Friday, June 25, 2010

TV or Not TV? That is the Question!

One of the most debated issues in decorating these days is probably the pros and cons of hanging a TV set over a mantel or fireplace.

Until recently, I was a full-fledged member of the "Absolutely-Hate-the-Idea" group, but I have to admit that I'm considering joining the ranks of the "On-the-Fence-for-Now" group, also known as the "Wishy-Washy" group.

I've always loved decorating our mantel for the seasons, especially for Christmas, and I just can't imagine replacing my garland and birds with a television set!

However, having said that, we have been toying with the idea of building a house, and have had several lively "discussions" about the placement of the fireplace in the living room. We are considering rebuilding a house we built in 2000, with modifications, and in that house, the fireplace was in a corner, with a built-in TV cabinet with doors next to the fireplace; floor-to-ceiling bookshelves were beside the TV cabinet. This is a picture of the living room in that house which will give you an idea of the layout.

I cringe when I look at that picture and see how my taste in decorating has changed. Our friends at Rate My Space would have a field day "critiquing" it, but bear in mind that it was ten years ago! You will also notice in the picture that the mantel was decorated for Fall.

I said all that to say this: In the new house, my husband wants to move the fireplace from the corner and recess it into the wall where the TV cabinet was ... and hang a flat-screen TV set over it. This would give us more room in the corner where the fireplace was, plus, we could add the floor-to-ceiling bookcases on both sides of the fireplace. The TV set wouldn't just "hang on the wall," but would have some kind of wood trim around it and would be recessed within the frame.

I like that idea, but I truly can't bear to think about not being able to decorate the mantel. And now you have "the rest of the story," which explains how I have become a "fence-sitter" whenever the topic of hanging the TV set over the fireplace comes up.

I have researched the subject and browsed through magazines for pictures and ideas, and would like to share my findings.

There are several factors to be considered, such as the aesthetics of this location, proper viewing angles, and the impact heat may have on your TV performance.

The following tips are from Canadian House & Home magazine. Here is what they recommend for proper placement (the red comments are mine):

Treat it Like Art: Your flat-panel TV should be mounted at the same height as you would hang a piece of art of the same size over your fireplace. It doesn't say anything about where you put your garlands and birds. :(

If in Doubt, Do a Little Math: Depending on the height of your mantel — or if you don’t have one, the top of the fireplace — hang the TV four to twelve inches above. If your mantel is higher than four feet, then hang the TV no more than six inches above.

Think about a Tilt Mount: Mounting your TV above your fireplace means it will be higher than normal (ideally, your TV should be at eye level for comfortable viewing), so you may want to consider mounting the TV onto a "tilting and panning wall mount" so you don’t have to crane your neck to watch television, and can also enjoy the view from anywhere in the room.

Mock It Up First: To help you center the TV to your fireplace and decide on the most pleasing height before you start drilling holes, test its placement by cutting out a paper rectangle the same size as your unit and tape it to the wall. Evaluate its placement from a sitting position and adjust it accordingly.

Do the Radiant Heat Test: Test out the radiant heat that emits from your fireplace as it could greatly reduce the lifespan of your TV. Assess this by starting a fire and place your hand over the area where your TV will be mounted. If it feels considerably hotter than room temperature, you should consider placing your TV elsewhere in the room. [Another factor to consider if you have a mantel is that heat is deflected out and up by the mantel and does not directly affect the TV]

Now for the fun part. Here are a few pictures I came across that capture the imaginations and creativity of designers when it comes to disguising TV sets when they are placed over a fireplace, thereby becoming the focal point of a room. The ideas range from plain and simple to elegant and fancy. I've also seen pictures of TVs hidden behind paintings or other works of art, and TVs that recede into a cabinet or piece of furniture, but that gets to be quite costly.

I think I like the following idea the best of the ones I've seen so far (I'm sure I will look at hundreds more pictures before I settle on one ... IF we decide to go with the TV over the fireplace, that is.).

Photo of fireplace by Lydia Lindsey, Flickr (I added one of my pictures to the tv screen).

By the way, have you seen how THIN the latest flat-screen TVs are? It's really amazing and hard for me to comprehend.

If you are still with me, I'd like to hear your opinion on this subject and hope you will take the time to comment. To paraphrase our friend Shakespeare: To hang the TV over the fireplace, or not -- that is the question!


Janie said...

I am so glad you are addressing this isssue and yes, it is an issue for me. Our flat screen is in an amoire. I can't bear the thought of having it on the wall, but...Um, I'm not on the fence yet. If I could find the perfect arrangement, I would consider making a change. So I will be following your fingings and input closely. Thanks so much.

