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‘Techorating’: Where technology, decorating meet

Long, long ago — say, back in the ‘90s — style dictated hiding our bulky TV sets behind doors.

Today TVs are sleek and slim, and we want to show them off.

Incorporating televisions and home theater systems into our homes in a visible but attractive way has led to a whole new set of decorating challenges — or opportunities, depending on how you look at it. Electronics maker LG has even coined a term for this blending of technology and decorating: “techorating.”

The company has hired Janna Robinson, a technology consultant and host of the DIY Network series “Hollywood Hi-Tech,” as its techorating spokeswoman. I talked with her by phone recently to get her ideas for making the TV a part of the family rather than an uncomfortable intruder.

Robinson is a pragmatist. While some people scorn the central role of television in our lives, she recognizes that a TV is often the centerpiece of a family gathering space. “You don’t want your technology to dominate the space,” she said, but you want to work it into the room in a way that optimizes its use.

Start by putting the TV where it’s comfortable to view, she said. The usual recommendation is to position the TV so the middle of the screen is at the viewers’ eye level, about 42 to 52 inches above the floor. But there are other schools of thought, she said, and sometimes the limitations of the room require different placement.

Generally you want to view the TV from a spot that’s as close to head-on as possible, especially for 3-D TVs, Robinson said. However, she noted that some TVs are designed to be viewed comfortably from any angle. That’s true even of LG’s 3-D televisions, she said.

She’s a big proponent of mounting the TV on a wall, and she noted that many mounts are available that let you tilt the TV, pull it out from the wall and turn it to improve the viewing angle. She especially likes OmniMount’s Play 40, a mount that allows viewers to move a TV into a variety of positions to make it comfortable for game-playing, exercising and all sorts of uses.

If you choose to set the TV on a piece of furniture instead of mounting it, your options have improved, Robinson said. Even affordable TV furniture is designed to hide components and wires. And even more good news: “It’s not as ugly as it was years ago,” she said.

Generally plasma TVs provide the best picture, Robinson said, but they’re best viewed in the dark. In a space like a family room that typically has ambient lighting, an LCD or LED television is a better choice, she said.

She suggests treating the TV wall as an accent wall and painting it a dark color to make the picture pop out. That will create a sense of depth and “make your room look spectacular,” she said.

Sound is also an issue, Robinson noted. Sound reverberates in a room with bare walls and floors, she said, so it helps to add an area rug and perhaps drapes to dampen the sound. In a room with lots of upholstered furniture and heavy drapes, on the other hand, the sound can be muffled. In that case, she suggests adding hard materials that reflect sound, such as bookshelves or pictures on the walls.

Luckily, there’s no longer a need to run speaker wires all over the place to get surround sound, she pointed out. Some systems have wireless rear speakers, she said, and the quality of wireless sound has improved greatly. Or consider a sound bar, which approximates surround sound without all the speakers, she suggested.

Those simplified forms of audio technology don’t require professional installation, but Robinson said choosing the right system can be confusing. She recommended researching options online and asking friends for recommendations. A big-box store might not provide the best guidance, she said, because salespeople there sometimes have to deal with so many products that they aren’t thoroughly educated on specific items.

Be sure to test a system before you buy. Sound is subjective, Robinson said, so trust your own ears instead of relying completely on product reviews or friends’ recommendations.

Then have fun with your selections. TV is entertainment, after all.

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