With so much time being spent at home, many of us watch TV in alarming amounts – and that probably won't change anytime soon.
To make the most of your time in front of the TV, you need more than just a handful of streaming services: you need a comfortable room where you can be absent for hours. However, designing a TV room is not like designing a kitchen or a bathroom. There are few hard and fast rules.
Why? While activities such as cooking, eating and sleeping have been taking place in homes for centuries, television is still relatively new. It's "only been a design problem for about 70 years," said Thomas Morbitzer, a partner at Ammor Architecture in New York.
During this time, technology has changed dramatically. Where box-shaped televisions once filled room-filling cabinets, some flat screens are now as slim as picture frames and mounted in the same way.
"The television is a big deal in most homes," Morbitzer said. "But what's funny is that everyone is completely different."
Still, the architects and designers we spoke to offered many ideas for creating inviting spaces to watch TV, whether your screen is in a dedicated media room or in a corner of the living room.
Set up the TV
It sounds easy enough to put a TV on a cabinet or mount it on a wall. However, be aware of the rest of the space before doing this.
A television often competes for attention with other elements. "There's always that challenge between the fireplace, the television and the view," said Grant Kirkpatrick, partner at KAA Design in Los Angeles. "Every day we think about where to put the TV so it's practical but not the focus."
In a room with a fireplace, the television is often mounted high above the mantelpiece, but that isn't always the best choice, Kirkpatrick said. Sure, it makes a wall the focal point of the room, but it also requires the viewer to look up when seated, which can be uncomfortable. (And decorating the mantelpiece is more difficult.)
What is the ideal height for a television? That "depends on the distance to the television, the size of the television and the height of the sofas," said Morbitzer. In general, he said, "We place televisions 50 to 54 inches conveniently in the center of the floor."
In a room with a fireplace, spectacular view, or beautiful art, you can have multiple focuses. For example, in a house in Manhattan Beach, California, Mr. Kirkpatrick's company designed a room with an off-center fireplace and a low pedestal next to it that could accommodate a television. There was space for firewood underneath.
Other designers prefer to mount the TV on a wall perpendicular to the fireplace so people can choose whether to sit in front of the fireplace or watch the TV.
Look at the TV wall
When televisions had smaller screens and larger cases, hiding them in closets has been a popular strategy. Now that bigger screens are essential, hiding a TV in a closet is harder. But it's not impossible.
Ammor Architecture designed a SoHo loft with a retractable screen and hidden projector, which completely eliminated the large-screen TV. Workshop / APD, a New York-based company, sometimes hides the television behind a large work of art with a motorized mechanism that pushes the work of art out of the way when it is time to watch "The Queen's Gambit."
"We get into these discussions about how to create an amazing space to sit in and not just look at a black box all the time," said Matthew Berman, Principal at Workshop / APD.
That doesn't always require motors and sliding panels, Berman said. Sometimes he positions the television in a wall of built-in shelves so that it is just one element in a larger area of books and decorative items. Or the shelf can be installed on either side of the TV for a similar effect.
Covering the wall behind the television with dark wallpaper or paint can do the same thing, said Mr Morbitzer: “We often try to place the television against a wall that has a certain depth of color just so that it doesn't look like a sticker the Wall. "
Plan the seat
Furnishing a TV room is not like furnishing a formal living room. "Avoiding paperwork is usually good practice for a TV room," said Andrew Bowen, partner at ASH NYC. "We think of it as a place where people really just want to relax, unwind, shut down the outside world and focus on the entertainment that lies ahead."
That means, "First and foremost, you really need plenty of comfortable seating," he said. "In general, it is good to have deeper seats" than in a normal living room, as people often prefer to sit back while watching TV rather than sit up in perfect posture.
Many couches are 36 or 37 inches deep, but one 40 or 41 inches deep may be preferable in a TV room because it offers more space to spread out.
Sectional sofas are popular in TV rooms for similar reasons: They promote a casual atmosphere and support different seating modes, while people in rooms with multiple focuses can take different directions.
"Make an L-shaped cut if you can," said Joyce Downing Pickens, founder of JDP Interiors in Los Angeles. She prefers cuts with back support on two sides over those that simply give a standard sofa an Ottoman extension.
Or use two couches to form an L with a side table in the corner where they meet, as Ms. Pickens did in a house in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. Then complete the seating arrangement by adding a chair or two across from the sofa.
"You want to make a rectangle," she said. Swivel chairs can be especially helpful with this type of furniture layout as they can stand on the sofa to chat and rotate to face a television or fireplace.
Manage the wires
A number of components might be running in and out of your TV – cable boxes, streaming devices, sound bars, video game systems. So that they and their associated wires don't look cluttered, you'll need a plan of where to put everything.
A low cabinet under the TV can hide additional components and provide access for cables with holes drilled in the back. If there are multiple cables running from the TV to the cabinet, use Velcro or zip ties to tie them together.
Better still, think of built-in wardrobes. Mr Morbitzer said his company often mounts the television on a panel that protrudes slightly from the wall so that cables can be hidden behind it. If the lower cabinets have doors made of a semi-transparent material such as metal mesh or woven pipe, you can hide components and still operate them with infrared remote controls.
If you're renovating, consider adding a recessed box with a power outlet and all the necessary cable connections right behind the TV and connecting it to other components.
"It's all hidden behind the TV," said Mr. Berman. “All the cables run inside the wall to our remote location. Sometimes it's an AV rack in a closet, sometimes in a basement, sometimes just in a piece of furniture. "
Control the light
It's nice to be able to control the lighting in every room, but it's especially important in a TV room.
First, study the natural light in the room. If a wall is frequently soaked in sunlight, try moving the TV to a different location. "There are ways to orient a television so that you can enjoy it day and night," said Kirkpatrick without glare.
If the entire room is generally bright and sunny, it can make sense to add blackout drapes or heavy drapes that can be pulled over the windows during the day. For added flexibility, Mr. Morbitzer recommended using multiple lights on dimmers so that you have a bright room when you are not watching TV and a darker room when you are watching.
Make sure there are standing or table lamps next to some of the seats. "So if someone wants to read a book while people are watching TV, they can do so discreetly without the overhead lights having to be on."
Increase convenience with accessories
"There's a time and place for plenty of pillows," Bowen said. "And the media room or TV room is."
With throw pillows, people can customize their comfort, especially with a deep sofa. By piling pillows or tucking them behind him, he said, "You can sit at the exact angle you want, in the position you want."
A throw or blanket over the sofa also adds to the relaxed atmosphere and makes it easy to get cozy on cold nights.
Since the TV room should be a casual place, Mr. Bowen is also happy to add floor cushions or stools for those who want to spread out on the carpet.
And to keep the room tidy, Ms. Pickens suggested adding decorative trays, boxes, and bowls. "I always try to find a nice box or bowl for people's coffee tables," she said, "so they can put their remote controls in."
A container also offers protection from the scourge of a TV room: the sofa with cushions that are so deep that they swallow the controls.
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