I have a terrible habit. Whenever I’m on the road I look at houses. No, no, no, it’s worse than that – I look through the windows! I’m not a pervert – I’m just curious to see what it looks like inside. Especially if there’s something of interest that draws my attention. I cannot help it, I’m sorry. So now you know – if you see me slowing down and looking like I’ve lost something, just take it as a compliment. And if you have advice for how I can stop, please let me know. I’m serious.
A young family recently moved into a house close by. Through the large, still bare windows of the living room one can pretty much see most of the layout. The first thing that jumps at you is the TV. It hovers high and ominously above the fireplace, an inch or so from the ceiling. OK, ceilings in Seattle are particularly low, but I cannot help to wonder how painful it must to be watching TV in the sky, looking up at an awkward angle all the time. I’m convinced it hits you hard when, somewhere down the line, you cannot understand why your chiropractor bills are so high.
I see so many TVs mounted oddly high above the fireplace, looking totally out of place. For as long as I can remember this has been an issue.
But you can’t move your fireplace, so what do you do?
And why is it such a problem in anyway?
Because they’re both attention grabbers – though in completely different leagues – AND you mostly want to face both of them when you’re sitting in the room. And that can be tricky.
Let’s face it – a TV is not a pretty thing. And it demands attention – have you seen how people cannot keep their eyes off it when it’s switched on? It’s basically impossible. Which is exactly why I avoid any restaurant with a TV on the wall.
And when it’s switched off, well you have this black emptiness staring at you like a bad omen, ready to jump at you.
That is why I prefer a TV behind closed doors – where you can open it up and show it to the world when you’re watching something, and close it again when you’re not.
If you can, hide it. The less complicated, the better – it should be easy to open and close, like shelves with a sliding panel or doors.
Picture via JessicaLa Grange Interiors
Of course, the first thought is to have it above the fireplace. Now while I can understand why that seems like the obvious place, unless it was specifically so designed, there are few things more out of place than a big black TV above a traditional fireplace. There’s almost always a much smarter option (see what we did for this client). It baffles me that so many professionals do not explore better alternatives for their clients.
Why not above the fireplace?
- Because you’ll be slowly ruining your tender neck. Your TV should be at eye height WHEN YOU SIT – that means your chin parallel to the floor. So unless you have an exceptionally low fireplace, or exceptionally high chairs, things might get out of hand down the line.
- And besides, my friend, that black box is NOT an objet de beauté. It makes a terrible focal point – unless some serious thought was put into it. Most fireplaces were designed to be the main feature of the room. Having the TV hovering over a splendid architectural centerpiece is terribly rude.
So what do you do?
If the room allows for the TV to be on another wall than the fireplace wall, you’re in luck. If not, much better to place the TV next to the fireplace.
Picture via Usonia
Make sure the TV does not stick out like a sore thumb – which is not hard, because it is black and big and shiny. But you can add shelves, low cupboards and other pieces of interest around the TV to balance things out.
Picture via Christopher Developments
But what if you have no other alternative than to go above the fireplace? Then you do it this way…
Add distance between the TV and where you sit so you don’t have to look awkwardly up at it. For this your screen should be large so you can at least see what’s going on.
Picture via Domiteau Baggett Architects
Whatever you do, make sure that black box blends in with the background so that it doesn’t jump at you in all its black glory. It’s terribly rude for the TV to sit above the fireplace, highjacking the show and then have nothing to show for it.
Work on the wall around the TV – a dark tile, strong color paint, or feature wallpaper on the wall behind the TV will do the trick.
Picture via Stuart Silk Architects
Sometimes it just needs bits of this and that to keep it in balance.
Gorgeous if the fireplace is low enough – you are so lucky!
Picture via DugallyOberfeld
The fireplace above was obviously designed with a TV in mind.
But just look at this one, how clever!
In conclusion, your TV and fireplace can work together in harmony – you just need to be smart about it.
