9 Ways to Design Around a TV

September 13, 2012

It’s that question we all face at some point when decorating our homes, how do we incorporate the big black box into our everyday decor?  In my home, we’ve done it two different ways (see #4 and #6 below), but everyone’s situation is different.

Some people have both a living room and a family room, which allows one to be more formal and the other for casual TV watching, however many need to squeeze that television into just one main living space. Everyone has to deal with their television, where to put it, and how to design around it, so I rounded up nine different options for television placement in a main living room.

1.  Curate Around It.  Position the flat screen above a console and gather a group of artwork to surround the television with prints, photographs, or other favorite framed works of art.  Adding multiple rectangles (in either symmetrical or asymmetrical format) takes the spotlight away from the big black screen and also allows you to showcase meaningful images.

tv console sarah richardson

Sarah Richardson

tv surrounded by art bhg

Better Homes & Gardens


2.  Flank It.  Bookcases both skinny and wide enclose a television and visually frame it with their vertical placement.  Flanking a television with free standing or built in bookcases and surrounding it with decorative objects balances the weight of the big screen and reduces the television’s dominance in a living space.

bookshelves around tv pottery barn

Pottery Barn

builtins and tv lonny


tv in bookcases camber construction

Camber Construction via Houzz



3.  Frame It.  This is a very creative solution because it’s your television saying “Yes, I’m here, and I’m fancy!”  Go rustic chic like Cassity with her DIY version or bold with color!  Either way, you’ve announced your television is a focal point, but given it some pizazz in the process.

framed tv remodelaholic


colorful frame around tv

Nine MSN


4.  Mount It and Surround It.  Some people prefer not to make the TV the center of attention over the mantel, however a look that is becoming increasingly popular as we all switch to flat screens is the deliberate placement of the television over the mantel coupled with the orientation of the furniture around both the fireplace and the TV.   It makes sense since mounting the television over the fireplace establishes one focal point instead of two.

The addition of built in bookcases provides the added benefit of display for decorative objects.  We’ve used a variation of this in our own family room, using one bookcase to the side for the television.

tv above mantel yellowcapecod

Yellow Cape Cod

tv above mantel with bookcases

Julie Williams Design via Houzz


5.  Niche It.   This option requires either a) reframing your room to create a niche in the existing wall, or b) planning ahead with a new build or remodel to create a place for the television.  Just those few inches really do make a difference and it’s a subtle way to use architecture to create a frame for the television.

tv above mantel

  niche for tv lynnmorgandesign

Lynn Morgan Design

6.  Shelve it.   Open display is another opportunity for incorporating a screen into your life.  You can suspend it between the shelves or have it sit on a stand, surrounding it with everyday objects so that the television is a planned part of the decor.

flat screen on shelving bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

tv on shelf cg


7.   Hide It.  There is no reason for a television to be out in the open if infrequently watched or if it bothers you.  Clever disguises are a unique way to hide your television, so consider sliding doors or even large scale art to place in front when the television is not in use.

hidden tv barn doors crisp architects

Crisp Architects

sliding panel for hiding tv housetohome

House to Home



8.  Balance with Layers.   When you incorporate a lot of textures, patterns, and colors into your living space, the eye doesn’t always turn to the big screen, instead it travels around the room.  Balance your television with interesting vignettes to prevent the focus from remaining solely on the television.

flat screen blue and white room bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

flat screen above mantel

Better Homes & Gardens


9.  Own It.   Televisions are a part of our daily lives – they’re everywhere from our dentist’s office to the waiting area at the airport.   Since they’re so integrated into our society, there’s no need to be shy about mounting one in your home in prominent view.   We’ve all got them, so embrace them, hang them high without apology, and perhaps with a few stylish window panels too.  :)

flat screen above cabinet bhg

Better Homes & Gardens

tv on display palmer weiss

Palmer Weiss

How big should your TV be?  I think the answer varies when you ask women and men (and especially those sports fans!).  Most dudes like them bigger, right?  The general rule of thumb is that the distance from the television screen and your viewing spot should be between two to three times its width.  Ex: with a 32” screen, sit between 5 ½ and 8 feet (96”) away for the best entertainment experience.

Have you struggled with this same dilemma in your home? How have you designed your living space around your main TV?

* Speaking of smart design ideas, here’s an announcement!  I’m writing a five part series for HGTV on sprucing up secondhand finds, you can catch the first article on bedroom upgrades over at Design Happens.


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