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Fireplaces and TVs

I am about to start work on a family room for a new client. The room will be used for TV watching and enjoying fires (and occasional napping). It has a gas fireplace with a stone mantle that is about three feet wide. I am not kidding. This mantle could probably hold my family room TV, which looks like a screen stuck on the front of a VW Beetle.

My client’s TV is a 42″ flat screen. It currently sits on a nice stand in the corner of the room. She would like to mount it above the fireplace. It would certainly be convenient for me: something that is 40-46″ inches wide (screens widths are measured corner to corner and not horizontal across) is a bit of a challenge to work into a design. The large fireplace wall lends itself well to handling the height and width of the TV.

But as a decorator, I must ask myself: is this really a good idea?

There are two key things to consider when mounting a TV over a fireplace: heat and height.

You can read lots and lots of complicated information about how heat affects plasma and LCD TVs differently (believe me. I have. It’s been a slow Monday).  But I will keep this simple: heat and electronics don’t mix. You need to know how hot it really gets around your fireplace after you build that roaring fire and settle back to watch two hours of American Idol.  To determine the heat, do a simple test: place a thermometer on the wall above your fireplace.  Now light a fire and kick back and enjoy. After it’s been going for a while – a couple of hours at least – check the temperature. If it’s above 90 degrees farenheit, congrats! You now know where NOT to place your television! It may take a few fires, but if you insist on mounting your TV here despite the heat, eventually your flat screen will look like those tapes you used to leave in your car in the sun all day. (Yep. I said tapes. I am showing my age here but you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

The other consideration is how high you should mount your TV. After reading a lot on this subject I’ve decided I should start handing out cards for my chiropractor friend when I visit people’s homes and I see flat screens mounted above fireplaces. Why? Most TVs are just hung too high. TVs should be placed at eye level. Anything above this and you are either straining your neck or you are slumped down in your sofa so far your practically sitting on the floor. If your fireplace wall passes the heat test and you still want to mount your TV there, then spend a bit more money and get a wall mount that allows you to tip the screen down, minimizing the strain a bit.

The last thing to consider when deciding to mount your TV about the fireplace is how far back you should sit from the screen for proper viewing. This post won’t go into the intricacies of that because it depends on the number of pixels your tv is and whether you have a plasma or flat screen and quite frankly, all that math makes my brain hurt. My best advice there is to google the type of TV you have and follow the recommendations given by the manufacturer. For example, if you have a 1080p 40″ LCD flat screen, then you could sit about 5 feet away and get a great picture. But if your sofa is five feet away from your fireplace wall, and your TV is mounted about 4-5 feet up the wall, you’re straining your neck to watch TV. But if you are sitting 10 feet away, it’s easier on your neck but the picture might not look as good. See what I mean? Math.

So what will my decorating plan be for this job? I think am going to look for a lovely piece of art to hang about the fireplace and keep the tv at eye level  – somewhere else in the room. I’ll just create two seating areas: one for tv viewing and another for enjoying fires. My client can then use the money she saved on wall mounts and hiding wires on wireless surround sound. Or perhaps some more decorating.

Accent Walls

When should you paint or paper a wall different from other walls? The quick answer is: when you want that wall to stand out. Just make sure that you really want it to stand out. When a wall is a different color or texture from the other walls, your eyes will definitely jump to it. That isn’t a bad thing: in decorating, you want to give a room enough interest that your eyes travel around the room and rest for a few seconds on everything. But just make sure that it’s cohesive. Everything should flow together. If there is nothing else to tie the accent wall to the rest of the room, it will just look odd.

Even decorators get the blues

Lately I’ve been working on a project of my own: updating our sun room. We’ve lived in the house for almost three years now, and with the exception of hanging some embarrassingly cheap window treatments, I’ve done zero in here.

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The room faces east and gets amazing sunlight due to windows on three walls (hence the name). We use it mainly as our computer room, but because the back door is there, it also serves as our dumping ground for shoes, bags, etc.

Last weekend I finally had enough of the white walls and the hideously-old- and-terrifyingly-dirty berber carpet. We (the room and I) needed a change.  The rest of the house is fairly contemporary with lots of neutrals, so I decided it was time for color. It’s a small space and not seen from the rest of the house, so why not just go for it.

First, the design. Because the room has exposed rafters, a ceiling fan, and lots of light, I went with cottage. But I wanted a bold cottage, not a muted shabby chic kind of affair. I want Caribbean, or West Indies, or something hot and tropical. I wanted turquoise, to go with all my red accents (it’s my relationship corner, so the red accents had to stay. Well, the red is mostly in the adjoining bathroom, which is a terrible place for a relationship corner, but that’s another discussion. Sigh.) There isn’t a lot of wall space here, so I could use a big color without overwhelming the room. I chose Benjamin Moore’s Laguna Blue. This is a serious blue. This is an all out, better have your coffee before you enter, take no prisoners kinda blue.

