Hidden compartment/panel picture frame

I consider myself decently crafty but not necessarily skilled. I can figure out how to do things but my execution is sloppy. Because of this, I have no intention of ever attempting to sew (just way too much precision); I can't bake (eyeballing it apparently does not work when it comes to baking); and pretty much every household "project" I have actually managed to complete has ended up looking like a twelve-year-old made it.

That said every so often I REALLY want something that I either can't find or can't afford that I just know I could make if I buckled down to it. Today I got it into my head that I needed a very specific type of picture frame. I could see it in my mind's eye but if it exists I wasn't able to figure out the proper Google keywords to find it (Etsy search and Amazon search also struck out). I wanted to call it a hidden panel picture frame but I'm not sure that accurately describes it.

Description of what I wanted: a picture frame that opens on a hinge to reveal a second picture frame behind the first and has a latch so that if you want to you can close up the frame to hide the second picture from prying eyes. I got this idea from seeing some really classy pin up and boudoir photo shoots that would be something I would maybe like to do for my husband someday, but not necessarily something he would be comfortable keeping on his desk at work (Though at this point, I don't think he has a desk. . .). BUT! If there was a family picture in the front frame and the second frame was really subtle, no one would know that there was a flirtatious picture underneath, right? Or even if they suspected they'd have to be pretty gutsy to go and open a picture frame that is obviously latched on another man's desk to see what is inside. . .

The idea seemed so simple that I was sure there would be something on the market out there already, and there probably is, but I couldn't find it. So I took a trip to Walmart and the Home Depot and picked up two cheap wooden frames for $3 a piece, a set of small hinges (the smallest I could find) for $1.98 and a tiny latch also for $1.98 (The latch, while the only one small enough I could find, turned out to not be perfect for this project; it's the one part I would like a redo on. More on that later).

Did I mention my problems with execution? Well, as simple as this project was supposed to be it should've taken me about five minutes to whip together, but it took about thirty and required a lot of assistance from my five-year-old who tried to help me hold the pieces in place. It took about ten tries where the screw went flying every time I turned on the electric screwdriver (if it had been sonic I would've had more luck) or drill or whatever this thing is called . . .anyway, every time I turned on the drill the screw would skitter away, but after about ten times I realized this was mostly because I had the wrong bit size in for these tiny screws. I also couldn't find a vice in the garage (we may not actually own one), so I ended up using two hand weights and the assistance of my daughter, as mentioned before.

my version of a vice
 Once I finally was able to get screws into the piece it started to come together. The cheap frames cracked a little where the screws were inserted, so if you plan to make a present of it, it might be worth buying slightly stronger frames (which would most likely cost more than $3 a piece).

you can see, my cheap frames cracked a tiny bit here

So you want to stack the picture frames one on top of the other, both facing up, then attach the hinges, one on the top and one at the bottom, over lapping both the frames. Use whatever size hinge fits your frames. I had to go small, though, and you probably will too unless you have found some sturdy, husky frames.

Once the hinges are holding the frames together, turn it to the other side (the opening side) and attach the latch.

As I mentioned, my latch, even though it was the smallest one there, was still a little too big to fit exactly right. It looks good but if you open it up there wasn't a place to attach the second side of the loop end to and it is kind of just swinging free. Whoops. A craft store might have better options than a hardware store or you might be able to special order it somewhere.

So here you go from the front it appears to be an innocent picture frame.

hello, stock photo family.

From the side you can see the hinges.

And when you open it up, SURPRISE!

In this photo you can really tell that the latch doesn't work.

Okay, hopefully next time I find a better latch.

Other than that, that is my project. Yay!

Edit: I figured out how to make my latch work.  I bent it inward so it could attach to the inside of the frame and it now works like a charm.

shared on The Peaceful Mom.

The Chicken Chick


  1. Interesting project! You and I sound a lot alike. :) I love coming up with ideas for projects, but the follow through and precision that some things take are not my forte. I think once you get the mechanics of this down, it will work out really well for all of those sneaky pictures. ;)

    1. If all else fails I'll just use it to stash my collection of Rings of Power.

  2. Great idea - you could keep secret messages behind the main photo if you wanted :)

    Thanks for linking up!

    Sarah @ A Cat-Like Curiosity

  3. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick


  4. What a clever idea! Thanks for linking up to my Pin Me Party!


Post a Comment