Source: Davinong

I am currently working on a family room for a client.  The room has a fireplace with a slate mantle about 3 feet deep and seven feet long…yep. It’s big.  My client has a 42” flat screen that she wants to place on top of the mantle so that her dad can enjoy watching fires and football. But as a decorator, I must ask myself: is putting the TV above a fireplace really a good idea?

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

First let’s talk temperature. You can read lots and lots of complicated information about how heat affects plasma and LCD TVs differently (believe me. I have.).  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 OSU try to redeem themselves this season.  To determine the temperature, do this 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 Fahrenheit, congrats! You now know where NOT to place your television! 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.)

Now let’s talk height. 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 mounted above a fireplace are hung too high. TVs should be placed at eye level. Anything above this and you are probably straining your neck or just sitting awkwardly on the sofa.  You could increase the distance between your sofa and TV, but that brings me to another point: how far back you should sit from the screen for proper viewing? The answer: it depends on your TV.

This post won’t go into the intricacies of that because it depends on the number of pixels your TV has and whether you have a plasma or flat screen and quite frankly, all that math makes my brain hurt. My best advice 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. However, 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? The client really wants the TV there. Because I have such a large mantle to work with I will position the TV as far back on the mantle as possible, keeping it from the direct heat of the firebox. The room is long enough to position her sofa far enough back from the TV for optimal viewing. But if he dad starts to complain, I’ve got an ideal spot for it in the corner.  Then I can start shopping for some mantle art! 

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Lexi Nielsen

Lexi is an interior decorator living in Oak Park. Her projects range from simple color consultations to gut rehabs. She fully appreciates that not everyone salivates at the thought of shopping for home...