Like two divas vying for the attention of a camera lens, modern gas fireplaces and flat screen televisions that coexist in the same home are competing for the attention of homeowners. Rather than grapple with which deserves the spotlight the most, it’s often decided that they’ll get equal billing, one on top of the other. While it’s usually the easiest decision, does settling for that tried and true option always make sense?
With the fall-forward changing of the clocks and the long season of home hibernation already settled in for those of us who live in chillier climates, that question does take on added significance. Given that fireplaces are generally the focal point of any room they’re in and that TVs have gotten exponentially larger and omnipresent, both tend to draw lots of viewers this time of year.
So, for a question that’s been asked so many times that a Google search delivers hundreds and hundreds of results, we’ll take a brief look at the pros and cons while also addressing some installation options you might have yet to consider.
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From a Design Perspective
The advent of contemporary linear gas fireplaces in the opening decade of the 2000’s paved the way for a design element that’s become ubiquitous in recently constructed North American homes. It’s little wonder the trend took hold. The elongated horizontal shape of linear fireplaces provides geometric symmetry with the rectangular profile of flat screen TVs.
Ultimately, growing consumer enthusiasm for the modern, clean look of the linear gas fireplace firmly cemented the symbiotic relationship between fireplace and flat screen TVs. With their simple frames and wide open viewing areas, they are mirror images of each other. However, even what appears to be a match made in design heaven, there are a number of visual shortcomings – according to some interior design pros – when the two are paired together.
Some designers just don’t like the idea of stacking two major focal points in a room onto a single wall. Others feel that a TV detracts from the social importance of a fireplace. For them, fireplaces are the heart and soul of the home, the place where family and friends gather to socialize, entertained by the warmth and drama of a flickering flame, not by dancing pixels on a TV screen.
Or, like this designer on the Today Show suggests, TV over fireplace is a look that’s already past its prime. In addition she argues, given that most fireplaces are installed at a comfortable seated level, the placement of a TV above causes neck strain for viewers, a valid point given that the agreed upon recommended height for the center of the average screen is between 42″ and 48″. Good design isn’t just optics she argues, it’s also functional.
From a Technical Perspective
Staying with the functional angle, perhaps the most obvious question that comes up when discussing the topic is whether the heat produced by a fireplace will damage a TV. From a purely common sense perspective, you know that heat rises, and if the TV is above the fireplace, isn’t there cause for concern?
Oddly enough, TV manufacturer’s seem less concerned with that possibility than fireplace manufacturers. Of the three best selling TV manufacturers – Samsung, LG and Sony in that order – only Samsung even mentions positioning the TV above the fireplace in its installation manual. Even then, its one line reference says only that the maximum operating temperature for its TVs is 104 degrees. LG and Sony operate at the same maximum temperature. Exceed that and the warranty for all three is voided.
If the home is newly constructed or the homeowner is open to renovation, they should consider following the recommendation of fireplace manufacturer European Home and build in a recess so that the TV is flush to the wall. Pairing this technique with a mantle will provide your T.V. with optimal protection and is also an aesthetically pleasing solution. At the end of the day, it’s important to find a quality local fireplace installer who can help you make sure your fireplace and T.V. will work safely together.
If that isn’t enough to consider, you’ll need to pay attention to acoustics as well, says website Home Theater Review.com. In the article titled “Why AV Enthusiasts Should Be Mad At Fireplaces,” they argue that fireplaces are “where bass goes to die.” Surround sound, home theater enthusiasts take note!
From Offset to Screen Art, There Are Options
The obvious options are placing the fireplace and TV in separate rooms, placing them on separate walls in the same room, or putting them in offset positions on the same wall. The first requires two rooms large enough to accommodate large focal point viewing areas. The second requires enough wall space and a seating arrangement that is comfortable enough to enjoy both. The third is a choice that opens up a number of interesting design approaches.
There are other creative options, like building a custom enclosure to hide a TV when it’s not being used. Or using wall art mounted on a retractable frame to cover the TV. Bob Vila, former This Old House star, offers a gallery of options in this article titled “9 Ways to Make Your TV Look At Home.”
Or perhaps, you may wonder, is there an app to provide a design solution to this dilemma? Believe it or not, there is! It’s called ArtCast and it’s a streaming service that is available on Roku, Apple TV and GooglePlay. Once downloaded, ArtCast can turn your TV screen into a rotating gallery of art. The free version provides 160 galleries with 20,000 paintings, photos and videos. They run at 60 second intervals, but will also play commercials. The premium service features thousands more works of art with uninterrupted streaming at a cost between $2.99 and $4.99 per month.
Whether you choose to mount your TV over the fireplace or elsewhere, just keep in mind that hearths have historically provided life-sustaining heat and a warm gathering place for human interaction since the beginning of time and they still do. At European Home we may be a bit biased when it comes to which of these major focal points should dominate a room, but if you’re searching for ways to create atmosphere and encourage human connection, we always suggest hiding the TV remote and turning on the fireplace!
Looking for fireplace design guidance? We do this for a living.