To wrap it up
- Whether your TV is on another wall, beside the fireplace, or above it, make sure it does not stick out like a sore thumb
- You can hide it behind sliding or swing doors
- Install it at seated eye level, or if above the fireplace, add distance to compensate for the height
- Add shelves, low cabinet and other pieces of interest to keep the space visually balanced
I just absolutely had to add this one
Now go and look at your TV with fresh eyes.
And tell me…
– Is your TV blending in with the surrounding, or sticking out like a sore thumb?
– What’s your take on having a TV and fireplace in one room?
– How did you solve your TV and fireplace issue? We’d love to hear what you did.
Do leave a comment below, or tell me about it right here. If you enjoyed this article, or take away even the smallest bit of good, share it with a friend. 🙂
Love your space – do go something that makes you happy.
If you want to make the right choices form the start AND love your space, contact me for an online or in-person consultation
If something is bothering you about your space, but you’re not sure what exactly. Let’s chat.
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I was considering asking my husband why we don’t just put the TV above the fireplace but after reading your blog I now realize that my TV is in the correct place behind closed doors. So it’s actually my seating arrangement that needs to be tweaked. Would you accept photos and then give me a few suggestions?
Hi Kristina, you’re welcome to send pictures, and let me know what bothers you about yours space.
This site was very helpful. I have no idea what to do with my space. If you are up for helping with ideas I would greatly appreciate it.
Thank you for reaching out, Jennifer, I’m glad you found it helpful. If you let me know what your biggest challenges are with your space, I’m happy to answer some of your questions and give you clarity on ways to move forward. Are you struggling with the layout, selecting items and colors, or putting everything together and visualizing the end result? If you don’t know where to start, make a list of all the things that bothers you, and arrange them in order of importance.
I put my TV on the opposite wall with two chairs on on each side of the fireplace and I love it! It created so much more space and make my smaller living room appear larger.
Hey Timothy, I’m so glad you were inspired to find a way to make your space work better, thank you for letting us know! That’s so inspiring to me! With a small space one has to be more creative, and with those restrictions the most amazing things sometimes happen. Enjoy your space!
I just moved into an open concept living dining room apartment. After finally deciding where the best place for the dining room table and China cabinet went, the next decision was where to place the sofa. Once that was decided I knew I did not want the TV to be the focal point near the table so recently purchased a beautiful electric fireplace. Since it is to be the focal of the living section, a large TV to be on the mantle would spoil the flow of the furniture placement as I have the perfect print to go over the fireplace. I just purchased a 32 ” TV and plan to place it in the corner off from the Fireplace. I read your article about this very simialr dilemma and solution, I think I may at last be feeling a little more at ease with the planning. Your articles are excellent and well timely.
Hi Peggy, so glad you found the article helpful with settling on a layout for your space. It sounds like you care about your space, and are giving it much thought. I love that! Happy to answer any other design dilemmas you may face. –Mia
I am thrilled I found your site! I have a beautiful family room that I am just torn up about ruining with a new TV….it’s just not sitting well with me. I’d love to send some pictures!
How is it going with your project? I’m curious to know what you did in the end, and if you’re still working on it.
Sometimes it just takes a few tweaks in the layout, and the way we use color, light, proportion and layering to distract the eye away from the less attractive things, and draw the attention to the beautiful features of the room.
Please send some pictures of your space. Let’s see how we can guide you to achieve beauty and harmony for you!
Thank heavens for this post, so grateful for your advise and suggestions!!
Having our house renovated and have a lovely fireplace which we want to keep but heavens sake do not have a clue what to do with such a big sized TV my husband does not want to size down to have it fitted in our bottom Alcove Shelves..
Please help!!!! Going nuts!!
Hi Yeter, I hear your frustration. A TV is not a pretty thing, and when it’s big and black hovering over, and stealing the attention from a beautiful fireplace, that is unacceptable! Is there another way you can arrange the furniture to place the TV on another wall? This may sound bizarre, I’ve seen some stunning solutions where the TV is placed in front of the window – it needs careful planning, a well-proportioned layout, and layered look to pull it off, though.
Alternatively, if there’s no other option, get your TV to display a beautiful artwork, something you love and that goes well with the colors in your room. Let us know how it goes!