Mounting the television above the fireplace has become a mainstream phenomenon in recent years. I must say, I cringe every time I see this and have deemed this practice a bona fide “design crime” for a couple of reasons.
First, when designing a furniture layout, a good designer is obliged to optimize comfort, and therefore must consider ergonomics. Your television should be positioned to minimize neck and eye strain. Generally, the television should be at eye level relative to your seating. Another consideration is the distance of the television from your seating, which is determined by the screen size relative to the size of the room. A good designer will consider these elements when planning a layout and place the television within a certain radius of your seating or vice-versa to avoid neck and eye strain. Generally speaking, when you mount a TV above a fireplace, you’re mounting it far too high and without regard to these important considerations.
Secondly, the flames of an active fireplace can be tremendously distracting (and downright annoying) as the constant motion of the fire in your peripheral vision competes with your favorite television program for your attention. It’s best to prevent visually stimulating or distracting interior design elements from your TV-viewing sphere. Additionally, the light emitted from an active fireplace is also a source of glare on the screen itself, which is a source of eye strain.
In addition to light emitted from the fireplace, it is a good idea to limit glare on the screen from other sources of light. For example: do not place your television directly in front of a window – try placing it perpendicular to your windows and consider using solar shades, blinds or heavy curtains to prevent glare. A good design layout will consider natural and artificial sources of light and limit the amount of light that may be reflected on your television screen – either by positioning the screen to minimize glare from existing light sources, or, in the case of a remodel, developing a lighting plan that explicitly considers television viewing as a primary activity when planning the layout and lighting design of the space. Deciding to mount the television above a fireplace is usually a decision made in the absence of any of these basic design principles.
Lastly, subjecting your television to the heat emitted from either a gas or wood-burning fireplace can shorten its life expectancy; your television, like most electronics, does not like heat. It should not be placed directly above such a significant heat source.
Please help to educate your friends about this design crime and the best practices for enhancing one’s television viewing pleasure. Together, we can stop the phenomenon of mounting televisions above fireplaces and spread the word about good design.
Written by Darlene Nicolau
Principal Designer, Nico Interior Design