Thursday, May 17, 2012

The TV Dilemma

Growing up, I watched a lot of TV. From the time I let my latch-key kid self in to the time I went to bed, the TV was pretty much blaring in the background (oh, how I loved watching Gem and Three's Company!).

At some point (about a decade ago?) I realized that I didn't want the TV to be a distraction or a focal point in my life anymore. I stopped subscribing to cable and only kept the TV around for DVD movies. And then Hulu and Netflix streaming came along, and we found ourselves watching stuff on our computers. Now we watch about two hours of TV a week.

As we raise our family, I want to make sure we keep the TV on the sidelines. It's too easy for me to get sucked into the TV, even if nothing particularly interesting is on. As we prepare to build a house and move at the beginning of next year, I want to have a plan for how we're going to handle the TV situation. I definitely want a TV (or maybe a projector and a screen?) because it's uncomfortable to watch everything on a computer. But, at the same time, I don't want the TV to be the center of our living room. 

The picture above is from a Ma Modular living room that will be very similar to ours (without the stylish people, of course). We want to have a sectional couch that faces outward toward the views of the backyard. So where do we put a TV? We can't just put a giant armoire thing in front of the sliding glass doors (even though that would be a good option for closing the TV up and keeping it out of sight). What about putting the TV in a cabinet on wheels over on the right side and rolling it to the center whenever we want to watch TV? Or what about setting up a screen and a projector every time we want to watch TV? I love the idea of making it a little bit of a hassle to watch TV (to prevent us from doing it mindlessly), but this is also our lives we're talking about. I don't want to get annoyed every time it's Friday Movie Night. 

Do any of you regularly watch TV on a screen and projector? If so, how's the quality? It seems like it would pale in comparison to watching an HDTV. However, one benefit of the projector and screen would be that we could move it outside for neighborhood movie nights on the lawn (or pool!). 

But! Replacement bulbs are really expensive...

(Just for the record, I feel pretty silly contemplating these trivial problems out loud; I just wanted to hear your insight.)

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Tracee said...

I don't particularly care for the projector screen quality compared to an hd tv but I did want to mention that you might be able to rent a projector and screen from your public library for special events. We rent one for free once a month for our movie nights when the weather is nice. I vote tv on a rolling thing ESP if you aren't going to have cable

Anonymous said...

Hi there! My husband is a total geek, so we have all sorts of whizbang home theater equipment in our home. We do have a 720p projector that we bought nearly six years ago (they're now significantly cheaper, even the 1080p ones. When we bought it, the 1080p ones were just outrageous). We LOVE the projector, but really, we only use it when we intentionally sit down to watch a movie, or, for instance, when we host a superbowl party. It does have to be really dark in the room to get the full effect, but luckily we live in a middle-unit townhome with very few windows, so it's dark even in the middle of the day.

For day-to-day TV watching, we just use our regular HDTV. The bulbs are very expensive for projectors, so we don't want them to ever burn out in its lifetime.

Allyson said...

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one struggling with this! About four years ago, my husband and I decided to cut the cable off because too much time was being spent in front of the television. I can honestly say that I haven't missed it!
We just bought a house and are struggling to figure out what to do with our flat screen television! We VERY rarely watch a movie (maybe one every month or two!) and I only watch one program on my computer every week (1 hour). My husband wants to mount the TV to the wall in our living room, but I've never wanted our space to revolve around a tv. We're struggling to come to some sort of solution that works for us as a family.
I'd love to hear what you finally end up doing! It sounds like our situation is very similar! Haha, maybe eventually I'll have to get some people to look at pictures of our living room for ideas! :)
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

For the amount of time you watch TV, you might just love a projector. We were desperate for a comfy sectional but couldn't come up with a floor plan that would work that included our TV. My husband had always wanted a projector anyway, so he did some research and we went for it. It was much more affordable than I thought it would be-- we spent a comparable amount to what people spend for a really nice, large-screen TV. The picture quality is excellent, 1080p, actually much better than what we had before (an old 27" 720p flat screen). We purchased a refurb model for half the price of what it'd cost new (which we do for a lot of our gadgets) and it's covered by warranty. We have a 92" screen.

We do not watch TV during the day, but we could since we rigged a black out curtain system. We bought a double curtain rod, purchased blackout fabric and curtain rings, and put it behind our regular curtains. Very easy.

