July 19, 2008

Flat Screens Are Going Incognito

David Young recently installed nine flat-panel televisions in a client's home. Young, the president of The Sound Room stores, has 11 TVs in his own home. From bedroom to bathroom to kitchen to media room to family room, you can't walk five paces without spotting a television.

So, given the omnipresence of TV screens in our homes, it may seem like a pointless question to wonder:

In an artfully designed room is there a place for a dark, vacuous, cold rectangle on the wall?

The aesthetic of television sets has evolved. The sleek, techie look can enhance an ultra contemporary 21st century design. But most homes in the St. Louis area favor a traditional or colonial look. In these cases, we've found several ways to hide, disguise or techorate the most TV-addicted homes.


A frame gives the television more defined boundaries and can soften the hard black lines of most sets. Some retailers offer custom options that snap right onto the frame of a TV. Pricing starts at $699. This framed TV is from the Sound Room in Chesterfield. Photo by Emily Rasinski --PD


A cheaper alternative to canvas is popping in a DVD that features rotating images of famous works of art. A static image can burn into a plasma screen, so make sure the pictures cycle through the DVD. Several companies offer fireplace scenes and whimsical screen saver downloads to computers connected to television sets. Prices: Free to $20 and more.

There are several ways to substitute a piece of art for a dark screen when the television is not in use. canvas moving down --Here the artwork can be seen moving down over the screen. The customer can purchase a limited edition painting or even get a family portrait transferred to canvas. Prices start at $4,000 at The Screening Room in Frontenac. Photo Courtesy of THE SCREENING ROOM


A popular choice for bathrooms, two-way mirrors display the TV image when turned on and let you put makeup on when not in use. Prices start at $3,199

Specially designed furniture integrates the television set into cabinets or bookshelves. The built-in display makes the TV part of the larger scene rather than the sole focal point on the wall. As shown, prices start at $2,600.

These sliding frames, from Atv2art.com, move out of the way when the set is on. If you keep the screen in front of the TV when it is turned on, the artwork changes constantly. Prices start at $1,200. Photo Courtesy of tv2art


To completely hide a television from view, consider this solution: The TV is mounted onto the crown molding and lowers from the attic to the viewing wall. In other cases, the TV can be installed to "disappear" into a wall and reappear on demand. Prices vary depending on custom installation.

Setting up the room

1. Area retailers say more than 50 percent of customers choose to install a flat-screen television above a fireplace or mantel. Most fireplaces do not emit enough heat to damage newer televisions, they say. The fireplace creates a focal point for the room, which makes it a natural spot for the TV. The set can be mounted to tilt at an angle to lessen neck strain.

2. The ideal distance from a television set is based largely on personal preference due to improvements in picture quality. The old standard formula used to be doubling the size of the screen to estimate distance away from it. For example, a 50-inch screen would require 100 inches of distance, roughly 8 feet.

3. Wall-mounted surround sound creates a more seamless look, eliminates visible wires and frees up floor space. Speaker bars are growing in popularity. The sleek, contemporary design complements the look of a flat-screen television. They can come in various formats, including virtual and digital sound projectors.

4. It's best to avoid areas getting uncontrolled sunlight, which can create a glare and washed-out picture. In situations with significant uncontrolled sunlight, an LCD television is a better option than plasma because of its anti-reflective front screen and back light technology.

5. If using a TV stand, eye level placement for viewing is ideal. Consider the style of the rest of your furniture and choose a stand that blends with the room's overall look and feel. A metal and glass stand lends itself to contemporary design and will look out of place in a traditional setting.