Family Room Showdown: The Fireplace vs. The TV

It’s Family Room Month!  It’s cold out and there’s not much to do outside so you probably use your family room more during the winter than any other time of the year.  This month we will talk about solutions for your family room – everything from fireplaces to furniture.  We are working on two family rooms in the office this month, so we will share with you the challenges that we and our clients are facing when it comes to re-doing their spaces.  One client is re-decorating after giving up on her 1990’s country style. Another client is completely gutting the ground level family room to make it more accessible to the outdoors.  Keep in touch and feel free to comment at the bottom of the page. We would love to answer your family room questions!

The Case of the Melting Television

While doing some research on this month’s topic  of family rooms, I came upon this post on GardenWeb:

Wed, Jul 19, 06 at 15:51

I had my brand new 50 inch plasma installed over my beautiful cast-stone fireplace mantel. Being the show-off that I am, I invited all of my friends, family members, and co-workers over for dinner, and a grand screening of Jaws 3. As a result I now have five lawsuits filed against me due to neck and spinal injuries caused by looking up at the screen for a long period of time. I had to sell my plasma to pay for lawyer fees. Please put your tv on a stand to avoid the suits and the embarrassment of having to explain a “stolen” plasma.

I laughed out loud. And it wasn’t because of the Jaws 3 comment!  The TV over the fireplace is the one question that is

asked over and over again by clients as well as designers.  During the building boom at the Jersey shore, I was always perplexed with the architects and their choices when it came to the family room area.  They would surround the property with all these gorgeous and expensive windows, have a beautiful fireplace, and then forget that there was supposed to be TV in the room.  The solution, as always, had to be that the TV was hung above the fireplace (and remember, these were the days when flat screens were really expensive).   If the architect had consulted with an interior designer before hand, a few items would have been noted:

  • The designer would have noted that the distance from the TV to the elevated screen would cause physical issues for the viewer.
  • The designer would have suggested furniture layouts that would create a better living experience.
  • The designer would been able to create a plan and eliminate a window where the TV could be placed before the final construction documents were sealed.

Unfortunately, all of these issues came up after I was involved which meant I had to create the best solution for the constructed environment given versus the best solution for the family.   Not long after the installation of these TV’s did my clients call me to tell me about how their TV’s melted, discolored, and/or stopped working all together. They’d ask if I could create a better solution for their living space.

Are there ways to make this look work? Yes, but you need to take many factors into account before you create a room around a TV/fireplace combo:

  • Do you have proper viewing distance from the TV?  Just because the TV is larger does not make it easier to view.  I would suggest you go to the movies and sit in the first five rows to experience the daily experience you will have if you don’t take this element into consideration.
  • What does the manufacturer say about their TV going over the fireplace?
  • Under no circumstances should your wood burning fireplace have a TV above it (unless you never plan to ever use your wood burning stove.)
  • Does your gas fireplace have a blower? This may help eliminate the direct heat on the viewing screen.
  • Research fireplace options. There are many electric options that solve the melting TV issue (and you would never know they weren’t real.)
  • Is there a way to create a built-in entertainment area around your fireplace?  Though it may sound more expensive, it would most likely be less expensive than replacing your prized TV several times over.
  • Why do the fireplace and the TV have to compete?  There are many ways to integrate the television and the fireplace together without them competing.  Think outside the box!

If you’re in the Philadelphia area and need help designing a living space that works for your family, visit MDG online or call us at 888-815-2361. We look forward to making your design dreams come true!


  1. [...] Get physical – If the television is an absolute must, you may enjoy the Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit or the more recent and controller-free Xbox Kinect. With simulated sports and dancing, these electronic consoles are great options to get the family together, have fun and some physical exercise all at the same time. Worried about the placement of your television? Don’t worry – we’ve already got you covered. [...]

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