It’s Time for a Better TV Room


With so much time spent at home, many of us are binge-watching TV in alarming amounts — and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

To get the most out 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 want to flop down for hours. Designing a TV room, however, isn’t like designing a kitchen or bathroom. There are few hard-and-fast rules.

Why? While homes have accommodated activities like cooking, dining and sleeping for centuries, watching TV 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.

And during that time, the technology has changed dramatically. Where boxy TVs once filled up space-hogging cabinets, now some flat-panel screens are as slender as picture frames and mounted much the same way.

“The TV is a big deal in most houses,” Mr. Morbitzer said. “But what’s funny is that everybody’s is totally different.”

Still, the architects and designers we spoke to offered plenty of ideas for creating inviting spaces for watching TV, whether your screen is in a dedicated media room or a corner of the living room.

Plunking down a TV on a cabinet or mounting it on a wall sounds simple enough. But before you do that, take note of the rest of the room.

In a room with a fireplace, a spectacular view or beautiful art, you may have multiple focal points. At one home in Manhattan Beach, Calif., for instance, Mr. Kirkpatrick’s firm designed a room with an off-center fireplace and a low plinth beside it to hold a TV, with space for firewood storage below.

Other designers prefer to mount the TV on a wall perpendicular to the fireplace, so people can choose to sit facing the fireplace or the TV.

When TVs had smaller screens and larger enclosures, hiding them in armoires was a popular strategy. Now that larger screens are de rigueur, hiding a TV in a cabinet is more difficult. But it’s not impossible.

“We get into these discussions about how to create an amazing space that’s enjoyable to sit in, where it doesn’t feel like you’re just looking at a black box the whole time,” said Matthew Berman, a principal at Workshop/APD.

That doesn’t always require motors and sliding panels, Mr. Berman said. Sometimes he positions the TV in a wall of built-in shelving, so it becomes just one element in a larger expanse of books and decorative objects. Or the shelving might be installed on either side of the TV for a similar effect.

Covering the wall behind the TV with a dark wallpaper or paint color can achieve the same thing, Mr. Morbitzer said: “We often try to put the TV on a wall that has some color depth to it, just so it doesn’t look like such a sticker on the wall.”

That means, “first and foremost, you really need ample comfortable seating,” he said. “In general, it’s good to have deeper seats” than you’d have in a normal living room, because people often prefer to recline while watching TV, rather than sitting up with perfect posture.

Many sofas have a depth of 36 or 37 inches, but one with a depth of 40 or 41 inches might be preferable in a TV room, as it offers more space for spreading out.

“You want to create a rectangle,” she said. Swivel chairs can be especially helpful with this type of furniture layout, as they can face the sofa for conversation and rotate to face a TV or fireplace.

You may have a number of components running in and out of your TV — cable boxes, streaming devices, sound bars, video game systems. To keep them and the wires that go with them from looking cluttered, you’ll need a plan for where to put everything.

A low cabinet below the TV can hide extra components, and with holes drilled in the back, it can provide access for wires. If you have multiple cables running from the TV to the cabinet, tie them together using Velcro straps or zip ties.

Better yet, think about built-in cabinetry. Mr. Morbitzer said his firm often mounts the TV on a panel that sits slightly out from the wall, so cords can be concealed behind it. If the bottom cabinets have doors made of a semitransparent material like metal mesh or woven cane, you can hide components and still operate them with infrared remote controls.

If you’re renovating, consider adding a recessed box with an outlet and all necessary cable connections directly behind the TV, and connect it to components housed elsewhere.

“It’s all hidden behind the TV,” Mr. Berman said. “All of the wires run inside the wall to wherever our remote location is. Sometimes it’s an AV rack in a closet, sometimes it’s in a basement, sometimes it’s just in a piece of furniture.”

It’s nice to be able to control light levels in any room, but in a TV room it’s especially important.

First, study the natural light in the room. If one wall is often drenched in sunlight, try to put the TV somewhere else. “There are ways to orient a TV so you can enjoy it day and night” without glare, Mr. Kirkpatrick said.

If the entire room is generally bright and sunny, it might be worth adding blackout shades or heavy drapery that can be pulled over the windows during the day. For additional flexibility, Mr. Morbitzer recommended using multiple fixtures on dimmers, so you can have a bright room when you’re not watching TV and a darker room when you are.

Be sure to include floor or table lamps beside some seats, he advised, “so if somebody wants to read a book while people are watching TV, they can do that discreetly, without having to have the overhead light on.”

“There’s a time and a place for ample throw pillows,” Mr. Bowen said. “And the media room or TV room is it.”



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