Big-screen TVs are, well, big.
As more people buy big-screen TVs for their homes, interior designers face the challenge of finding innovative ways to make the screen feel like part of the room instead of visually taking it over.
"Conceptually, what we're finding is, yes, people want the focus to be on television viewing, but the question is how to hide the television," says Laura Bordeaux, owner of FX Design in Glastonbury, Conn., and president of the state chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.
"It's become a focal point but yet an eyesore in the same respect because it's so large," she says.
Twenty-nine percent of U.S. households own a TV that is 40 inches or larger, a Consumer Electronics Association study found this year, and 61 percent said they expected to own one at some point if they didn't already.
Some people buy a colossal set to show that they have the latest technology. For many, it's just a guy thing -- a bigger screen is ideal for watching sports and playing video games.
One "TV guy" is West Hartford, Conn., resident Jeff Anderson. Last year, he and his wife, Kristin Anderson, renovated the living room of their home. Jeff agreed to the major renovation Kristin envisioned -- if they could incorporate a big-screen TV into the redesign.
West Hartford interior designer Kathy Hayes worked with the Andersons to make sure their new 50-inch TV did not dominate the living room.
She set the screen in a dark wooden wall unit to mask the screen size and filled its other shelves with textured knickknacks that she says balance out the slickness of the screen.
Thick draperies hang on each side of the French doors that face the golf course, creating a larger visual unit that draws the eye away from the TV toward the view outside. Hayes used the same effect around the fireplace, hanging a painting that filled the space between the mantle and ceiling to create a greater whole. She also incorporated circular designs throughout the room -- end tables, rugs and wall decorations -- to contrast with the squareness of the TV set.
Hayes visually de-emphasized the television. Another way to mask a big TV is to frame it and pretend it's a piece of art.
Chris Ardery of Designs by Chris in Newington, Conn., hangs flat-screen TVs over client mantles. They sit in custom frames with a print rolled between the screen and the frame like a shade. When the television is not in use, the print can be unfurled to hide the screen and make it look like a framed piece of art.
"It's a lot prettier than letting that black thing hang on the wall," she says.
But sometimes that black thing gets to shine. Bordeaux is designing an entertainment basement for Phil and Iwona Leger of Tolland, Conn., who plan to buy a TV with a 50- to 72-inch screen.
"We went to [Bordeaux] and we said, 'We want to have a wine cellar, and a pool table and a home theater area,' " Phil Leger says. "What can you do with the space that we have?"
Bordeaux designed the space with half-height walls so the Legers can watch TV both from the couch and also while playing pool in the next room.
"In an entertainment space," Bordeaux says, "you're not trying to hide the box."
Putting big-screen TVs in perspective
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