Few things say "home" more than a crackling fireplace. The
warmth and glow of the hearth have nearly universal appeal. But
like it or not, the fireplace often has to share the room with
a TV. This poses a challenge to the designer — how to
situate the fireplace and TV so that the fireplace receives
greater emphasis, yet both can be enjoyed.
The example shown here illustrates a common set of
circumstances — a family room with a centrally located
standard fireplace. The scale of the room is intimate. Time
will be spent focused on the fire or TV and circulation will
fall to the perimeter. A flush hearth allows for comfortable
seating nearby, while allowing space to stand next to the
In each scenario, the fireplace and TV are relatively near one
another to allow one seating arrangement to serve both. In a
larger space with room for two seating arrangements and central
circulation, the fireplace and TV might be accommodated on
opposite walls or at least farther apart. Here, we'll address
the typical moderately scaled residence, which will likely have
room for only one seating arrangement.
Probably the most satisfactory solution has the fireplace in
the corner (see Figure 1). This allows for an efficient plan in
which both the fireplace and the TV can be comfortably viewed
without competing against each other. The fireplace can be
appreciated as the heart and focus of the space. When
appropriate, a hidden pocket door can be closed to conceal the
TV, so that all attention is directed to the fireplace.
Figure 1.Locating the fireplace in the
corner solves several problems at once. In this layout,
the hearth is distinct from the TV location and clearly
receives greater prominence, yet both can be
comfortably appreciated from the common seating
arrangement. There is ample room left over for
additional furniture and circulation.
With the fireplace in the corner, the space can easily
accommodate seated guests and peripheral furniture like a
sideboard, desk, and trunk. (In general, sketching a furniture
plan is a good way to test a fireplace location.)
TV on Same Wall, Built In
In this scenario (Figure 2), the TV is placed in a cabinet
adjoining the fireplace. This design is reminiscent of the
cabinets or shelves next to the hearth in early American homes,
where prized possessions were stored or displayed.
Figure 2.Centering the fireplace along the
wall and placing the TV in a flanking cabinet gives the
fireplace prominence but allows for TV viewing from
much of the room. By hiding the TV behind flipper
doors, the designer can capture the look of the
colonial hearth surrounded by cabinetry.
Using an 8-inch-deep chimney breast allows the fireplace to
be the primary focus along the wall, while the TV is set back
slightly. To balance the TV placement, another built-in of the
same width is placed on the other side of the fireplace. As
with the other schemes, slide-away pocket doors can hide the TV
when it's not in use (since it may not be considered a prized
Though viewers look in generally the same direction when
looking at this fireplace or TV, it's somewhat easier to enjoy
this fireplace than the TV since the TV is off to one side.
This scheme still accommodates some perimeter furniture, which
allows for a diversity of activity in the family room.
TV on Perpendicular Wall
Placing the TV on the wall perpendicular to the fireplace
allows both of them more independence (Figure 3). Here, of all
the illustrated schemes, the fireplace is in the least
competition with the TV. Moving the cased openings farther back
along the side walls allows for a larger single sitting area,
though there isn't room to accommodate miscellaneous perimeter
furnishings. The result is a more static arrangement. Since the
distance between the TV and the couch opposite is considerable,
this scheme may benefit from a slightly larger TV than the
other schemes. Or, conversely, this placement might be used
when the homeowner wants to accommodate a large-screen TV in a
room with a fireplace.
Figure 3.Placing the TV on a perpendicular
wall makes the fireplace and TV independent of one
another. This is a good solution where a large-screen
TV is involved. However, possible furniture
arrangements are limited.
Gas Fireplace with TV
The zero-clearance rear-exit direct-vent gas fireplace is not
for everyone. Though somewhat aesthetically challenged, it
serves a function. It's versatile enough to allow a TV cabinet
directly above, a virtual impossibility with a wood-burning
fireplace. With the TV stacked above the fireplace, there is
only one direction of focus for fire and TV viewers (Figure
Figure 4.For homeowners who don't mind
substituting a direct-vent gas fireplace for a true
masonry fireplace, it's possible to stack the TV
directly above the hearth. This makes it possible for
one furniture layout to serve both
As with the other schemes, the TV cabinet can be outfitted
with cabinet doors to conceal the TV when appropriate. Here,
six seated guests can enjoy both fire and TV. There is room for
peripheral furniture as well.
The drawback? The TV has won. It dictates the type of
fireplace used. Fireplace purists will not approve of this
outcome. Some homeowners may prefer this layout, but elect to
swap the zero-clearance unit for a standard masonry fireplace
and jettison the TV to another room.
Katie Hutchisonis an architect and owner of Earthlight
Design in Salem, Mass.