PAT said...

We have both TV and no TV over the mantels, Janie.

Here at home I have mantels to decorate, even a faux fireplace mantel. At the lake we have one of those recessed cubbies, over the fireplace, for the tv. Absolutely hated that thing from the beginning. I really wanted a mantel to decorate. In the end, the TV cubby stayed and a neighbor built a mantel that fits perfectly. It has a narrow ledge. I managed to decorate that mantel without blocking the tv view. Funny story about that, decorating. When we first put the mantel on the fireplace, I was experimenting with different vignette ideas. I put a metal fish sculpture up, at one point and Molly threw a fit, barking at it. Needless to say, I admired her decorating sense and removed it. I've grown to love the way the fireplace.TV looks now, but it took awhile.:-)

The Quintessential Magpie said...

I don't have a flat screen, but when we bought our house, someone had built some sort of cut out thing for the TV, and I don't like it. It has doors that go back into the cabinet part. It's hard to decorate around. I nailed a picture over it, but it still doesn't cover up the gaps of where the doors are. I still prefer having a large wardrobe, and what if you use your fireplace... does the wall get hot? I guess they have thought of all of that, but I can't help but wonder. I have seen paintings that were created to go over a TV, and that works. As long as it's covered up, I don't hate it. I've seen some that look good with the paintings over them. But for us? We don't watch enough television to warrant it. It would be nice for movies. THAT I would enjoy.


Sheila :-)

Tonja said...

OK, so I'm trusting here that you really want, I'll go with that!
I really do not like the idea of a TV as the focal point of any room! And especially over a fireplace. I think it says that you think the TV is the most important thing in the room. Also, I LOVE decorating my mantle for the seasons. It is who I am. Decorating the mantle says that I have prepared my house for the season we are in and I am ready to share it with others.

Now, I do have a suggestion. Since I think you have a painting over your mantle now that you like and leave it up all the time....have that painting put on a hinge or some such thing...and go ahead and put your TV over the fireplace///but inserted into the wall...then put the painting you love over it. And, lower your mantle a little so you can still decorate it. I know there are several companies that specilize in taking your art and making it into a TV cover.

Hope I wasn't too honest! I think whatever you decide will be what is right!

Anonymous said...

Hi Janie! We thought about this same thing recently but I've decided against it because I feel that you should focus on one or the other. Not both together. I've never understood why builders combine fireplaces/tv hook-ups. My tv has to be next to the fireplace and I hate it. What happens is I would stare at the fire and miss the show or watch the show and keep getting distracted by the fire!lol I've also heard that it is tiring to watch tv at that level? Having said all that (lol) I'm drawn to the last photo you posted; I think that is the only way flatscreens over fireplaces look right - contemporary settings with no seasonal decorating urges!lol Good Luck - you know you have to follow your gut instincts on this one! With your beautiful style it never lets you down!!! Have a great weekend - Sincerely, Jeannette

Beautiful pear tree lane said...

Hi Janie, I am more confused that ever,lol. I suggested to dh the other night that we move our flat screen to the mantle, but he didn't like that idea, And after thinking about it I thought, like you I wouldn't be able to decorate.So we are back to square one. lol..
You have such excellent taste, I know you will find the right solution. I did enjoy looking at all of the photos, and got some ideas, thanks for sharing.
Enjoy your weekend.

racheld said...

I don't remember our having a TV even IN the living room since I was a teen, and that's just where they WERE, kinda a status symbol.

Caro has her own TV upstairs in her own area, so the LR and all the other sitting rooms are free to be just that---for conversation and reading and just SITTING.

Down here, the TV is backed up to the computer desk, so all the geegaws and wires and junctions and boxes are all in one place, at least. And it's our space, where we have our easy chairs with a table between, lots of bookcases, and it's not JUST a TV room.

I see people buying HOUSES because the guy knows that big flat-screen is included. It just doesn't appeal to me to have such a squared-off one-usage electronic item front-and-center, when it's never even front in our lives, let alone center.

I MUCH prefer your welcoming mantel, no matter what room or house it's in.

Sheila (TCW) said...

I think if you truly enjoy decorating your mantle, and it's a big part of what makes you happy, then you should probably go with that. However, if you think you can live with it, and you don't think you'll have to apologize to your guests for having the tv over the mantle or even bring it up in conversation, then go for it.

Maybe it would be worth the added expense to have it built in and hidden to make both you and your husband happy?

Sorry that I probably haven't been much help!