We have our bluray, xbox, and wii connected as well as computer via wifi (we don't have cable) and we have Netflix and Hulu subscriptions. The only "hassle" is pulling down the screen and then it's all by remote, just like watching a regular tv. The screen is mounted to the ceiling and the projector is on a shelf that my husband built. We are not really concerned with bulb burnout-- ours will last for years with our level of usage and a new bulb is a couple hundred-- we may replace it once in its lifespan before the technology becomes obsolete.

I can not rave enough about how much we love having a projector instead of a TV. Our living and dining area are open to each other, and it is SO nice not having the room centered around a television. Better for having company over, better for day-to-day family time, better aesthetic.

If you have any questions or are interested specific product recommendations, let me know.

Kelsey said...

Our friends have a projector that hey put down over a window to watch movies. The quality is great, it's like being at a theater! But someone mentioned that the room needs to be really dark...there's covers the only window in the room so it works really well. It might be hard it your set up since you have so many windows (which is awesome!). I definitely like the idea of not having the TV be a focal point.

Sarah said...

We have a similar dilemma at home. Don't feel silly for mentioning it out loud! I actually went hunting for posts about it at some point to see how other people dealt with it.

We've ended up giving in and having it right across from the couch where we are now. We're renting and it's a small, narrow living room, so it makes sense and it's not permanent. However, for the future, we've discussed a media cabinet from IKEA that will have sliding doors. When the TV's not in use, only bookshelves will be visible.

For the living room pictured above, I would probably choose to go with a projector of some sort. I say this because I like the idea of the rolling thing, but you would have to plug it in each time, which, depending on your wire scheme could be a nightmare. I guess if everything was plugged into a single surge protector and tucked away it might not be too bad. Just thinking out loud!

Anthropolochic said...

A friend of ours comes over with his projector occasionally. We hold movie nights here and project on the wall. His projector lamp is under 1500 lumens, so the room needs to be pretty dark. Any projector with a lamp around 2500 - 3000 lumens can cope with lots of ambient light. Those projectors are super expensive though. You can find a nifty short article on some of these details here

The estimated lamp life is often around 7-10 years. As you noted, the lamps are expensive. They represent a huge portion of the cost. Their life depends on their usage. My friends' lamp, is several hundred hours over use and still working.

Back when we were considering buying one, I watched a federal government auction site for a used projector. The lamps were usually in their last few 100 hours of usage, but even if they had burned out a month after purchase the cost of replacement would have been cheaper than a new projector. That said, someone gave us a flatscreen tv and we stopped searching for a projector.

Kerstin said...

We just got a projector for Christmas, and we love it. The best thing about it for me is something that seems to be a drawback for others: the room has to be dark to use it. This means, I can't just flip on the TV in the middle of the day to watch hours of shows I don't care about. It limits the time I can spend watching TV to an hour or so after dinner, so I spend my weekend days being productive on projects. I love it - the image quality is great, it's awesome for movie nights, and although it was a gift I know ours was not in the super pricey range as projectors go (we have a benq). The replacement bulbs are not too expensive and last about the length the average American owns a TV anyway before they upgrade.

emjs181 said...

My husband and I were both raised in homes that did not have a television, save for a small one in the closet on special occasions. So we ourselves don't have a TV in our living room. But when we got married, my husband's wide-screen that he had purchased a few years prior, we decided to set up in the basement. It's out of the way, and we only go down there to watch something on weekends, usually together. It's worked out perfect for us.

Lynna said...

Don't feel silly! This is a real concern for me too. I haven't owned a TV in years. Now it's so easy to watch things online and review information about the shows first before just mindlessly flipping channels. We have a couple of things we enjoy watching but don't want our living room centered around it. Also, it is good to have a way to watch documentaries, important news events, etc. I like the idea of something on wheels that's moveable. I hadn't thought of that. My husband keeps putting a monitor on our coffee table! There are cords strewn across the room. It drives me nuts! We have seriously discussed getting a flat screen but can't figure out where to put it. I like the idea in the previous comment about putting it in another room. I think a living room is best set up to promote social interaction... not with every couch/chair facing the TV. As an aside, I just love when guests look around my living room in confusion and then ask, "Where's the TV?" When I say that I don't own one and we don't really watch TV, the typical response is, "Well what do you do?!?" As if that's the ONLY THING to do in your free time! LOL

mpeachase said...

