The Dreaded Black Rectangle (or) How to Deal with TVs in a Modern Home

The Modern Minute Exclusive: The Dreaded Black Rectangle (or) How to Deal with TVs in a Modern Home

A few months back, I referenced the debate about what to do with TVs in modern homes. If you’re one of those people who has curated your furniture and decor and can’t bear the thought of putting a 52″ black rectangle in the middle of a carefully crafted setting, you’ve come to the right place.

Before I get into it, I should state for the record that I’m NOT in favor of putting a TV over a fireplace. Many modern homes have beautiful chimney stacks, whether brick, stone, wood, copper or other great natural materials. I don’t like the idea of the TV covering up those materials, and, they’re not really designed to be viewed at that high of an angle. Modern flat panel TVs should really be at eye level.

Now, you could go the route of buying a piece of furniture with a lift in it so that you can hide your TV when not in use, but this scenario has two typical pitfalls. First is that you’re unlikely to find a piece of furniture with a lift in it that will match your MCM decor (and having one custom made could be very expensive) and, second, you can’t put anything on top of the portion of the piece of furniture that houses the lift.

So lifts might work for some people, but for most of you, I’m betting it’s not the solution. For something that works well in your environment and offers great picture and sound, I’m going to share with you my two favorite options.

The Frame TV by Samsung

First is The Frame from Samsung. Available in four different sizes, The Frame is a thin-bezel TV with a few excellent design features that really help with integrating into a space, regardless of decor. The first thing you’ll note is that the bezel on The Frame is not only relatively thin, but it’s square. There aren’t wonky bevels and other bits that ruin the clean lines. The other thing that’s great about the bezel is that, although it comes in black, you can purchase additional bezels that snap on and stay on, thanks to a clever system of corner connectors and magnets. 

If your walls are white, maybe the brown bezel would work best in your space. If your walls are wood, go the other route and choose the white bezel.

The Frame TV by Samsung

But you may be thinking “That’s great, but it’s still a big black rectangle in my space!” And that’s where you’re wrong. Because the most important feature of The Frame is that when you’re not watching your favorite movies or TV shows, when you “turn off” The Frame, it doesn’t turn off at all. Instead, it uses a trick system of light sensors to determine the ambient light level in your space, adjust the screen brightness accordingly, and then…it displays art. There are many pieces of art you can choose from that are included with The Frame, and you can also upload your own. You can even choose to have the art matted or unmatted, and matted art will display with simulated cast shadows on the bevels of the matting. It really is a great effect.

If you mount The Frame on a wall and have your electrician put in a mud ring, you won’t see any cables and you and guests will simply enjoy whatever art you’ve chosen to display when the TV is off. We have the smallest version of The Frame in our family room, and people have come over and asked why we don’t have a TV there. It really is that good.

The Frame TV by Samsung

The third feature of The Frame that I appreciate is that there only two cables that go to the panel. One is for power, and the other is a very thin cable that goes to a breakout box. For those unfamiliar, a breakout box essentially takes all of the connection points that would typically be on the back of the TV and puts them in a separate box. Why this is great is because there’s only the very thin cable from the box to the TV, and because if you need to connect or disconnect other devices, you can do it more easily because the box goes with your cable box, Blu-ray player, game system, etc., so they’re all right next to each other.

So The Frame, which again, comes in four sizes – 43″, 49″, 55″ and 65″ – is a fantastic option for having a great 4K flat panel that won’t look like a TV when you’re not using it. Prices range from around $800 – $1,600, depending on size.

But what if you want something that’s not so much inconspicuous as much as it is a part of your overall decor? In that case, may I introduce you to Jeff Lorenzen’s Deluxe Furniture Co. Unlike Samsung, Jeff doesn’t make TVs. What he does is make really beautiful, mid-century modern style TV cabinets – complete with off-the-shelf modern electronics.

Deluxe Furniture Co’s retro-styled TVs with modern electronics

In many ways, these cabinets are like those you’d have been likely to find back in the day from Zenith, General Electric, etc. Except Jeff makes his TV cabinets with modern TV habits in mind, and includes all of the electronics so that you’re paying one price for the entire setup. His TVs are made from a combination of his own carpentry skills combined with new old stock knobs, speaker cloth and other period-appropriate details. 

Examples of the new old stock knobs that Jeff uses to create his TVs

The result is nothing short of wonderful. 

One example of Deluxe Furniture Co’s retro-styled TVs

And since I know many of you are pretty serious about your TV watching, movie watching and gaming habits, I lined up a few questions for Jeff to get the skinny on what you can expect from one of his beautiful TV sets:

Lou: Can you tell me a bit about why you decided to build them?

Jeff: My wife and I had never had a TV in our living room, but in our new house we had a spot for it. We have a couple of nice Mid Century pieces and wanted something that would blend in. When we started watching “The Crown,” I really got to work!

Lou: What was your inspiration for the particular design?

Jeff: I looked at a lot of pictures of vintage units from Pinterest and Google. Some of the sets by RCA, like their Super RCA Victor, and others really spoke to me.

Lou: What brand of flat panel do you use in them?

Jeff: I’ve used a couple of different TVs. The key is the location of the remote receiver and the shape of the “frame” around the screen. I have to slightly adjust the cabinet when I change TVs.

Lou: How many and what type of inputs does each one have?

Jeff: That depends on the TV. Most have had 2 HDMI ports, as well as coaxial, USB, and component video. All of the TVs I have used are Smart (with WiFi connection). I’m currently building one for a customer who requested a wired internet connection (Ethernet).

Lou: Is there any type of warranty on them?

Jeff: The warranty is based on the warranty of the electronics. I’m sure the cabinet will outlast most components! It’s actually pretty easy to access the inside and swap out pieces, if necessary.

I’ve only built for a 32” TV so far, but I’m prototyping a console for a 40” screen and a wall frame for a 50-55”. I hope to have those ready to show at the end of February.

Jeff Lorenzen posing with a couple of the TV cabinets he’s built.

So again, if you want something that truly fits in with your MCM decor and has an incredible amount of character, check out Jeff’s work at Deluxe Furniture Co. Price is $1,500 for the 32″ model like the ones you see pictured here, which include the cabinet, TV, a Roku, sound bar, subwoofer, power strip, remote repeater and a cooling fan. That seems like a very fair price for beautiful, handmade furniture that incorporates modern electronics and gives you quite a lot of flexibility, too.

Have you incorporated a TV into your MCM decor in a way you’d like to share? Send an email to me with photos at lou@modernil.com, and happy watching!

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