These firms' creative evaluations of limited space inspire details that are as functional as they are playful.

U+B architecture & design / Andrea Rugg

1. Secret in the Attic

As is the case with many attic remodels, this 1893 Minneapolis home required working around angles. The jutting, hipped roof structure had long prevented its owners from utilizing the space due to the attic’s challenging corners. Original plans were to tuck a recessed 1920s-style speakeasy bar into the wall, though the owners ultimately decided to indulge their daughter’s love of nooks and secret hideaways with a pivoting bookshelf that opens up to a hidden room for reading and playing, as well as long-term storage space. The bookshelf, designed by U+B Architecture & Design, and built by Cabinets by Choice in Minneapolis, operates as a door upon a Rixson pivot hinge.

U+B architecture & design / Andrea Rugg

Due to the hefty weight (about 1,000 pounds) of the bookshelf and its contents, additional laminate veneer lumber joists were installed in the floor framing to carry the load. The bookshelf's weight makes it impossible to push the door with force, keeping the display items in place while the door is being opened. The slow, smooth glide ensures that nothing falls off the shelves as the door moves, and magnets embedded into the frame and the wall keep the door shut tight.

Cunningham Quill

2. Cabinet Confidential

Rather than expanding the walls outward, Cunningham Quill Architects, in Washington, D.C., and the client elected to make do with what was already inside this historical Washington home. Deepening the wall between the kitchen and dining room allowed for improved proportions and a concealed stow-away pantry. When closed, the pantry frames the entrance between the kitchen and dining room. The two-part pantry, composed of custom-painted birch wood by The Master’s Woodshop, of Hagerstown, Md.,  reaches 8 feet high and can support up to 500 pounds.

Kube Architecture

3. Minimum Exposure

Making the most of every square inchand manifesting a minimalist aesthetic—Kube Architecture of Washington, D.C., transformed a basement-turned-Zen-hideaway's previously bare wall into an entirely collapsible media and shelving unit. The challenges of the project, which won a Merit Award in the 2014 Remodeling Design Awards, included maintaining design functionality while concealing all of the client's audio/visual components and wiring. The new "wall" serves as an ideal solution, accommodating a 65-inch flat-screen television, speakers, subwoofers, an amplifier, and plenty of storage space as well.  

Kube Architecture

The adjacent staircase, designed with custom cabinetry by Potomac Woodwork, in Gaithersburg, Md., doubles as an invisible-when-shut storage cabinet. Both design elements feature custom work by the firm. 

“We wanted very minimal detailing on everything in order to create as clean an environment as possible,” says Kube Architecture principal Janet Bloomberg.

Kube Architecture

See more of Kube's basement project in our 2014 Remodeling Design Awards coverage.