TV VERSUS THE FIREPLACE
THE "GREAT" GREAT ROOM DILEMMA

In the evolution of television, fireplaces have increasingly have had to move over and share the limelight.

It used to be that a television was placed wherever there was a spare wall or opening. The fireplace was the reigning focal point. Now, sometimes when we are helping a client renovate, we find our clients purchase the TV size they want, and decide how or if they can fit the fireplace in!

The interior layouts of homes are changing. Houses are opening up—more windows connect the inside to the outside, there are less doors from room to room, and even less walls separating rooms. In general ... the great rooms are becoming greater, with less wall space for fireplaces and televisions!

With living rooms becoming obsolete, if a fireplace is going to be in a home, it is most often located in the great room. A common question fielded by the designers at Fenwick and Company is ... If there is going to be a fireplace, where do we put the TV?

Often the great room is a mixed use space, which creates a competition between the T.V. and the fireplace. Which should you prioritize? Do they go on the same wall? Side by side?

There are many possible solutions, and they depend on the users of the space, and whether or not the space is more formal or casual?

In formal spaces, the fireplace would demand all of the attention with a beautiful piece of artwork above and dramatic lighting focused on the mantle. The fireplace would be finished with stone detailing or a stunning tiled surround. A formal space would use symmetry in the placement of furniture, pieces balanced equally from one side of the room to the other. If having a television was necessary, one would likely have the T.V. hidden. There are mechanical devices that can hide a television in the upper portion of a niche over the fireplace or behind a mirror placed in a strategic location in the room.

Some clients feel no need to have a TV in every room and opt for a separate room with the main purpose being for theatre viewing alone, with surround sound and all viewing accoutrements in place, (and the tub of popcorn not too far away).

In a more family focused, or casual space, a client would be encouraged to display the importance of the television in their conversation grouping. In these instances, function is a high priority. Both the TV and the Fireplace could be featured on the same wall, either side by side or off-set from one another. If one design element were to be eliminated in a casual room setting, it would be the fireplace, taking second place to the everyday use of a television.

Semi-formal spaces play down the importance of the television, and display more symmetry than casual spaces. Most frequently, this is expressed with the TV mounted over the fireplace.

TV or Fireplace. If you are renovating, it is important early on in the design process to determine your style what the primary function of the room will be, Will the romance of a fire win over the that big screen TV, or will they share the limelight? Remember ... There is only so much wall space.

For functional balance between the fireplace and TV To help in this process keep the following points in mind:

  1. The distance between the T.V. and the sofa/ chair is far enough. To ensure you are not straining your neck when viewing the T.V, having enough distance between will help with the viewing at that angle.
  2. Framing the fireplace low. A Zero clearance fireplace closer to the floor or even sitting on the floor will in turn allow the Television to be mounted closer to your eye level which is a general rule of thumb for television height to improve your viewing comfort.
  3. By placing a small mantle between the T.V. and fireplace or creating an alcove to house the T.V. (furring out the wall around the television) you will create an advantageous physical separation between the two features ...
  4. Remember to have the necessary backing boards/ anchors installed to handle the weight of the television above the fireplace. Although the rack mounts are readily available, ensure the support is there to carry the weight of the plasma and the mount. (It would be a good idea to bring in a professional to complete this portion of the install)
  5. Wiring can be difficult. Keep in mind all of the necessary electrical elements that are needed above the fireplace. A cable outlet, an electrical outlet and an electrical grommet to connect the cabling from the T.V. to the dvd player, satellite receiver etc. (again, it would be a good idea to bring in a professional to complete this portion of the install)

If money is no object consider a mirrored Tv, which is a special two-way mirror with an LCD or Plasma screen behind it. With these tvs your favorite viewing without any compromise, yet when the tv is off, you just see a mirrored reflection. This is a great solution to a formal greatroom, incorporating the T.V. at all costs.


Return to Expert Advice articles

DESIGNER CHECKLIST
The complete design checklist for anyone renovating or building a new home!
DESIGN MYTHBUSTERS
Decorator or designer, what's the difference and how do you know which you need?
PERSONALITY PLAY
What does your design style say about you and your life's pleasures.