Bedside Cabinet - The Secret Agent

How 17th Century Pirates Influenced Modern Concealment Furniture

It is a while since we have had an interview with one of our manufacturers, so when Bill from Concealment Furniture approached us about selling his products on Made to Last we were given the perfect opportunity as his products are very unique and have such an interesting use case.

We hope that you enjoy this short interview with him – please click into the blog to ask any questions you have to Bill.

What do you make and why?

We design and manufacture furniture with ‘Secret Compartments’. We only use the best quality hardwoods to build our furniture. We set out on a mission to design and create handmade furniture that not only looks beautiful in your home, but can also hide your valuables in plain sight.

Why do we make furniture with secret compartments? Because we want to enable you to keep your valuables safe. See if you can guess where the hidden compartment is in this hallway cubby:

Hall Cubby with Hidden Drawers
Hall Cubby with Hidden Drawers

Why not hide your valuables in plain sight where no one would ever think of looking.

Hall Cubby with Hidden Drawers
Hall Cubby with Hidden Drawers

Did you guess correctly?

How do people benefit from your product? Do you have any stories of customers using your product in a way that has improved their life?

One of our customers recently contacted us. Their house had been broken into when the were on holiday. They told me that some items had been stolen from their home but crucially none of the secret compartments had been touched and their most valued possessions remained safe.

Bedside Cabinet - The Secret Agent
Bedside Cabinet – The Secret Agent

One of our first bedside cabinets was built for a customer who wanted a place to securely store their valuables, but did not want a safe. To them, the safe attracted attention. Anyone who saw the safe would know that there is something inside that had value.

While a safe can securely store valuables, it screams “my stuff is in here” Safes certainly provide a certain level of security, but there is a trade-off. Their presence makes their contents known, and the ability for the owner to access the contents can be cumbersome. Hidden compartments in furniture are undetectable, and offer quick access to your valuables.

I like the idea of having both a small safe and some secret compartment furniture – the safe would simply act as a diversion, and your furniture would hide your valuables in plain sight.

At Made to Last we have a focus on quality and long term value for money. How do your products fit with this ethos?

All our furniture is handmade in Argyle, West Scotland. Each piece is made to order and given the attention to detail that only a small independent shop can render. Because we make each piece of furniture, one at a time, it gives us greater flexibility regarding custom requests. We also keep a small amount of our furniture in stock.

Our furniture is about more than just the secret compartments. Each piece is handcrafted, and made to last a lifetime. When you order a coffee table for example, you aren’t just ordering a secret compartment that looks like a table. Instead, you will be receiving an heirloom piece of beautiful furniture that also contains hidden storage.

What is the toughest part of the product development process for you?

Last year I was invited to a friends birthday party. I noticed she was showing off her custom made tv unit to her guests. We had recently designed, made and delivered the cabinet to her, so I was interested in what was being said. She made no mention of the secret compartments, as she wanted to keep it that – a secret.

Here-in lies a problem. I soon learned that buyers loved their furniture but typically didn’t tell anyone that they had it so there are few word of mouth recommendations for us. This a tough part of the of the overall process for us.

Our customers mostly find us when searching for bespoke furniture, hardwood furniture, quality furniture etc

What products or people have helped to inspire you to create the products that you do?

As a kid, I loved watching James Bond movies, my favourite parts of the film was when 007 visited Q to find out what cool gadgets and new inventions he had created. I have always had a fascination with hidden compartments. From the secret passageway in Bruce Wayne’s house leading to the Bat-Cave, to the numerous contraptions and gadgets found in 007 films, there is just something fun and exciting about furniture that is more than meets the eye.

Coffee Table - The Stowaway with Hidden Drawers
Coffee Table – The Stowaway with Hidden Drawer

You don’t have to be a secret agent to take advantage of concealment furniture. But I can neither confirm nor deny that James Bond himself owns some of our pieces.

Coffee Table - The Stowaway with Hidden Drawers
Coffee Table – The Stowaway with Hidden Drawers

What is the most enjoyable part of the process of product development for you?

I started my carpentry apprenticeship over 40 years ago and I still love working with wood. However, for me I would now have to say that the design aspect of the furniture is where I get most satisfaction (and sleepless nights).

When designing custom furniture with hidden compartments, the secret parts need to come second and the overall design first. If a customer tells me that they need to securely store their watch collection, IT gadgets, jewellery or medication, I put hours of thought and design into the best places in the particular piece where the compartments can go, the best orientation of the wood, and the best grain selection to assist with the overall design.

Which product in your range do you personally use the most and why?

Sorry I can’t answer this question – it’s a secret. What I can tell you is that our bedside cabinets are a firm favourite with our customers.

What environmental considerations have you enacted into your sourcing, manufacturing and packaging?

“Forests are vital to life on Earth. They purify the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, prevent erosion, and act as an important buffer against climate change. Forests offer a home to much of the world’s diverse array of plants and animals and provide essential natural resources from timber and food to medicinal plants. Forests also support the lives of local communities and help them to thrive.”  – WWF

In the workshop we utilise every piece of timber that comes in the door in our process. We use the natural beauty and form of the timber to make stunning furniture. Wood wastage is kept to a minimum, any waste is evaluated for reuse potential, otherwise it is disposed of through appropriate recycling schemes.

The Covert Console Table
The Covert Console Table

We always strive to use sustainable harvested hardwoods from the U.K.   

The Covert Console Table
The Covert Console Table

Do you have any new products/ranges planned for the next year or so?

Absolutely. In fact we are about to introduce a new product in the next few weeks. Watch the Made To Last Website for more details. We think that this unit could become a favourite with our customers

I have literally dozens of ideas, some already on the work bench, some on paper and some in my head. This is going to be an exciting year for Concealment Furniture.

Tell us something about yourself that not many people know

As well as having qualifications as a Carpenter, I also have a BA degree in Risk Management. This subject is all balancing risk, when to take a risk and when not to, and also the control measures that you can put in place to mitigate the risk.

This helps me in the overall concept and mission of Concealment Furniture.

What do you wish we had asked you?

Maybe a question about the history of secret compartment furniture. I won’t try to cover everything here, but here is a snippet:

In the 17th century, high end furniture often contained secret compartments with the concept of: if they can’t find it, they can’t steal it. Though the compartments were often very small – only meant for some coins, precious jewellery or paperwork, they were very effective against would-be intruders.

Pirates also had secret compartments built into their ships to conceal, treasure maps, shipping routes and of course their gold and silver. 

JC – Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions Bill. I hope that the readers of this find your business and products as interesting as I do.

To see all Concealment Furniture products on Made to Last click here.

Joel Chudleigh

Founder of MADE TO LAST. Very proud to be working with my Co-Founder Kinjal and our diverse range of amazing suppliers to create a retail site with a purpose. When not working I enjoy relaxing with family & friends as well as adventure sports - particularly bouldering, snowboarding & surfing as well as 5-a-side footie. Really interested in the environment and from this have been forced to learn more and get interested in politics and a bit of economics. Proud member of the Green Party.

We love to chat - Please tell us what you think!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *