When it comes to home security, substance doesn’t have to trump style.
At least that’s what Steve Humble, founder of Arizona-based Creative Home Engineering, set out to prove.
Humble designs elaborate doorways that mask secret rooms used for anything from hiding families from intruders, to sheltering precious heirlooms, to giving the homeowner a good party trick.
Customers — ranging from the neighbor next door to heads of state and government officials — choose how fancy they want to go with styles, which range in price from $1,500 to $200,000.
Humble said that the most elaborate and memorable designs were a ceiling that dropped down to reveal a spiral staircase, and a 200-square foot underground room with an opening big enough to drive a car through.
The most popular designs, though, are ones using techniques beloved of the silver screen: pulling a single title off a bookshelf, tipping the head of a bust, or tapping a certain sequence of bricks to reveal a hidden passageway.
Humble says while uses for these doors and rooms vary, the idea of installing a so-called “panic” rooms has become most popular with American customers, who make up roughly 80% of his clientele.
Humble has used a little humor in an installation at his own house: to open the door, the opening notes of the James Bond theme song must be played on piano first.
Steve Humble: We build a really wide variety of secret doors, so the doors could be disguised as many different things. Some of them look like bookcases, when they’re in the closed position. Some of them look like brick walls, or stone walls, or grandfather clocks, or pieces of art, you name it; we’ve probably concealed a secret door to look like that inside a house.
Victoria Craig: Why do you think these kinds of safety features have become trendier?
Steve Humble: People can see that it’s so much easier to break into a safe, nowadays, than they thought it was. If I want my stuff to be secure, it really has to be also hidden, in addition to being inside a safe or a vault. And so, as people learn that, the demand for what we produce becomes greater and greater.
Victoria Craig: Do you think the security concerns are equal across the world? Or are there certain things in different areas that people are more concerned about?
Steve Humble: No, they’re definitely not equal. Probably 80% of our business is based in the United States. And I think that is because we Americans, culturally, we just like the idea of self-reliance, maybe more than other places. We don’t want to depend on police to be able to protect our families.
Victoria Craig: What’s the craziest or most interesting project you’ve done?
Steve Humble: Wow. I’ve done so many really crazy projects in my career. There’s one that I built that I was told is the finest underground bomb shelter in the world. The underground portion of this shelter was about 20,000 square feet and we built a series of really high-end secret doors, including one that was large enough that, when it was in the open position, you could drive a vehicle through it.
Victoria Craig: Wow, that is serious panic room dedication. Do you yourself own one of these secret doors?
Steve Humble: I do, yes, of course. I started this business really from nothing, and so I had to be kind of coy when people asked me that question and say ‘I could tell you but I’d have to kill you,’ or whatever, but now I could tell you when you sit down at my piano you have to play the notes to the James Bond soundtrack, of course. And if you play it correctly, a door pops open and leads you to a secret room.