls will sweat on the back side, causing rising damp issues.

My idea is to have a ladder-like stair, and make it so I can move it if needed like for dropping in really big stuff where the ladder might get in the way. As you see, currently an old step ladder serves as the ladder. I move it out of the way, and Amy hands stuff down to me. Currently we are storing stuff in it like Christmas decorations and stuff we need only once in a while.

Although I'm not a big drinker, I do love a good wine, and I travel a lot, so I want to start collecting wine from around the world and when I retire I can sit back, sample a bottle, and remember the trip when I got it and (most likely) carried it in my backpack. The one wall pictured, however is way more than enough for what I want. I doubt I would ever fill it.

You can see there is a ledge built in on the one wall. I would take advantage of that and build a seat or even a daybed there, with the ladder sloping over it.

I have thought of even turning this into an indoor pool, but it would be dangerous with only one access point. I also considered draining the other cistern and connecting the two and having two rooms, but I really don't want to just depend on our brown city water! I like my cistern.

I get mahogany for $8/bft, and I am kind of stuck on doing it all in mahogany. That could change, however. I am open to anything. I even thought of doing a midievel theme with wrought iron and (fake) torches. I also thought a Japanese theme would be cool with silk screens, simple seating with Japanese joinery, and a table that you sit at on the floor... whatever that's called.

I am still kind of stuck at the moment on a mahogany wine rack filling the back wall, with fluted columns, all made of mahogany, and then somehow have a bed integrated in that. I would have a comfy carpet, and two leather chairs, assuming I can take them apart to get them down there. There would be a simple table to reast a glass of wine on, and a small bar with one of those tiny bar sinks, a small refrigerator, and granite top. Somehow I would have an LCD screen that swings out and a weather station, police scanner, and what-not... but this isn't a "bug out shelter." (Although if you ever wanted one, this thing would be perfect.) I'm not one of those types. Just for hurricanes it is good to have.

BUT... I want something "WOW." It's a really cool space, and I want to do something cool. I thought about doing an enclosed water feature- like it's sealed in glass so humidity doesn't become an issue. The water circulates and spills down the glass, and LED lights change color and illuminate it. The water would make the light dance all over the ceiling. I also thought about doing a glass block floor, and illuminate it from the side.

I am searching the internet for "wine cellar," "book nook," "hidden room," etc. looking for ideas. Keep 'em coming. For example- maybe make a big stuffed dragon that lives in the cave? Hmmmm....

John Vernier
02-10-2015, 1:39 AM
Well, you mentioned Michelangelo. The shape of your vaulted space immediately reminded me of this discovery from a couple of years ago:

Malcolm Schweizer
02-10-2015, 8:08 AM
Nice sketches. I never saw that. Great idea.

Jim Matthews
02-10-2015, 7:54 PM
Spiral stairs, a little excavating - a few week's of poor sailing weather...

easy - peasy.

Jim Matthews
02-10-2015, 7:57 PM
I'm still pulling for spiral stairs - but this might do.
Something winch or pedal operated, maybe?


Kent A Bathurst
02-10-2015, 9:46 PM
I'm still pulling for spiral stairs - but this might do.
Something winch or pedal operated, maybe?


Pneumatic. Just like the tubes in the old department stores that carried paperwork to accounting and back.

They require no machinery room for hydraulics, and no structural upgrades for a standard lift mechanism.

Mel Fulks
02-10-2015, 10:03 PM
With the only entrance being in the bedroom ,I reccomend making it the exclusivly private place for the two of you. Wine,music, flashing lights ,incense, fog machine, costumes ,and ,oh yeah....some kinky stuff.

Malcolm Schweizer
02-10-2015, 10:11 PM
That is silly! With our frequent power outages, it would be like rolling the dice every time you stepped in it.

By the way Jim, there is no such thing as "poor sailing weather." Fair seas do not make a good sailor. Here's my favorite day sailing. Notice who has the helm now!

Jim Matthews
02-11-2015, 10:15 PM
Hence the "winch or pedal powered" suggestion.

Malcolm Schweizer
02-11-2015, 10:41 PM
Ahhh, you win! I happen to have a beautiful bronze halyard winch and I think I may make a ladder that stows with a winch. Not exactly an elevator, but still cool. How about this- a hidden hole where you insert a key and turn it and the hatch opens by wire and pulley. I'll write that down.

Malcolm Schweizer
02-11-2015, 10:43 PM
With the only entrance being in the bedroom ,I reccomend making it the exclusivly private place for the two of you. Wine,music, flashing lights ,incense, fog machine, costumes ,and ,oh yeah....some kinky stuff.

Haha. I missed this. My reply below that was referring to the elevator, but perhaps power outages might be an issue here as well!!!!

Jim Matthews
02-12-2015, 8:42 AM
It's just a thought. You're still young.
If SWMBO buys lots of bricks and a cask of Amontillado...

Karl Andersson
02-12-2015, 2:16 PM
how about a Jules Verne Nautilus Theme? Much classier than "steam punk", but along the same lines - fishbowl ports and OR a scrap brass/ copper periscope showing video camera views from your roof, doorway, etc. or go to the Baltimore aquarium site, they have streaming video of their reef exhibit. Lots of mahogany with brass and copper accents, done nicely, of course. Could make a nicely polished brass pipe ladder with mahogany treads bolted on. Floor could be t&g wood with accent rugs, and decorations could be a mix of nautical relics and interesting parts of sea creatures (sort of a marine victorian library/ smoking room). James bond would be cool too, but your HAVE to have a lift then.

Malcolm Schweizer
02-12-2015, 2:22 PM
Brass periscope- love it!!!! Consider that on the list.

Karl Andersson
02-12-2015, 3:02 PM
you could make Jim's winch-powered lift be a mahogany grate that rides a trolley up and down on a permanent ladder's side rails - that way if the power goes, the ladder is already there and you'd just hinge the platform/ grate out of the way. If the trap door isn't in the middle of the room, you could make the entry a false piece of furniture - Great Escape-like. the could hide the top block of the hoist, it the platform is suspended. Or you could convert the winch to a chain drive with a suitable sprocket - no hardware needed above the entry. You could do the same with an endless loop of cable - just need to make sure you don't two-block it when it reaches the upper limit. Obviously, this is too fun a topic...

Chris Padilla
02-12-2015, 3:27 PM
It's just a thought. You're still young.
If SWMBO buys lots of bricks and a cask of Amontillado...

Edgar Allan Poe!!!! LOL...read that one back in Junior High. :)

We used to have a poster by the name of Stu Ablett in Tokyo Japan and he lives in Japan (duh) and has a similar situation with a trap door access to his workshop. He has done some amazing things down there. I don't know where he posts now but he likely around somewhere. You might find some interesting stuff from him. His old posts here on SMC might also reveal some ideas.

Malcolm Schweizer
02-12-2015, 4:08 PM
306761Keep 'em coming! Sadly the opening is too small but a ladder that has an extension that rises up is a cool variant. The hole is too far from the wall and too close to a window to do a furniture piece. I would have done the Narnia wardrobe if not for that.

Now I wish I smoked cigars. Somehow it would be fitting.