There has always been a fair amount of interest in the wood wall that separates our living/dining room and our den, but I recently received an email from a reader that made me realize I have never gone into great detail on the inner workings of this wall on the blog. My readers clearly have a lot of questions about this wall and I’d like to answer them comprehensively in a single post so that you may find all the goods in one place (rather than getting tid bits scattered here and there as I tend to do). And so, I am hereby dedicating this post exclusively to the wood wall! And because reader Jean had so many well articulated questions, I will use her latest query as a basis for discussion.
Jean: Hi Olivia … I’m fascinated by the storage wall between your living room and den… have you thought of dedicating a post to it? I would love to recreate something like that in our funky (not in a good way) mid-century modest. It was built with a kinda-sorta pass-through back-to-back cabinets between the living room and kitchen. Here are my burning questions about your storage wall: Am I right in thinking the panel wall in the living room backs up to the built-ins in your den?
You are correct, Jean. The 16-paneled wall that you see in the photos from our living room is the same wall that you see in our den. I think it’s walnut, but I’m not completely sure. I had a master carpenter in once to make a minor repair to one of the doors and even he couldn’t identify it (wood color changes with age, and this wall is nearly 60 years old which makes it hard to pin point), but he suggested maybe mahogany or rosewood, too. Both sides of the wall are shown in the photos below.
From the living room:
From the den:
Jean: Does the entire living room wall have storage space behind the panels? That is, do *all* of the living room-side panels slide aside (or up and down?), with storage behind them?
Actually, no. Only four of the panels slide to access storage from the living room (the bottom four), but 12 panels slide up and/or down — and they do so independently. I’ve marked the photo below with arrows indicating the way the panels can move. The X’s at the top indicate a stationary panel.
The four smaller rectangular panels at the top are stationary. The second and third rows can slide down to the floor (the top row sliding in front of the middle row, and both finally resting in front of the bottom row) — thereby creating a low wall even in height with the counter top in the den — and essentially creating one great big room with a bar-height console in the middle. Alternatively, you can raise the center row to the ceiling (and behind of the top row) to create a pass-through to the den. The lower four panels could technically slide up to access the cabinetry on the den side, but we’ve never seen the need to do that. It’s much easier to just walk around into the den to access things stored there. There is no storage behind the upper 8 panels — if you opened them you would just see the back of all my husband’s sports memorabilia in the next room.
On the den side, the lower four cabinets open horizontally along a track. All four doors are movable — the center two panels can each slide behind the adjacent outside panel or the outside panel can slide over the inner door it rests beside. Note the panel in the very upper left corner — I noticed in this picture that it’s sagging a bit and you can see light from the other room eeking through — it must not be locked in place right. Must fix that!
Jean: How does that look up close, are the panels on a track at the floor and ceiling? If so, is the middle row of panels also on a track? The panels look flush to me (or maybe I mean all at the same depth), but I saw a track in one of your pictures.
I think the picture you’re referring to was of the Lazy Susan on the den side of the wall — more on that in a moment. On the living room side the panels are on four vertical tracks. There is no track in the floor. Below is a photo showing the depth of the panels in relation to the track — see how each row overlaps the one below it? They are not the same depth — each sticks out about an inch further than the one below it. All the panels are held in place by brass latches at the top corners of the panel that slide snugly into the vertical supports.
Jean: The cabinet in the picture showed a lazy Susan, which is just about the best thing ever. Do all of the cabinets have built-in accessories, like the lazy Susan, the glass holder and the LP slats? (Utterly cool!) Or are those things just at the base, on the den side? Are the cabinets accessible from both sides? (Are you able to select an album and nab a drink from the living room side?)
The bottom four panels on the living room side can technically open to access the rear of the den cabinetry — which, yes, house a dry bar with a Lazy Susan and vinyl storage. There was once a built in turn table too, I hear, but sadly it is long gone. But like I said, it’s a pain in the butt to yank those lower panels up just to grab a glass — they’re heavy! We walk around.
Here is a nice uncluttered view on the day we moved in. The counter is a couple feet deep and below it is the only storage this wall offers — aside from the shelving, obviously. Note that it also has a built-in florescent light that runs the length of the wall on this side.
Below is a photo of the dry bar with the Lazy Susan as seen from the den — it’s in the cabinet closest to the window. You can see that the panel seen from the living room is slightly raised and someone is standing over there. Our neighbors still have all the original glassware. #envious
When I ripped up the carpet I found half a dozen drink stirrers underneath!
This photo shows vinyl storage and space for a turn table and speakers — it’s in the cabinet farthest from the window. Again, you can see that the panel is raised in the back because light is shining through. We took these pictures during our home inspection so we had everything thrown open. This particular cabinet has a plywood backing and so while the panel behind it does lift, you cannot reach inside to grab a record — I image this was to direct sound forward from the stereo? Not sure. The two cabinets in the center just have standard shelving.
I always envisioned this wall being lowered to the floor for parties — In my mind, the bartender or host would stand in the den serving drinks across the “bar” to guests in the living room. Or maybe it was just lowered to the floor for a more open flow and guests would help themselves. Who knows!
Jean: Could you post some pictures showing the panels open? Close up pictures would be wonderful! I’m sorry to be such a pest, but I love this concept and I’m excited to learn more! I tried Googling, but after an hour or two I gave up in frustration there are lots of sites with storage-in-walls ideas, but nothing quite so fab as your wall.
I’ve tried to Google this wall type to no avail as well, so I feel your pain! I actually have no photos of our wall with the panels open because we’ve never fully opened it. I very nearly opened them solely to take pictures for this post, but I was scared. You see, our neighbors have the same feature wall in their home, but it has several broken panels and they’re struggling to find someone who can repair it. Their house lies just behind ours and was on the market at the same time — in fact, we almost put in an offer! This photo below is of their wall when the house was listed for sale — see how the panels are all resting at various heights? Apparently they are still stuck like that. That’s the den you can see beyond the open panels. I think the horizontal stripes are shelves mounted to the other side of the wall — just like the ones we have in our den.
Sweet couch though, right? But hopefully, you can see why I’m a bit reluctant to open it at all anymore — what if we can’t get them latched again?
The only other place I’ve seen a wall like this is in a couple other homes in our neighborhood–all the homes were built by builder/developer Gordon Sugar who once lived two doors down from us. He’s now deceased.
This house down the road has a similar wall with what appears to be only 8 moving panels — they are larger. It’s been painted white and it looks like they keep a couple panels partially open to the den to display knick knacks.
See the light shining behind the vases at the top right of the wall? That’s the same corner that’s open in the previous photo. Our good friends across the street has a feature wall like ours once too, but it was removed by the previous owners when then converted the den to a fourth bedroom.
Anyway, I hope this helps clear the mystery surrounding the wood wall! And, Jean, I hope you are inspired to do something fantastic with your own storage wall. If anyone else has questions — about the wall or about something else — I’d love to hear from you!
EDIT: In the comments it was asked that I post a close up photo of the latches used to secure the panels in place. I finally remembered to take a picture at about 10pm last night so please excuse the lighting–I swear the wood doesn’t look that parched in the daylight! I think the black strip that you see is a piece of the banding from the pulley system.