The TV vs. Fireplace remains hotly debated throughout the industry. In many of the markets where we work, our clients insist on the fireplace front-and-center with symmetry being the main organizer for the room. These markets lean towards traditional styling in their homes. But where does this put the TV? To the side of the fireplace, above the fireplace, somewhere else? How do we balance tradition with modern living?
Remember when most houses had living rooms? TV watching did not take place in the formal living room, but rather the small, cozy den. Over the years, the informal room grew in size and popularity to become the “family” room - doing double duty with both TV and fireplace.
Back in the 80's and 90's when the TV’s depth matched the fireplace, it was often placed to the side in a built-in cabinet. This worked most of the time when the furniture placement was in an “L”, but not always. There was always one couch with a compromised viewing angle. In the early 2000s, the flat screen TV came to being, not needing the depth of the older model and could float to almost any wall in the room.
It didn’t take long for our symmetry-loving traditionalists to discover that you could put the TV over the fireplace. Voila! Have your cake, and eat it too! That is, until you actually tried to watch the TV. What many discovered was that the TV was too high for optimal viewing and TV watchers ended up with a neck ache. The problem worsened as flat screen TVs became jumbo in size, potentially wider than the fireplace surround.
If the room is large enough, I recommend locating the TV and Fireplace on separate walls. In a recent remodel, we moved the TV from its cabinet prison and onto its own media wall. Where the TV used to be, there is now an elegant bookshelf display.
It doesn’t always work out as such, especially when you’re trying to capture a view too. A corner fireplace can be used, allowing the TV to be front-and-center. We may as well acknowledge that we “watch” the TV a lot more than we do the fireplace – even in cooler climates. Additionally, when the fire is burning, it creates an ambiance that doesn’t have to be in your direct line of sight to be enjoyed. TV watching, on the other hand, does. Furthermore, the corner fireplace terminates flush with the TV wall – making a perfect visual transition to the flat screen TV.
Looking for another option? Welcome the wide, linear fireplace. While it might not be “traditional” enough in styling for some, it does put the TV and the fireplace on the same wall without compromising the TV viewing. Interior designer, Lita Dirks recently remodeled her own home utilizing this school of thought. Before you start incorporating this technique in all your homes, be aware of the price these fireplaces – especially the ultra wide units. Additionally, make sure to include some type of mantel or bump-out to deflect the heat from the fireplace outward so you don’t melt your TV (a lot more common than you might think!).