DIYdiy projects

diy project: artwork & secret storage box

by Kate Pruitt

Try as I might to achieve minimalism, I just can’t seem to stop the clutter in my life. After a huge clean, the house experiences a few days of perfect organization and cleanliness before the chaos creeps back in, usually through a series of seemingly innocent decisions — a piece of mail I set aside instead of filing away; an irresistible thrift-shop find that gets purchased without a plan for where it should go; a sale on craft supplies. You know how it is. Okay, maybe they’re not so innocent.

While I still plan to eliminate and prevent clutter, I also embrace it to a certain extent as a challenge to finding clever ways of storing things secretly. I consider today’s project a double achievement in this category: I have not only found a place for my extra pieces of art, but I’ve also created a stealth storage unit that can hold the most unsightly items in my house: my random binders, files and paperwork. With the right piece of art and a readymade box, you can make this project in under an hour. So I ask you, if the clutter is hidden behind a pretty piece of artwork and nobody sees it but you, does it exist? Happy crafting ;) — Kate

Read the full how-to after the jump!


  • framed artwork (ideally one with a thick wood frame, or one with a wooden canvas inside)
  • wood box (I used Prant boxes from Ikea because they were the perfect depth for my bookshelves, but any box will do.)
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • drill
  • 3/4″ screws


1. Start by assembling your boxes, placing them in your bookshelf and planning how you want your picture to sit within your shelves. Depending on the dimensions of your picture, you may want it to sit flush with the bottom of the box/shelf, or you may want it to extend above or below the shelf. Once you’ve decided how you like it, use your pencil to mark the box roughly where your frame will hit it.

2. Measure and mark the box where you will attach it to the frame. You want to inset the holes from the edges by at least 1″ on the top and sides. Make corresponding marks on the frame.

3. Drill small holes where you made the four marks on the box.

4. Flip the picture upside down and place the box on top, realigning the holes with the corresponding marks you made on the frame.

5. Screw the box to the frame.

6. You’re done! I recommend adding felt pads to the bottom of the box, especially if your box does not sit flush with the bottom of the frame. This way, you can also use your box/artwork for tabletop storage!

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  • Love this! What a great idea. I’m not a do- it-yourselfer, but this may change that. I already have artwork hanging on my shelves but have to move the artwork when I want to reach what’s behind it. This makes it all one unit and very convenient.

  • Such a clever idea! I’ve seen alot of pictures hanging from bookcases in interior recently and wondered how to do it, so this is perfect plus the bonus of storage!x

  • This is a fantastic idea. It should be patented. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of this in magazines,websites in 2012. Very creative.

  • I love this. I, too, have paintings and other objects hanging from shelves. While I don’t have to move them to access necessary supplies, it would be a nice camouflage for any kind of storage.

  • I will be copying this once I have completed the build of my clothing shelves, awesome idea!!!

  • Wow! I’m making my bedroom over, and this is exactly the kind of creative, useful DIY project I’ve been looking for. Thanks! Great post.

  • Very clever! I love something different in the midst of a bookshelf, especially a great piece of art. Also, with the little felt pads it would be easy to switch up the decor.

  • What a great idea! It’s a great way to get the art on your bookcase look, without having to drill your shelves, either! And I say, if no one knows, no one can tell. Hide that clutter girl!

  • Thanks for the idea. Seeing those magazine file holders – have you tried hot gluing a couple of those holders to the back of a frame (I hoard shelter magazines)?

  • Love it! It melds so well with the books and other objects, and is a great way to display art let alone conceal clutter.

  • Great idea! That entire bookcase is a gorgeous display, especially that red beetle on the upper shelf :)

  • Wait… how does the box not flip forward with the weight of the frame on the front? I know the contents you’re showing would weigh it down, but file folders/documents might not…?

  • adding this to my project list. smart idea that takes care of the 3 problems i have when styling my own home: 1. how to display art 2. hide clutter 3. maximize the space on my bookshelves!

  • Thanks everyone for your comments!

    Lacey Anne— These boxes have a substantial weight even when empty, so I think that most pictures and frames of this size would not be too much weight for it. If you do find yourself with a painting that wants to flip forward and you don’t want to fill it with things to solve the problem, I think you could try adding a couple small lead weights to the back of the box. I think that would do the trick. Hope this helps!

  • This is great!!!.loving windows and books as I do there is never enough room
    for art (and I am an artist so I want there to be).

  • This is a really great idea, I want to make this. I currently have a bunch of framed photographs that aren’t hanging on walls and it would be an easy way to display them on bookshelves instead, plus not waste the storage space on the shelf!

  • Gosh this is a smart idea. I love the idea of hanging art on bookshelves almost as much as I love hiding my embarrassing computer geek books ;)

  • My actual ‘book’ shelves have glass doors but I have a real mess in/on my studio bookshelves so think I will use my own ‘art’ (cough, cough) to hide my ugly supplies. Thanks for sharing this great idea!

  • What a great use for an old print and we always need a place to secure stuff from prying eyes!

  • What a great idea and it looks easy to make too. I need such secret storage boxes in my room too, especially with kids around and sometimes you just cannot stop them from messing around with your stuff. With these secret boxes to trick them into thinking they are just plain old photo frames, I can now ensure my precious belongings are in safe hands. I think I would tweak the idea a little and perhaps add a lock to further ensure the safety of my beloved belongings.

  • Interesting storage idea! I think it’s a lot more believable on a table than on a bookshelf though! There’s just something a bit weird about a painting floating in mid air on a bookshelf without and obvious anchor point that doesn’t appeal to the engineer in me..

  • Imaginative……..

    But I don’t really see how it hides much, with so much open bulk behind.

    A picture hanging on a bookshelf? Cries out for examination.

    • Rollin

      Pictures hanging on bookshelves are not as uncommon as you may think. They’re incredibly common in European interior design and I grew up with them as well. They’re of course not the safest place to hide valuables, but as a fun place to hide say, your remote, they’re handy storage.