How Can You Fix an Old TV Niche Above a Fireplace?
Q. My son is interested in buying a home. The home design is perfect for him except the cut-out space over the fireplace in the living room that was used for older model TVs is huge. The space does not really accommodate the new plasma models which are now flat and wide, not deep and tall. I'm sure this is a decorating mistake for a lot of home owners that bought homes that had this design in them. How do you fix or decorate to accommodate for the new plasma models in this space. (from Donna)
A. Donna, thank you for your question. If your son is spending good money to make the home purchase in the first place, this design glitch should not hold him back in any way. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, as it were.
We advise him to spend a bit more money to have a carpenter come in and add some sheetrock to the niche and make whatever sizing adjustment he needs to fit a new flatscreen.
There are certain types of televisions, like the LCD models for example, that feature speakers at the bottom of the TV rather than on either side. If your son goes with one of these sets, then it's not quite so horizontal a shape that you will need to fill in with your carpentry work. That tallness to the screen and speakers would help fill the existing niche space better. Just leave the back void and pack it forward with a piece of plywood and attach the TV to that.
Another good solution is to buy some broad casing material -- the wood molding that goes around a door -- and with some of this five- or six-inches-wide material, you can reshape that opening. It would cover the sheetrock on the left and right, but it would cover the void in the wall on the top and bottom of the new TV opening.
Then you would have your plasma or LCD screen showing within a picture frame.
One point to consider with plasma screens is that they usually don't have attached speakers. You will have other speakers in the room, and near the screen you will mount your Center Channel speaker. You can use a portion of the existing niche to mount the Center Channel speaker either above or below the plasma screen, filling in the rest of the niche/void as we've described above.
There are other creative options to using the existing niche to best advantage. Audio groups or sometimes millworkers can make the TV screen disappear behind a mechanized panel that slides along steel tracks and is operated by remote control. In a great article from This Old House, they describe a custom panel made for a homeowner with the monitor ventilated through a series of holes drilled into the wooden box that holds it, as well as through the door mechanism.
The FASTFRAME people have a nifty mechanical solution called VisionArt, and they are serious about hiding flatscreens. With their service, you can create a custom picture frame, select artwork (many are signed-by-the-artist limited editions), and use your TV remote control to turn your set on and off as you always do -- only your canvas-based artwork automatically rolls up and away for tube viewing and rolls back down to conceal your screen when you switch off.
In this photo, clever tri-fold shutters are used to close off and conceal the TV screen above a fireplace. This is a great non-mechanical stow-away solution.
Campbell & Strasser recently demonstrated to us a simple sliding mirrored panel that they created, easily slid up and down by hand, concealing a flatscreen over a fireplace. The mirror-encased-in-molding-and-mounted-on-a-vertical-sliding-panel solution was very clever, and their architectural woodworking is excellent.
Donna, many thanks for writing in to us at Design2Share. We hope your son proceeds with his home purchase -- and happy renovating!
Watch our Design2Share Q&A video on the Value of a Fireplace to get more great ideas about decorating in and around your hearthside.