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Are televisions getting too big?

19 October 09 14:13 GMT
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

California is cracking down on big flat-screen televisions because of energy usage. But has the super-size TV set become an object of vulgarity?

Not so long ago, the television used to sit in the corner of the room, often shut away in a cabinet and only let out for limited periods of time. Everyone would huddle around to watch, often jostling for the best view.

Nowadays it's big and bold, often dominating the room and commanding everyone's attention. Everyone can see it and all eyes are usually on it.

Much has been written about the energy-guzzling nature of the bigger flat-screen TVs, but there is no doubt these sell at a furious rate.

Flat-screen TVs broadly come in two varieties - LCD and plasma. The first is smaller but getting bigger all the time, while the second already goes up to an almost cinematic 100in-plus.

Sales of both have been rising and continue to do so despite the recession. In the first three months of this year, 2,462,700 flat-screen televisions were sold in the UK, according to figures from GfK Retail and Technology. This is 17.5% up on the same period last year and with prices falling, sales are expected to remain strong.

It's not only environmentalists who view the sales figures with despair. Designers think the super-size trend has gone too far.

Jo Hamilton, an interior designer and tutor, says on an aesthetic level our attitude to television sets has changed - and not for the better.

"Clients used to want TVs put in pieces of furniture so they could be hidden away - now many build their whole room around them," she says.

"People seem to have accepted TVs are a big part of their lives. They are always one of the first discussion points when it comes to a room design. It's sad really."

Looming presence

It's not unusual for a home to have a 50in set these days, which creates space issues as the average size of a UK living room has stayed roughly the same.

"It means people have had to put them on walls, which I'm really not a fan of," says Ms Hamilton.

"People like having the TV over the fireplace, but the chimney breast is usually protruding into the room already. If you put a big, dark thing on it then it will intrude into the room."

To resolve issues of size and space, those with the money often opt for large, retractable screens. These can be pulled down when needed and tidied away when not.

"It's like being in a cinema," Ms Hamilton adds.

The stock placement of the super-size screen above the fireplace doesn't work for Giles Kime, deputy editor of Homes and Gardens magazine.

"That can look faintly ridiculous and completely dominate a room. There is something a lot more discreet when they sit in a corner."

But he thinks manufacturers are making TVs a little more pleasing on the eye.

"Happily, television as bits of design are more aesthetically pleasing than ever before. People don't try and hide them away in the way they did 10-15 years ago."

His magazine recently published a feature on coping with a monster screen and recommended three tactics - a recessed bit of a wall, freestanding on a cabinet in the corner, and shut away as in days of yore.

He admits: "It is more problematic with traditional interiors."

But bigger screens are in demand because TVs have evolved into home entertainment centres, and aren't watched or used in the way they used to be, says Tom Dunmore, editor-in-chief at Stuff Magazine.

"You can now do gaming on televisions, watch movies and access the internet," he says. "These developments mean there is more demand for high performance, particularly high definition, and bigger screens."

So the dilemma of whether to have a big television - and where to put it - will remain.

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