Design Tips | May 31, 2016
In the layout of our family rooms, there are 3 strategic players vying for attention, and in true American fashion, we want ALL of them ALL of the time: (1) the View, (2) the Fireplace and (3) the TV. How to have all 3 directly in front of you at the same time? Well, it probably isn’t actually possible, but we can get close!
The View: I often remind my clients that we, as humans, are actually capable of turning our heads! So, in my opinion, the view doesn’t have to be straight in front of me as long as it’s somewhere I can decide to look at it with very little effort.
The Fireplace: Fireplaces create ambiance. They don’t have to be watched closely. As long as there is flickering firelight in the general direction I’m looking, I am able to appreciate that ambiance, feel the warmth, and enjoy the mood a fire creates. So, fireplaces again, need to be in the general vicinity, but not necessarily straight ahead of me as I am lounging on my big sofa!
The TV: The Big Hogger-of-our-Attentions-and-Spaces! The stupid black box that demands top billing in our beautiful rooms. This is the thing we have to have directly in front of us at all times, and equally visible from multiple spots in the room. And it has to be the right size for the viewing distance, mounted at the correct height. This has become the interesting design challenge ever since TV’s got “way skinnier and way wider” at the same time. Back when they were “fatter and narrower”, we used to hide them demurely in a pretty cabinet or piece of furniture, just off to the side of the beautiful fireplace. But, unless you have a really big wall, it rarely works to put a TV to the side of a fireplace now, and we find ourselves hanging them directly over the fireplace (thus solving the issue of watching them at the same time!), which has to be done carefully from a design point of view, or you end up just looking at a wall with a big rectangle on top of another big rectangle.
Things to consider when designing a wall where a TV will have to hang above a fireplace: the height of the TV in relation to where you will be watching it from is of utmost importance. If you are the usual viewing distance of about 12’ from the couch to the TV screen, it has to be at that eye-level. Watching a movie while looking up in the air as if you were in the front row of a movie theater is not an optimum situation, unless someone in the family is a chiropractor! If we start with the TV at eye level, that puts the fireplace lower than we have traditionally placed them. Forget the nice 16” high hearth that people can sit on. The hearth needs to be floor level (remembering that if the flooring is flammable such as wood or carpeting, there will need to be a stone or tile section of flooring in front of the fireplace).
The thing that helps in this design scenario where we are squeezing a TV (at proper viewing height) above a fireplace, is the contemporary linear fire boxes, which can be nice and wide, but short (one of my favorite sizes is 60” wide by 20” high, although wider is even better if you have the room!). This gives a nice amount of real estate to the fire, and still allows the TV to be at a comfortable viewing height.