Exploring the Fireplace and Television Debate

When a fireplace is incorporated into a design, it’s usually the focal point of the room, but then the question is asked, “Where will the TV go?”. Will adding a television lessen the importance of the fireplace? At times, the fireplace and television are frenemies because they both struggle for equal attention;  They are friends to their viewers but enemies to each other. They fight over which should be a higher priority in the space ~ the fireplace can be a show stopper and provides a beautiful ambiance, but a TV is equally important for entertainment.

With the development of the flat screen TV, these frenemies are often put together on the same surface ~ one on top of another.  But does this combination enhance the space?  Or does it take away from the significance of each element?    Is it possible to incorporate a tv and fireplace in the same space and still achieve equal ‘rights’?

Let’s explore…

Placing the television over the Fireplace

What should your eyes look at…TV? Fireplace?….TV? Fireplace?….TV? Fireplace?

If the decision has been made to put the television above the fireplace, choose a TV that doesn’t overpower the fireplace size.  In this picture, the telly dwarfs the ole’ fireplace leaving the wall unbalanced. All you see is the HUGE boob tube!

Don’t place the television too high over the fireplace, so your neck is strained to view the picture.  If over the fireplace is your desired place for the TV, make sure you can view it from your seating place.  Many LCD and flat screen TVs are meant to be viewed at eye level and the picture/color gets distorted if it’s too high/low.

Incorporate the TV into a built-in over the Fireplace

Where’s the television?  O, it’s there….look behind the louver doors.  Placing the television above the fireplace, but concealing it behind doors is a great solution for the frenemies to get along and both feel valued.

NOW you see it, NOW you don’t.  Another helpful example of how to (temporarily) say GOODBYE to the TV and HELLO to the fireplace ~ Create a niche above the fireplace where the television can sit, but then be closed off when not in use.  Depending on the depth of your TV and the amount of ventilation space needed around, your niche may only need to be about 8-10″ deep.  With the use of millwork, a beautiful architectural statement can be achieved!

A third built-in option for the television above the fireplace is to create a millwork panel that fits the size of your screen opening.  With this option, it’s important to leave space around the tv (behind the panel) so the unit does not overheat.  Since a traditional mantel is eliminated (due to the television), the side bookcases still allow the opportunity to add your personal decor and unique style.

The above built-in options can be quite costly, but to achieve the same look at a fraction of the cost is possible! Add applied moulding or a recessed panel on the wall surface for the TV to fit in the center of. This can be done at any time and is very inexpensive, but provides a custom look.

Place the TV to the side

If you object to placing the television above the fireplace, another idea is to put it to the side.  Incorporate the TV into a built-in or entertainment center that is to the side of the fireplace.  This still leaves each element (the fireplace and TV) it’s appropriate significance.

Add doors ~ the TV can be concealed with retractable doors, so when not it use, can be hidden away.

Built-ins are great for a custom look, but can often be expensive.  These pictures are showcasing amazingly designed millwork, but this look can also be achieved on a more affordable scale with a free-standing entertainment center that has doors to conceal the TV (that’s what I have in my family room).

Locate the TV on another wall

Depending on the flow of the room and the placement of your furniture, you may be able to appreciate and view the fireplace and television if placed on separate walls.  For example, in this picture, the L-shaped sofa allows the opportunity to see the TV and fireplace at the same time, but each feel significant.

Forgo the Television

Do you really need a TV in the room?
Add a game table.  Lounge.  Read a book.  Enjoy the fire!

The family room may be the most challenging space in the home to design and incorporate both a fireplace and television.  Here are some thoughts from the experts about hanging a television in the heart of the home~

“It depends on the room, but a TV on the wall often shrinks a room visually,” says Mark Parsons, a designer and the owner of Mark Parsons Design in Portland.  “And it detracts from all the nice things that are in that room.”

“I’m not a huge fan of putting  the television over the mantel,” says  Jason Ball, an interior designer and the owner of Jason Ball Interiors in Portland. “I’m of the belief that you should sit and enjoy the fire. Having a fire below the TV can be fun to look at, but it can also be distracting. There’s something to be said for arranging a room so you can use the fireplace and the TV separately.”

My thought ~ Separate them, if possible.  If you’re starting with a fresh palette, you have lots of options, and separating the two (and furthermore, concealing the TV) would allow the opportunity to enjoy both, but at the same time.

Now it’s YOUR turn to chime in…  Have you ever dealt with this fireplace/TV dilemma?  Are you currently going through this back and forth decision?  I’d love to get your thoughts and opinions on what’s best and why.

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  1. says

    Great post….we just had this giant dilema at our house!!! We chose to put it on another wall….Thanks for all your great ideas!

  2. says

    we put ours on another wall, we put the hookups in the wall above the tv in case someone ever wants to do that, but I don’t like the look of the TV over the fireplace, so it is on another wall – similar to the L-shaped picture :)

  3. emarie says

    In our house, Erik is against a tv over the fireplace. I’m not necessarily for it, but by choosing to separate the two we had to switch our living and dining spaces around.

  4. Jenn says

    I love the juxtaposition of “past” and “present”, via the fireplace and flat screen. If it works for the room, I say go for it!

  5. Paula says

    ABSOLUTELY NOT. Nothing about it seems esthetically correct. There is so much natural beauty in a fire and a lot interior design beauty in a fire place. Why would you put something so unnatural in that space? Also, wouldn’t that mean you would view the television with your head in an upward position; ergonomically that cannot be a good idea.

    By the way – this subject was “up for debate” in two of our homes – and why my husband even dared to bring it up the second time I do not know! :)

  6. Shuco says

    Great post! I loved the idea placing TV over the fireplace. I just bought a new house and I am researching for some decor ideas

    Ty much, Shuco