The new plasma televisions have exploded into the market while LCD TVs, large- screen units, high-definition and flat-screen TVs are becoming more compact. With all these size changes, hardware manufacturers have had to adapt, offering more and more options for concealment.
The television screen is also being used in its capacity as a monitor, and hardware experts expect to see that trend growing. TVs are popping up in every room - including the bathroom. And smaller rooms that can accommodate multi-functions are expected to continue to grow in popularity, as well as smaller footprints for entertainment centers in many homes. All of these factors are challenging designers to come up with new and clever ways to hide TVs or get them out of the way, when necessary.
"It's not just a TV anymore; it's a TV/monitor. So not only do you have an entertainment center in your kitchen, you also have a workstation with the same piece of equipment. And we've designed some flat-screen arms to hold these flat monitors, where you can push them back against the wall, get them out of the way when you're using your kitchen," says Dan Pickett, director of business development for Knape & Vogt.
Conceal or reveal?
"The electronics industry is not concerned about selling furniture. Their job is to sell televisions," says Keith Hall of TCI Supply. In many of the ads for plasma TVs, units are often shown on the wall with no cabinetry in sight.
"They are large and people do want to hide them. Even though they advertise them to hang on the wall, not many people want them to hang on the wall," says Virgil Walker, president of Auton Motorized Systems. "There will always be that segment of people who want to hide whatever it is that they buy, regardless of what they paid for it."
Consumers buying the newer TVs have to consider how to display the units, says Mark Fink, president of Wood Technology. "It's unlikely that their current furnishings will accommodate these TVs. In the end most people won't just hang their TV on the wall, because it's the furnishings that make the warmth and identity of a room, not the TV. It's the first reason, since the change from black-and-white to color, for people to really go out and change their current equipment."
Another big trend in the market, especially in high-end homes, is media centers or home theaters. But the majority of people can't afford this option, say hardware experts.
"The majority of America doesn't have the luxury of a theater room, so they do have to close up the television to make the house look nice when guests arrive," says Phil Martin, director of marketing at Hafele.
Options such as peephole video links to transfer signals without a visual connection or radio command control units that turn the TV on while raising it are both in use today and are expected to grow in popularity, say some manufacturers.
Hiding plasma TVs
There isn't just one way to hide a TV. "There are a lot of new design efforts going into hardware to mount flat screens to walls to suspend them, and to make them disappear and to maybe lift out of cabinets," says Pickett. "Cabinets don't have to be as large any longer." The change in the depth of the TV from 24 inches and larger to 4 to 6 inches is substantial and requires reconfiguring old setups.
"The thinness is fine if you put it on the wall," says Steve Krohmer, vice president of merchandising for Rockler Woodworking and Hardware. "But if you have a room with a built-in home entertainment system or entertainment center, it can be a problem. If you mount it in a wall or cavity for a TV, it's like looking through a tube to see it. So somehow you have to bring them out and there's hardware coming out in the market to do just that."
Rockler is carrying a new product from Accuride that is a heavy-duty pullout swivel that has an A-frame bracket, which the flat screen is mounted on to. "That way it pulls them away from the back wall buried within the cabinet, brings them out to the front where you can actually swivel them around without it moving or switching," says Krohmer.
One way of concealing TVs that has become increasingly popular with plasma TVs is using a lift mechanism to hide them. Walker sees this segment of the market becoming even larger when plasma TVs eventually fall in price. He says that Auton can conceal anything - bars, safes and TVs - in any way the customer wants. But even the largest plasma TVs are light compared to the same size screen for a standard TV, he says, making lifts an ideal choice.
Roger Fortier, a tech advisor for Inca Corp., agrees with Walker. Five years ago only 10 percent of plasma TV owners were buying TV lifts, says Fortier, compared to 90 percent now. What cabinetmakers like in the Inca lift, he says, is its narrow footprint.
The big TV that dwarfs all the other furniture had already proven to be a decorating nightmare. Even though the big TVs are shrinking in their overall depth, the kind of hardware needed to attach the bigger doors or make them truly functional becomes even more important.
"We're doing larger and larger doors. We're doing doors for companies that require three slides on the pocket door, which means these doors are heavier and taller," says Hall. "If a door gets about 35 pounds, we're recommending you go to a three-slide door just for weight purposes. That third slide and hinge will help carry the weight."
Other hardware manufacturers are modifying and creating new hardware to accommodate larger doors. "From a consumer standpoint we see a growing trend to more products geared to home theaters, therefore requiring more specialized hardware or hardware tailored to more suit the needs of home entertainment," says Debbie Kniegge, director of marketing communication for Accuride. "They're going to get very diverse, the types of products you find in entertainment centers."
The Pro Pocket slide was introduced by Accuride for doors up to 42 inches tall and has a full 3/4-inch overlay ability. It helps cabinetmakers line the doors up with all the other cabinet doors and creates a pocket between the cabinet side and internal partition that is designed to eliminate door damage. For larger doors from 36 to 78 inches, Accuride has added cable system slides in 30- and 32-inch lengths.
Some customers are moving away from pocket doors altogether. "Pocket doors are still popular, but we're finding that sliding doors are becoming more popular with people who are buying the expensive plasma television sets and audio equipment," says Martin. "A sliding door, which can slide out of the way and pocket behind another door, or be hidden out of the way or even be visible, is being used in a lot of different designs today."
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