On to the floor. Buh bye Berber. I think I pulled about 1,000,000 carpet staples out of my floor in the past two days. I mean, it was like the carpet installers thought that the carpet was going to suddenly take flight at night and run off, never to be seen again. This carpet was locked down. But after several hours of hammering, pliers and lots of internet radio, I finally said goodbye to the carpet and hello to…fake brick linoleum. Fake brick plastic floors. You know, I wasn’t holding out for wood floors per se, but this really threw me. I mean, fake brick.  Like, was brick in such hot commodity forty years ago that everyone was running out and getting imitation?  But whatever. It’s there and I have to deal with it.

My first choice was to cover the floor with a lovely seagrass carpet. The neutral tones and the texture would go so wonderful with the bright walls. But seagrass carpet wasn’t in the budget, so I went with my second choice: Flor carpet tiles in 2 of Hue Cream. It has the same color and texture as seagrass, as well as being as eco friendly, but it was way cheaper.

Before I can lay the tiles though, I need to address the giant gaps that now exist between my floor and the walls. The old carpet hid the gap somewhat, so now it’s gone I can really see the major difference. I first filled the gaps with some aerosol insulation but now I need to replace the wimpy baseboard with something more substantial (and prettier). I decided on 4 inch baseboards. They add some interest to the room as well as cover up those gaps.

While waiting to get the baseboards, I went ahead and reupholstered an old favorite chair of mine. A discount coral fabric was all this chair needed to make it into the new space. This chair is going to look awesome against the blue walls.

My budget was tiny and I used all the existing furniture. The only piece I bought new for the room was the fan. I really like the room now: it’s pretty and interesting and a nice place to sit and have coffee and check emails.

Timely advice

I’m an anglophile. I named my daughter after a British princess. I would drop anything for a trip to London. So when I saw these prints I fell in love. Originally designed as public posters for the people of England to help them persevere in the face of possible German invasion, the  message is still timely.

I have it framed in my office. It keeps me positive, which isn’t always easy when you start a new business. You can buy it in different colors, framed and unframed.

Now if I could just get my other favorite saying framed I’d be all set:

C’est la guerre!

Seeing Things

Howdy. Just a quick post today with a tried and true painting trick for all you Spring decorators out there!

To make a narrow room appear wider: paint a wide horizontal stripe  in the middle of the wall. The stripe should be a color slightly lighter than the walls.

Another option is to paint the end walls of a narrow room a shade darker than the other two walls. It helps to bring in the walls visually, so the room doesn’t appear so long and narrow.

Happy painting!

Focal Point

The headboard wall in my bedroom is 100 year old plaster. And it shows. Unfortunately, I  did not have the painters skim coat the wall before we moved in. I didn’t ask him to leave drip marks on the wall either, but there you have it. So now this wall really bugs me, and my first thought was that I need to hire someone new to fix the cracks and repaint.

But on second thought, do I really want another wall of paint? I want this wall to be a true focal point, since the bedroom really doesn’t have any. So forget the paint! I’m going paper! Not just any wallpaper: I will be using this fabulous bamboo motif from Farrow and Ball:

Farrow & Ball Bamboo Wallpaper

The hue of the paper matches the existing color on the other walls. If it didn’t, I could repaint using colors from Farrow & Ball, because their paint matches their paper.  A whole room of bamboo would be too much, but as a focal wall behind my headboard, it’s gonna be great. I’ll post before and after pictures when I’m done.  Whee!

Disappearing act

A friend of mine was painting her living room and she had a problem: her fireplace mantle was outfitted with 70’s style enamel baby blue tiles. She was in the process of restoring her home to its original Arts & Craft style and the tiles had to go, but the custom-built wood mantle she was envisioning was budgeted for Phase Two…or Phase Three…or Phase Four…You get the idea. So what to do? Solution: paint the tiles the same color – same hue AND same value – as the walls surrounding the fireplace. This helped the tiled mantle to visually “disappear”.  The fireplace is still a focal point of the room, but the blue tiles are no longer taking center stage. Plus, the beautiful stained glass windows, once barely noticed,  now pop! Exit, stage right.

Before paint

After paint

Inspiration

Choosing colors can be daunting. There are thousands out there. Untold numbers of combinations. Even if you find a hue (color) you like, there are tints. There are shades. There are varying degrees of intensity. So where do you begin?

Begin with what you see around you. What inspires you? As a decorator, I often ask clients to show me a painting or photograph in their home that they love. Usually a favorite print is a favorite because the colors inspire a mood. Use that favorite print as a starting off point for decorating your room. A decorator can help you take those colors and extend them to all corners of a room. Inspiration realized. So lovely.