Burning Question: Should You Hang a TV Over the Fireplace?

Faux pas or functional choice? Hang on.

If you thought people were divided on their football allegiances and whether or not tomatoes belong in gumbo, just wait until you ask if the television goes above the fireplace. You'll get dumbfounded gasps from the old-school set, accepting nods from the functionality-forward sort, and, worst yet, houses divided.

Released commercially in the 1930s, the TV was originally furniture by its very nature, and soon after became a ubiquitous staple in living rooms. (Only 9 percent of American households had TVs in 1950, versus 90 percent in 1960.) Like today, families gathered around TV to watch their favorite shows, whether it was I Love Lucy in the 50s or streaming Friday Night Lights reruns today on Netflix (Tami Taylor, still #goals). With vast technological improvements over the preceding decades, we now have slimmer, smarter, and wireless screens, often mountable on walls.

Which begs the question: Should TVs hang above the fireplace for centralized viewing or have a smaller role in the corner of the room?

Since homes differ greatly in space and size, the answer is nuanced. Larger houses have the luxury of a designated family room with a TV and usually a formal (screen-free) living room, which is often home to the fireplace in question. Smaller, often historic, spaces have to navigate the screen in the room. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

TV Over a Brick Fireplace with Christmas Tree

All Smoke, Go with Mirrors

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost streaming on your TV. You can have your cake and eat it too when it comes to the odd couple fireplace-TV duo. But for a log-burning fireplace, the excess heat can be problematic for electronics. Be sure you have a pronounced mantle to help distribute heat and deflect it from your silver screen. If not, opt for beautiful art or a light-filtering mirror and consider rearranging your furniture to best accommodate views of the fire and the TV.

Space Jam

When it comes to a fireplace, we often envision ourselves nestled on the sofa and gazing into the fire's embers, but our modern times (and Southern temperatures) make it hard to justify reserving that valuable real estate for just fire gazing. For many smaller homes, the decision boils down to space. For a historic cottage with loads of charm but limited wall and floor space, above the fireplace is the only functional option. The hearth has always been the heart of the home, so it makes sense to put the often-used screen in a centralized location.

Decision Is in the Details

The height of the fireplace and the size of the TV are the biggest factors to consider for viewing comfort. Like art, the ideal height of a TV is around eye level, but full motion wall mounts can help you achieve the perfect angle. All screens are different, so consult your TV's instruction manual (and spouse or roommate). The final consideration is the TV itself. If its extra-large scale overwhelms a room, consider a smaller or more streamlined style. Many modern TVs, like Samsung's The Frame, have designs to minimize their electronic nature and manipulate artwork. Win, win? We think so!

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  1. Library of Congress Research Guides. American women: resources from the Moving Image Collections. Television.

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