The decision to hang a TV over the fireplace in your family room or living room is often the result of a huge compromise between a husband and wife.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of the debate about whether a big black box that roars during LSU games belongs directly in the sight line of a warm, cozy fire that dances to the music of quiet conversation and calm, relaxing evenings.
Typically, it’s the man of the house who wants to hang the flat-screen over the fireplace like a cherished piece of art. The woman, on the other hand, sees the TV as an intruder in her pristine Southern living room.
I worked with one woman who had us enclose her home’s sun room just so she could put the TV, with its noisy football games and talking heads, in there, far away from her formal living room and dining room.
For guys, TV is an escape. For so many of their women, it’s something to escape from. Plus, they reason, it detracts from that beautiful fire when you hang it over the hearth.
Back when we couldn’t hang a TV on the wall, TV sets weren’t flat or lightweight, so they needed to rest on the floor or on some sort of console. Therefore, the fireplace could be the focal point all on its own, without any competition from the noisy intruder.
If the TV and the fireplace had to share a room because the house didn’t have a spare one to devote one solely to the tube, the family would arrange the furniture so some seats faced the fireplace and others faced the TV. Then, Mom could watch the calm, colorful flames while Dad screams at the referees in a different part of the room.
The furniture is a lot easier to arrange if the TV hangs over the fireplace.
To the ladies of the house: If you wind up agreeing to allow the TV to share a wall with the fireplace, make the most of it. Here are a few tips to make it look good, hang safely and feel comfortable to watch.
- Arrange the furniture so the sofa and chairs face the fireplace and TV straight on. That way, you won’t have to crane your neck if you choose to pay attention to what’s on the screen.
- If the room also has a big window, angle at least one comfy seat toward it so you can enjoy the view when you don’t want to watch TV.
- Before anchoring the TV to the wall, hold it up during the day and notice how the light from the window hits it. If the sun shines in the direction of the screen, you won’t be able to see what’s playing. That might be enough of an argument to convince your man to abandon his dream of a TV/fireplace combo wall. Or you could cover the window with drapes or blinds that are easy to close when the TV is on and open when it’s not.
- While you’re evaluating the wisdom of hanging that TV over the fireplace, sit on the sofa and notice how far back you need to lean your head to watch it. Most mantels are at least four or five feet from the ground, and the TV will hang over top of the mantel. That’s several feet higher than your eye level while you are seated. Watching six to eight hours of football in that awkward position Sunday after Sunday can get uncomfortable. It might not be the right place for the TV after all.
- Resist the urge—or temper your husband’s—to buy a flat-screen that’s as wide as the wall over the hearth. If your set is too large—or too small—for your room, your viewing experience might not be optimal. Consider how far away you will sit. You can get some online help to calculate the right size for your TV at www.televisiontutor.com.
- Consider where you will store the DVD player and cable box, which you probably keep in a console under any TV that’s not hanging over the fireplace. Do you want that hardware cluttering your fireplace mantel? A tip: Shop for wireless devices that you can locate anywhere in the house rather than close to the TV.
- Keep cable connections and electrical cords out of site. Most plugs are 18 inches off of the floor—much lower than the wall-hung TV. If you’re remodeling your family room, ask your contractor to relocate the cable and electrical outlets so they are directly behind the TV. If you’re not remodeling, get someone in to move them anyway, even if it means poking a few holes in the wall or even into your fireplace’s stone backsplash. You might have to run the wires up through the attic to avoid removing a lot of sheetrock.
- Hire someone with knowledge to hang your TV. Flat-screens are heavy, so the hanger has to be anchored into a wall stud. If you attach it to the sheetrock only, the TV is likely to fall off the wall, break apart, tear a hole in the wall, and destroy the decorations on the mantel on its way to the floor. It could even land on someone.
You might hang the TV over the fireplace despite the little voice that tells you it doesn’t fit with the décor. Still, if you’re going to hang it, do it right.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.Jeb.net.