Thankfully, the tech part of home design and electronics has come a long way from the box TV and floor speakers of the past. Flat screens and panel TVs have become standard choices, but today's savvy hardware makers are taking a lot more into account than just the thinness of a TV and the fact it can be mounted on a wall. The consumer electronics industry now accepts that designers play a role in whether or not electronics are "allowed" into the home. We call this the "designer approved solution."
Here are our five best tips for getting your media solution 'designer approved.'
First, if at all possible, bring your contractor and a media installation specialist together as early in the process as you can. If you're considering these options during initial construction or a major remodel, even better — simply for access to the spaces and places you'll need to maximize your options.
1) The Mirror TV
As TV technology has advanced, so has the size of the TVs themselves. Fortunately, electronics manufacturers have stepped up to offer some great ways to conceal your TV. Our current favorite — and a big hit with our "techier" clients — is the mirror TV. These are essentially two-way mirrors that attach to the front of your TV screen, and use electricity to change the surface from clear to opaque. This is especially a great option when mounting your TV above the fireplace. A few things to be aware of: You'll need a stronger-than-usual wall mount to accommodate the weight of the mirror, and you'll want to use a TV with a black frame as opposed to a silver frame–which will show through. Finally, make sure that the TV you use has side- or down-mounted speakers.
2) Pop-Up Cabinets
Running a very close second to concealed screens is the pop-up cabinet — which is actually what I have in my own home. Designers tend to love this option as it preserves the mantle for more creative display ideas, and allows you to choose a piece of furniture that complements the styles and tones you're working with. That way, the TV actually adds to the design of the space rather than detracting from it. You can purchase whole pop-up cabinets, work with your contractor to build a custom piece, or design a built-in wall unit that matches the rest of your built-ins. These work simply, using a small lift kit built into the cabinet, which is designed with custom drawer, door and shelf configurations that allow the TV to rise from the unit at the touch of a button, and often include space to store other components as well.
Photo courtesy of tvlift.com
3) Invisible Speakers
Our true audio/videophile clients are always just as concerned about the sound quality as they are picture quality. The good news is that surround sound no longer requires 17 speakers placed conspicuously around the room. While ceiling mounted speakers often go completely unnoticed, the ultimate in invisible audio really is just that — invisible! These days, you can actually attach the components of the speakers themselves — the woofers and tweeters — to a panel that anyone would think was a small sheet of drywall. A hole is cut into the drywall, replaced by the speaker/panel and then covered with drywall joint compound, just as though you were fixing a hole in the wall. And yes–you can paint right over it. The speakers work when the woofer and tweeter vibrate against the panel surface, just as they would in a traditional speaker. Truly amazing and truly invisible.
4) Hidden Cords
No matter how far technology has come, it still comes with too many cords! If you have the advantage of addressing cable management during construction, run the cords behind the walls whenever possible. But because we all add components as technology advances, we find the baseboard system is a great solution. It allows you to run cable in the wall where you can, and to bring it out of anyone's eye line near the floor as it runs to outlets or to your A/V closet.
This mirrored media cabinet is the perfect way to hide the television and cords.
5) Built-in A/V Closet
To keep the sleek and seamless look you've worked so hard to achieve, we really recommend a built-in media closet to store all those black boxes that can clutter up a room. This is where you'll store home theater processors, amplifiers and source equipment like DVD players, Internet devices and all of your audio and video distribution equipment. These can be built into the wall in the location most convenient to the equipment — and the reach of your remotes. A flush, cabinet-style door for easy access with sufficient ventilation will address both your inner A/V and design geek.
What tricks and new technologies do you use in your own home to merge your entertainment systems into the room's décor?
About Kerrie Kelly
Kerrie Kelly, a San Diego interior designer, creates beautiful interiors that incorporate home electronics as elements of the design. To see a selection of home electronics, visit homedepot.com.