We are the same as emjs181. We only gave one TV and it is in our basement. This way it is never a temptation to put it on for my son, as we never spend time down there, but my husband and I can go down there after he is in bed and watch the occasional TV show or movie. My husband was VERY skeptical of this plan when I proposed it but now he is total convert! He loves not having the TV as a focal point of our home, and he is so glad that our son spends his time engaging in creative play and not in front of the TV.

Catfish said...

I have to say, I have a really different perspective on TV. I believe stories are an integral part of our lives, and I think TV is an amazing medium for story-telling. The quality is better than movies these days, and I think that many TV programs have the emotional heft and significance of great novels. I also think kiddos should be taught to "read" TV (and other media) the way they read books. It seems irresponsible that we don't do this in schools.

But given all that, I'm not a huge fan of TV in the living room or social area. I'm probably going to have to have a TV in the living room in my next place, and I'm trying to figure out how to have it not become a focal point when friends are over. I'm thinking that having something with doors to hide the TV would be the best idea.

Shawn said...

So, I know nothing about projectors, but here's another idea. It might be too tv focused for you, but I think it's kind of cool! Watch this clip:

Basically, the tv is mounted to the wall, but hidden behind a decorative mirror. In the room pictured above, you could have your sectional so that it is mainly facing the big, beautiful window. You could mount the tv on that sliver of available space on the right wall (the other length of the sectional would be facing this way for easy viewing). During the day and majority of evenings, you would have the beautiful view out your windows and the family gathered around, with just a pretty mirror on that right wall. You could easily watch something together when you chose to, without sacrificing any of the aesthetics of the room. And no worry about enough curtains or shades to block all of that great light, which it seems might be a cost you would have to figure into the cost of a projector. Just another totally different idea! Good luck - I can't wait to see your space come together - I'm sure it will be beautiful!

Faye said...

Great post!
Two points...
1) My friends had a flay with one large white wall which they used as a screen - they just removed the two small frames they had up and put them up at the end. Film nights at theirs were great!!
2) I saw on a program a Mum with a similar dilema, and bought a big picture frame with mirrored one way glass, and hung it on the wall in front of the flat screen tv. So when it was off, it was a posh mirror, and when it was on, it was a posh TV. It looked brilliant, and she did it herself!!

Faye said...

Proofread Faye, proofread! They lived in a flat, not a flay! x

Anonymous said...

You need to slow down and wait until you actually get this stylish a chic living room. Then think about this. Or don't.

In Houston, I have yet to see a projector that is usable during the day and isn't in a dedicated, suburban movie room. The sun is just too much, I mean look at how it's blinding those stylish people!

Just have your sweetie borrow one from work. You'll see. They don't work in Texas.

Rebecca said...

Off subject - I noticed in another post that you and Matt had settled on the floor plan with Ma Modular. Can I ask which one?

(Looking at floor plans is what my husband and I consider a good time!)

Anonymous said...

If this was my living room, I'd just get a smaller tv and a small stylish tv stand, stick it in the corner and call it a day! ;-)

Sarah said...


I love this discussion and have struggled off and on finding balance in this area of my life. I (very occasionally) post about our life on my blog and wrote about this very topic last year:

You'll notice I refer to my husband by his middle name, Henry, in order to respect his privacy, so don't be confused by that!

I hope to see you soon, and hopefully we can show you, Matt, and Henry, our new house soon (although it will very much still be "in process" as our dreams of completion before moving in are fading fast).

Also, I just wanted to say how very excited I am about the new addition to the Cotner-Bradford family!


Anonymous said...

We have a projector mounted on the ceiling with a screen mounted over the window. The boxes are all on a low IKEA entertainment shelf underneath the window. I like the quality, but if the window is bright behind it, it can be a bit annoying.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic, Everyone! I enjoy pondering your comments all day long.

@ Rebecca: We're going with the Luna floor plan with a few tweaks (namely we want to widen the living room/kitchen mod from 15' to 18'. We also want to make sure our bedroom can fit a king-size bed. The outside of the house is going to look more like the Ford. Let me know if you have more questions!

Rachel said...

We keep our television in the basement, which obviously isn't an option in Austin. I appreciate how hard it is to have the TV be usable but also "out of sight, out of mind."

I'd avoid putting it on wheels; the cords that would have to go to and from the TV would be a trip hazard with two small children underfoot.

I'd probably get a flat screen and mount it to a wall behind a curtain or I'd use a projector and project onto a screen that comes down from the ceiling.

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