Congratulations, you've just invested in your first flat-panel television.
But wait -- your mission is only half accomplished. You still have to figure out where and how your new plasma or liquid crystal diode unit is going to be installed.
Integrating this generation of svelte screens is trickier than just plugging in a traditional big box that stands on its own weight. These televisions are thinner (three inches thick compared with 20 inches) and must be mounted to the wall or propped on a special stand.
Putting a flat-panel television in an armoire hides its sleekness, the main motivation for investing thousands of dollars in one. As more people are buying these televisions, new furniture options are being designed, including compact consoles. For instance, furniture for flat-panel televisions was a major theme this spring at the International Home Furnishings Show in High Point, N.C.
Such furniture pieces hadn't been readily available until this year. Experts say there's still room for improvement in seamlessly fitting thin, large televisions into the home.
"They've created open-ended architecture," said Jimmy Coiner, a programmer for MediaOne in Lenexa, Kan., a company that sells and installs flat-panel televisions. "If people can imagine a way for them to be installed, they can be. It's always a different wall. Each is its own mini-project."
The list of what can be done to flat-panel televisions is endless: They can be pulled out like a drawer, using an articulating bracket, and swiveled to be viewed in more than one room. They can be hung from the ceiling so you can watch them as you're lying flat in bed. They can be recessed in a wall so they're flush with that flat surface.
Most installation options require a contractor because these televisions are slender yet heavy, weighing more than 100 pounds. Hammering a few nails in the wall the way you would to hang a picture won't do.
Coiner said people can count on spending more than $200 for labor and from $80 to $300 for a special mounting bracket.
High-tech considerations are becoming less pie-in-the-sky and more a reality as flat-panel televisions are becoming less expensive and more available. Auton, a California company that specializes in motorized gear for audio-visual equipment, has sold a lot of accessories to people who want to conceal their flat-panel televisions. However, most of the furniture available showcases the thin televisions.
"There are people out there who don't want their TV to be obtrusive," said Auton President Virgil Walker. "People do like to hide them."
This year, Auton introduced the In-Vis-O-Trak, which consumers can buy from custom cabinet-makers and electronic-integration specialists for about $4,000. Press a button, and a framed picture of the customer's choice slides away and reveals a flat-panel television. Press it again, and it's concealed.
Matt and Samantha McFeeters commissioned customized cabinetry for their family's 50-inch plasma television. They didn't want the wide television to dominate the family room, and they wanted this piece of modern technology to blend with the traditional furniture in the space.
Chris Isom, co-owner of MediaOne, designed a wooden cabinet built into an entire wall of the McFeeterses' new home. The unit sticks out about three inches from the wall, in keeping with the flat television's dimensions. Speakers and drawers are built-in components. The plasma, when turned off, blends in with the dark finish of the wood.
This year, furniture retailer Ethan Allen began selling low, horizontal cabinets for flat-panel television stereo components. The two sizes are scaled for 42- to 60-inch-wide screens. Optional wooden panels that coordinate with the cabinets, which come in ash or cherry veneer, allow people to hang flat-panel televisions from the furniture -- not the walls -- and retain the thinness of the flat-panel television.
Next year, the company plans to sell modular units that include bookshelves. The television will remain front and center.