Fireplace Faux Pas: what to do with your TELEVISION
It seems that current mainstream residential building includes the media and electrical wiring to be automatically placed directly above the fireplace. With homes becoming smaller and more compact, and the idea of a main living area not including a television to be ludicrous; what is a builder to do with a feature wall containing both a fire box as well as the need for a media screen.?
This is when working with an Interior Design really pays off.
In the image above, the homeowner has done their best to stylize their feature wall, yet the ‘black box’ still sticks our like a sore thumb.
Any professional AV installer will preach about the negative effects of having a television mounted directly over the fireplace. I have discussed the following technical points ad nauseam:
Fire + electronics = bad
Most electronic devices simply operate best and most reliably at lower temperatures. Beyond that, excessive heat can cause temperature-sensitive materials to degrade quickly, and conductive materials can even sprout little metal whiskers, causing shorts within the TVs circuitry. Televisions already generate plenty of heat on their own, but by stifling the natural dissipation of heat with smoke, or introducing higher-than-normal levels of heat from below and behind the TV, you are significantly reducing your TV’s lifespan at best, and a dooming it to sudden death at worst.
It’s a pain in the neck
Placing a TV above a fireplace moves the image you’re trying to watch well above eye level. Think back to the last time you went to the movie theater and had to sit in one of the front three rows. Chances are you walked out of the theater with a stiff neck. Craning your neck into an unnatural position for any extended period of time is going to cause temporary discomfort, but doing so for even short periods of time day after day can have lasting effects, like chronic headaches.Not viewing straight on takes away from the beautiful picture:
You spent a pretty penny at the store for that upgraded picture… and you are loosing the effect at home. An LCD screen is essentially made up of a bunch of tiny, shuttered windows. These windows open and close in order to let the TV’s back light through, thus creating an image. The problem with these windows is that they have a very limited viewing angle. If you move too far left, right, up or down, you start seeing a fraction of the produced light (picture). The result is a washed out, lifeless picture – hardly what you had in mind when you laid out hard-earned cash for a new TV.
In some cases, Plasma TVs will lose brightness due to filters that are put into place by the manufacturer. And then there’s the issue of anti-glare treatments, which don’t work properly unless you view the TV from straight on. Besides, plasma TVs tend to run hot already, which takes us back to point number one.
Granted, a mounting bracket with a generous down-angle can accommodate for these these off-axis viewing issues to a certain degree, but that’s hardly attractive.
It’s just not cute
If you are anything like my clients, you have spent considerable time and money on selecting the interior decor for you room. After all of that consideration, you now also have a giant black box to coordinate around and stylize into the decor. Often the television is more of an over looked necessary evil in the world of design.
So what can you do about it?
I am glad that you asked.
Disguise with Doors
In the installation below, the television is hidden behind traditional hinged shaker cabinetry panels. This design is well balanced with the repeat of the simple detail as finish molding around the room.
A wonderful example of function and design! These door panels become works of art. The dramatic scale, decorative hardware, and custom wood finish complete this space while adding sophistication. Take a moment to picture this same room with a large black box above the fireplace… the elegance of the space would be lost completely.
Mirror above the Mantel
A clever take on a traditional installation.
Piano Hinges are used in the more lightweight and DIY friendly installation.
This custom built flatscreen box can be found on etsy.com. A subtle combination of an art installation and a clever disguise! (cost $850)
This would make a fun and creative DIY project! I see some foreshadowing happening here…
Barn Style Doors
This rustic instillation is a perfect way to hide an unattractive television and enhance the feeling of calm and tranquility of the overall room.
For a more contemporary styling: the same application as one large screen door.
Putting a television and fireplace on the same wall requires a delicate balance. Careful attention to scale and function need to be considered. Where are the components going to be placed? How well does the seating furniture function? Can I hide the wires?
These two focal points need a precise plan for them to feel warm and welcoming instead of out of balance or out of scale.
Whether you choose to have them over and under as shown above, or take a more custom approach to a side by side installation as shown in the examples below.
Separate Feature Walls
If the room is large enough to allow for adjacent feature walls, separate the television and the fireplace into two distinct viewing areas. The wood paneling running up the wall and over the ceiling to surround the fireplace wall makes for a perfect integration — it almost feels as if they are on the same wall.
Design tip: Think carefully about your furniture plan when you have two focal points in a living room. What would you and your guests prefer to see — the fireplace or the television?
This idea is installing the units side by side, with one feature point off-centered to the room. I personally feel that this installation is perfect for a large sectional sofa that would not need to be floated in the room. A great space for entertaining! Note to soffits above, build for dynamic and functional lighting, and also creating balance and symmetry.
The installation below almost becomes a ‘stacked’ feature wall, yet utilizing texture and scale, creates a more attractive focal point. Using a sleek and modern black firebox also greatly assists in balancing the simple and dark shape of the television.
Smaller can be better
Consider a smaller television unit. A screen that is a better scale for the firebox itself. Bigger is not always better as proven in the installation below.
Design tip:A smaller television screen also allows for a lower installation. Furthering to assist in a solution for the straining neck complaint.
Some may have difficulty combining two main design elements, but this homeowner managed to do three. This asymmetrical layout mixes the size of all three pieces (television, fireplace and artwork) comfortably into one design by maximizing the height and balancing the width of the wall.
Design tip: When adding artwork above the fireplace, do your research before purchasing to make sure it can withstand the heat output.
Work all the Angles
This design makes great use of an angled wall while still making it easy to enjoy the fireplace and the TV at the same time.
Design tip: Connect your fireplace mantel visually to the main shelving. As in the designs shown here.
As always I hope you enjoyed today’s post, and I encourage you to do great work.