Like most everything in America—the deficit, SUVs, Jon Favreau—the television has grown steadily larger in the last decade. Not long ago, a 27-inch set seemed borderline obnoxious and a 32-incher downright vulgar. Now you’re a pantywaist if you don’t have a set that could sub for the Jumbotron at Dodger Stadium. Proof of the peer pressure: Sales of large-screen LCD televisions jumped 160 percent last year (as the average price fell below $1,000), and sales of plasmas ballooned by 128 percent, according to consumer-information researcher NPD Group.
Consequently, many otherwise smartly appointed living rooms are now blighted by a piece of hardware that is about as eye-pleasing as a garage door. Owners, naturally, downplay the impact these hulking creatures have on decor. Look, it’s flat! It’s streamlined! It blends in! And indeed, the breed of TV at issue can be just four inches thick. But no matter what its dimensions, a television is just a box of light with Larry King inside; you shouldn’t give it your feature wall as if it were a Kandinsky.
No one’s suggesting that you forsake your 50-inch slice of heaven altogether, just that you strip it of star billing. L.A.-based interior decorator Rodman Primack recommends camouflaging a gargantuan boob tube by flanking it with its mortal enemy—the written word. “For my clients, I create walls of bookshelves around the TV,” he says. “It breaks up the enormity of the set.” You can de-emphasize the television even further by surrounding it with more than just reading material. “Put sculptures or collected objects on the shelves too,” Primack advises. “Go to a flea market and look for cool stuff to display. It doesn’t have to be fancy.”
If you’re not up for building a library, have a custom cabinet made to subdue the beast. Order a deep one with doors on the front, which will hide both the set and its attendant accessories and cords. The TV can be fastened to a rolling tray that pulls out a few inches from the cabinet for viewing. David Alhadeff, owner of high-design Brooklyn store The Future Perfect, advocates plopping the set on a simple wooden bench. “Or you could paint the wall gray, to complement the TV,” Alhadeff says. “Hang the TV there, and cover the length of the wall with sheer white floor-to-ceiling curtains.” Whatever you do, resist the urge to encase your set in a prefab entertainment center. Appoint your home with one of those and you might as well go back to sleeping on a futon.
For those reluctant to clutter up their dens, Bill Loose—a principal at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, a Pennsylvania-based architecture firm that helped design several of the Apple stores as well as Bill Gates’ house—has, not surprisingly, a tech-based solution. “A flat-panel TV is just such a large object to have to look at, especially when the screen is blank,” Loose says. His advice: Install a plasma lift—a remote-controlled machine that folds flat-screens into walls and ceilings or lowers them into a cabinet or the footboard of a bed, so they’re invisible when not in use. Press a button and the TV reappears. Manufacturers like Inca and Auton sell lifts for all sizes and types of televisions for about $1,000 and up.