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How to create a logical spot for your television

Tips and tricks for figuring out where to put a TV in a room that doesn’t have an obvious place for one.

(The Washington Post illustration; iStock)

Unless you live in brand new construction — where a preordained spot has been perfectly wired and designed to accommodate a television — it can be surprisingly vexing to figure out where to put one. Maybe the room where you want your TV is awkwardly shaped, or has too many windows or too few outlets. Whatever the case, we asked designers, architects and home-stagers for their advice on troubleshooting a tricky TV placement.

Use a swivel TV mount

One relatively easy solution is to secure your TV to a full motion mount, which lets you angle the screen in any direction, thus making just about any spot workable. Basic models start around $20, but they can escalate into the hundreds of dollars depending on the size and weight of your television.

Installing the mount isn’t terribly complicated — either find the stud and screw the unit directly into it, or hang it with drywall anchors. Still, there’s no shame in knowing your limits: “If the most you’ve done is hang a picture, then you might need to hire a Taskrabbit or ask a friend to come help,” says Jeanne Goldberg, owner of Inhabit Staging in Maryland.

Designer Susan Sutter stresses the importance of securing the mount low enough so that you don’t have to strain your neck to watch the TV. The only other requirement is having an outlet (plus a coax outlet if you’re using cable) nearby.

Install an outlet if your wall doesn’t have one

Speaking of outlets — sometimes the only way to create a logical place for a television is to hire an electrician to add a new outlet. If you’ve “cut the cord” and you stream television, that’s all you’ll need. If you still use traditional cable, you’ll also want to add a coax outlet to the set up.

What’s on your walls — paint, paneling, wallpaper — will affect the complexity (and cost) of the job. Typically the electrical work can get done in a few hours for a few hundred bucks. But that doesn’t include additional patching and repair work that may be required for your wall.

Calculate how big a TV you should buy

Once you figure out where to put the TV, it’s also important to determine what size screen is best for the space. Choosing a television with the wrong dimensions will make the room “look unbalanced and cause uncomfortable viewing,” says Erika Jayne Chaudhuri, designer and general contractor at Erika Jayne Design.

To calculate the ideal size, Chaudhuri recommends dividing by two the distance in inches between the television and where you plan to sit while watching it (remembering that TVs are measured on the diagonal). For instance, if your favorite spot on the sofa is 10 feet (120 inches) from the TV, go for a 60-inch screen.

Disguise your TV as artwork

Camouflage is another helpful tactic. Especially in a room without an obvious focal point, a television posing as art won’t look so out of place. If you’re in the market for a new TV, choose a model with an “art mode” setting — also known as “gallery” or “ambient” mode. Most new televisions come with such an option, which displays photos or paintings on the screen when you’re not watching something else. Some, like Samsung’s The Frame TV, allow you to upload your own photos. Plus, The Frame TV comes with an actual artwork-style frame around the screen.

If you have a regular flat-screen, there are still ways to disguise it. Try hanging it as part of a gallery wall of art or photos. By surrounding it with other (more attractive) things to look at, the TV won’t be so conspicuous.

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Hide your TV inside a cabinet

Depending on the parameters of your space, a cabinet can create a focal point where there wasn’t one, conceal the TV when you aren’t using it, or break up a room for different uses.

In a bedroom, a lift cabinet at the foot of the bed will create a space that didn’t previously exist for the TV, plus it will allow you to lower it out of sight when you aren’t watching.

In larger rooms, a wide cabinet can be used to both hide the TV and break up the space. Thomas Morbitzer and Goil Amornvivat, partners at AMMOR Architecture in New York, used this method in a Jackson Hole home, installing a custom unit that spans almost the full width of the room. It houses the TV on the side facing the living area, and dishes on the side closer to the dining area.

“You get the benefit of not having an obvious TV on the wall or on a stand, you’ve got this really nice cabinet, and then you have lots of other storage,” Morbitzer says. “The cabinet helps divide the room up in order for the TV side to feel more intimate.”

Hide cords and cables

Between the TV, extra devices — such as gaming systems — and speakers, you might end up with a lot of cords. Even if you’ve found an acceptable spot for the TV, those loose wires can turn into a messy distraction.

Wireless devices, like Sonos speakers, that connect to your TV through WiFi or Bluetooth will help reduce the clutter. There are also a lot of simple — and cheap! — fixes on the market, such as ties and velcro wraps that keep cables more contained, and raceway-style covers that totally conceal them.

Maya Pottiger is a D.C.-based journalist who also covers K-12 education.

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