would know? To keep the room uncluttered and a mix
of tradition and more contemporary styling,
designer Melissa Lewis, Lewis Giannoulias
Interiors, hid the TV in a gorgeous striking
upon a time — namely, in the 1950s — televisions
were big and clunky, yet also status symbols that
warranted a prominent spot in America’s living rooms.
Then came the 1980s, aka the Era of the Armoire.
Electronics were to be hidden, preferably in pieces of
huge, clunky furniture we’d all wonder what to do with
in five years.
forward, and flat-panel TVs seem to be everywhere — in
kitchen backsplashes, behind bathroom medicine-cabinet
mirrors, and outdoors. "TVs are as important to my
clients as dining tables or king-sized beds," says
Chicago interior designer Jessica Lagrange.
because they’re larger, thinner and lighter weight,
there’s greater ease and flexibility about where to
freedom has led to a conundrum, however: whether to hide
them or to display them for what they’ve become —
today’s sign of advancing technology, almost akin to
integrative artwork. We consulted a host of
professionals on what they think are the best way to
incorporate TVs into room design. Here’s what we
it: If you prefer a traditional look, Los Angeles
designer Sarah Barnard says: "I typically hide it
in cabinetry or a wall unit when the style is
traditional, since we’re looking back, which means a
more classic look. Years ago, decor would not have
included unsightly electronics," she says. But
because the newer TVs are much larger, a cabinet often
has to be custom made to fit it and hide the gear, which
can end up being expensive. The good news is that the
slimness of these TVs pares the depth and makes the
cabinetry jut out less, says Chicago architect Elissa
Morgante of Morgante-Wilson.
Melissa Lewis, of Lewis Giannoulias Interiors, also in
Chicago, prefers to find or design the cabinet first;
with so many TV sizes, there’s always one that fits.
designer Barbara Elliott, of Decorating Den Interiors,
prefers to leave a TV in a cabinet in view to avoid the
extra step of opening a door or sliding a panel.
it: When a more contemporary decor is preferred, Barnard
favors leaving the TV in full view since a modern look
is more forgiving of technology. Linc Thelen, of Linc
Thelen Design in Chicago, concurs. "Sometimes a TV
is just a TV, and it’s OK to show it off in the way
you leave an appliance in full view in a kitchen,"
also likes to celebrate the sleekness of the latest
designs. "Now that they look really good they’re
often so handsome that they’re anything but obtrusive.
Deciding whether to leave them out in the open or hide
them depends on the homeowner’s preferences and
aesthetics of each space," she says.
it: If you’re not sure, consider a middle ground. Some
tactics won’t hide it completely or leave it in full
view, but can make it a bit less noticeable: San
Francisco designer Claudia Juestel of Adeeni Design
Group may surround it with a frame to match a room’s
decor; Morgante may paint or wallpaper using a dark
palette, so the black TV almost disappears; Thelen may
surround it with books in a bookcase as another way to
mask it; Lewis favors grass-cloth wallpaper to add
texture and coziness; Milwaukee Decorating Den designer
Suzan Wemlinger may place it in a corner piece that’s
an adjunct rather than the major star.
it: While a TV above a fireplace offers a nice dual
focal point, the arrangement requires looking up, not a
great ergonomic solution. In fact, most people place
wall-installed TVs too high, says Elliott. Greg Porthan,
custom audio and video installation manager at ABT
Electronics in Glenview, Ill., recommends hanging it 46
inches off the ground in a living space where you sit to
watch and between 52 and 55 inches high in a bedroom,
since you’re likely sitting up or lying down.
it: Many homeowners are also reassessing whether to
include a TV in some rooms, particularly the bedroom,
because viewing a screen’s blue light before sleep
disrupts the release of melatonin.
it: Architect Stuart Cohen of Stuart Cohen & Julie
Hacker Architects in Evanston, is finding that some
clients forgo a fireplace in favor of a TV for better
viewing. "It’s more and more the feature that
helps center a room," he says. Some even want a TV
in their bathroom, and medicine cabinet manufacturers
like Robern deliver by incorporating TVs, along with
interior outlets for MP-player hookups.
it: Whatever direction you take, choose a TV that’s in
proportion to the size of the room. If the TV’s too
large, it will throw off the entire room. And a large TV
likely will be too close to the couch for safe viewing
in a small room, Lewis says. Elliott agrees and suggests
a 54- to 60-inch TV that’s 10 feet or so from the
couch or chairs in a typical 15-by-20-foot room.