Until recently, many interior designers would have blanched at the idea of using a television as an creative element. With their bulky and obtrusive profiles, TVs seemed to create placement challenges at every turn. But with new ultraslim models on the market, it has never been easier to incorporate a television into a room's design. These days, the old quandary is becoming a matter of preference. Do you want to conceal that flat screen, or show it off as art? Here are expert perspectives to help you decide.
A wall-mounted TV affords prep-time viewing in the kitchen at left, where its discreet size helps it blend in. But in other cases, the set can be a more overt presence. "If the primary purpose for being in a room is to watch television, then it's not necessary to go to extreme lengths to hide it," says Virginia designer Barry Dixon.
Technology is a fact of life, but disguising it is no longer complicated. "I love the way that plasma screens have freed us from the expected ways of hiding a television," Dixon continues. "I used to say to clients, 'That armoire has made it through two centuries without being altered, and now you want to cut a hole in the back?'"
SCREENPLAY: "Place a television in a cabinet that's been built or painted to blend into the decor," says Cathy Kincaid, a Dallas-based designer. "Or for the kitchen, use cabinetry with glass doors and place sheer curtains behind the glass to hide the television when it's not in use."
Boldly displaying the television in a family room is one thing. Doing so in a more formal room is quite another. After one couple came to an impasse over the placement of their television, they turned to Robin Bell, senior designer at McMillen in New York. The lady of the house couldn't bear the thought of a television in her formal living room, but her husband believed that it would help make the room more family-friendly. Bell's elegant solution: a media system built into a paneled wall allows the living room to double as an off-hours media room.
SCREENPLAY: "Now that we have these wonderfully designed televisions, many people are asking for a flat screen over the mantel instead of a mirror or piece of artwork," says Bell. "We create a frame for it so that it looks integral."
Once viewed as an impediment to good design, the television has come full circle. In fact, in modern and contemporary spaces, a sleek flat screen complements the aesthetic.
"The new ones are designed so beautifully, I treat them as artistic installations," says Jose Soles Betancourt, a Washington, D.C., designer. "I'll treat the television as a painting." Atlanta designer Dan Carithers employed a similar tactic in the example at left, where a flat screen serves as part of a living room wall grouping.
SCREENPLAY: "Hide the television inside a glycine print, a fine art photograph, a photo of your family, or behind 1/4-inch mirrored glass, so it's disguised when you're not watching it," says Dallas designer Sherry Hayslip. "When you're ready to watch, you just punch a button."
• Barry Dixon, Barry Dixon, Inc., (540) 341-8501
• Robin Bell, McMillen, Inc., (212) 753-5600
• Dan Carithers, Dan Carithers Design, (404) 355-8661
• Jose Soles Betancourt, Soles Betancourt, (202) 659-8734
• Cathy Kincaid, Cathy Kincaid Interiors, (214) 522-0856
• Sherry Hayslip, Hayslip Design Associates, (241) 871-9106