Solving your home, one panel at a time

This is just too cool not to share, even though there’s a goodly chance you’ve already seen it on Metafilter or Gizmodo on in the NYT, where the story originated.

Could you do it?

Now, I love puzzles — even when I can’t solve the razzafrackin things — and if I had the money, I’d spend millions of dollars to have architectural designer Eric Clough hide all manner of brain-twisters in my house, just like he did for Steven B. Klinsky and Maureen Sherry.

…some of that furniture and some of those walls conceal secrets — messages, games and treasures — that make up a Rube Goldberg maze of systems and contraptions…The apartment even comes with its own book, part of which is a fictional narrative that recalls “The Da Vinci Code”…It has its own soundtrack, too, with contributions by Kate Fenner, a young Canadian singer and songwriter…

It started during the design process, when Klinsky asked that a poem he had written for and about his family be lodged in a wall somewhere and Sherry suggested hiding it, “like a time capsule.” That sent Clough into a frenzy in which he immersed himself in code books and cipher books, and then reached out to the sort of furniture makers who specialize in hidden closets.

All of that was tied into gizmos Mr. Clough, Ms. Bensko and others in their office hid in the apartment — without telling the clients — in a way that is almost too complicated to explain. Designing and producing the apartment’s hidden features, however, including its book and music, took four years, said Mr. Clough, who absorbed much of the cost in terms of his own billable hours, and relied on the generosity of more than 40 friends and artisans who became captivated by the project.

[The mystery] remained largely unnoticed by its inhabitants for quite some time after they moved in, in May of 2006. Then one night four months later, Cavan Klinsky, who is now 11, had a friend over. The boy was lying on the floor in Cavan’s bedroom, staring at dozens of letters that had been cut into the radiator grille. They seemed random — FDYDQ, for example. But all of a sudden the friend leapt up with a shriek, Ms. Sherry said, having realized that they were actually a cipher (a Caesar Shift cipher, to be precise), and that Cavan’s name was the first word.

Once the family received their first real clue via mail, they were dogged about solving it. That’s actually the part of this interesting tale that bothers me most — all of that work went into making this unique apartment, and the mystery was solved something like two weeks later if the article is to be believed.

Give me a puzzle house that lasts a decade! Why, oh, why don’t I have all the money in the world with which to build it?

3 Responses to “Solving your home, one panel at a time”

  1. Twistie June 13, 2008 at 12:29 am #

    I’m not sure I’d want dozens of puzzles built in all over my home, but I did always want a secret passage. Mmm…secret passage.

  2. Emily June 13, 2008 at 7:42 am #

    There were false panels built into a couple of rooms at my high school (which used to be a small estate, but anyway…). Although nothing was hidden in them, they still intrigue me to this very day.

  3. Never teh Bride June 13, 2008 at 8:42 am #

    Twistie: Let me refer you back to this post :-)

    Emily: I can imagine that high school students could find all manner of different uses for false panels!