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When designing your living room, it pays to think about the best place to put your TV. Finding the perfect arrangement to maximize your TV’s picture can make a big difference in your favorite TV shows, movies, and game look. In the right spot, your TV’s screen will look bright and vibrant. In the wrong place, the screen can look washed out and muddy. You don’t need to hire an interior designer to get the most out of your TV-watching space. All it takes is a little forethought and the willingness to move things around a bit.
How far away should I sit from my TV?
The distance between you and your TV matters and plays a big part in your overall viewing experience. Sit too far and you won’t be able to make out the details on the screen but sit too close and you risk straining your eyes. Finding that middle ground will allow you to comfortably enjoy your TV, whether you’re watching a movie or playing video games. According to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, you should sit far enough away from your screen that it fills up at least 30 degrees of your horizontal field of view. This will allow you to feel immersed without being too far away from what you’re watching.
For example, experts recommend that you should sit about 7.5 feet away from a 55-inch 4K TV. You can look up how far away you should sit from your TV using a distance calculator. Just in case, though, we also have a list of optimal viewing distances for some of the most common 4K TV sizes (plus links to some of the best sets you can buy):
These numbers are recommendations, but not set in stone. Sitting closer to your TV will allow for a more immersive, theater-like experience. Sitting farther will make it possible for a larger number of people to have an acceptable view. That said, keep in mind that you can sit too close or too far away.
Picking the TV to match your space
Most people have limited flexibility about how much room they have wherever they plan to put their TV, so the size of your home or apartment not only affects where you put your TV but what TV you should buy. If you’re in the market for a new TV, keep the balance between distance and TV size in your mind as you shop. While it’s tempting to go as big as possible, you don’t want the size of your TV to overwhelm your space. Trust me on this one; I once bought a 75-inch TV thinking bigger was better, but once it was set up in my living room, I realized it was way too big. It made my decent-sized living room (roughly 12 x 14 feet) feel like a walk-in closet. Be realistic about what will fit, and you will be happier.
Couch and TV placement go hand-in-hand
You should, if possible, sit directly in front of your TV. That means putting your couch or chairs directly across from the TV, if possible. Just like sitting in the center of a movie theater, sitting dead center in front of the TV guarantees that every inch of the TV is in full view without you needing to turn your head. Obviously, there will be times when you want to watch things with other people and you will need to compromise a bit, but the rule of thumb is to stay centered as much as possible. If you have secondary seating off to the side, like an armchair, make sure it is pointed directly at the screen.
If you have set your seating off-center, or plan to regularly entertain large groups, keep in mind that it becomes harder for people to see and process everything on screen when they watch from the side. When reviewers talk about whether a TV has good or bad “viewing angles,” they’re referring to how far to the side you can sit without any problems. Some high-end TVs have viewing angle modes that can artificially enhance a TV’s viewing angles, but it is something that you should generally keep an eye on when buying your TV.
Beware of light sources
Reflections are a TV display’s worst enemy. Excess light from a window or light fixture pointing at your TV can make content that should look high resolution, bright, and vibrant look muted and muddy. It’s also not advised to put your TV directly in front of a window, because the natural light could compete with the screen you’re looking at, causing eye strain.
Whether you have an OLED or LED TV (here’s a primer if you want to know the difference), most modern TVs have glossy screens, which amplify these issues. Under ideal conditions, they produce richer images with better contrast, but they’re more susceptible to reflections. If there’s a window directly in front of your TV, you’ll have to close the blinds every time you want to watch something during the day. That kind of defeats the purpose of those wonderful windows, no?
Ideally, you want to place your TV so the screen won’t be hit by direct light or subjected to an obnoxious reflection. Realistically, that means the windows in your living room should be perpendicular and, hopefully, somewhat far from your couch and TV. Letting your TV light itself will ensure you get the best picture possible.
How high should I place my TV?
In addition to the distance between your TV and couch, you’ll want to think about how high your TV should sit to create the best viewing experience. Craning your neck up or tilting down for a long period of time can cause neck strain, so you want to position your TV so the center of the screen sits at eye level. (Nobody wants to tell their chiropractor they got hurt watching TV.) If you’re unsure about what feels right, try taping an outline on your wall and staring at it from your couch. You might be surprised at how high (or low) you wind up placing it.
You should also decide if you are going to mount your TV or put it on a media stand. Mounting a TV looks cleaner and frees up space on surfaces to put things like gaming consoles and Wi-Fi routers. A traditional media stand is more straightforward and won’t require you to drill into your wall. That will give more flexibility to rearrange your living room since your TV can easily be moved.
If you’re mounting your TV, we recommend getting an adjustable mount that allows you to tilt the TV to get the most direct viewing angle. That said, just because you can tilt the TV, doesn’t mean you should position it higher than you would otherwise.
Can I put my TV above a fireplace?
There’s a lot of debate in the world of interior design about whether you should place your TV above the fireplace. Some believe there’s a symbiotic relationship between the two major focal points. Others think TVs detract from the fireplace, which is traditionally considered a social gathering place.
The short answer is no, you should not put your TV above your fireplace. Functionally, as we mentioned earlier, placing your TV too high could result in you straining your neck. No living room aesthetic is worth putting your body through a world of pain. Placing your TV above the fireplace also requires a little more planning than mounting it to another wall. You need to figure out how to hide wiring and where your cable box and other set-top devices go.
There’s also the possibility that placing it above a fireplace will cause heat and soot damage. If your fireplace is gas-powered, soot won’t be as much of a problem. But be mindful of how hot the wall above your fireplace gets when it’s roaring. You want to avoid increasing your TV’s temperature at all costs because it could shorten its lifespan. If you do go this route, the fireplace could become a distraction if it’s on while you’re watching TV.
Final thoughts on where to put the TV in your living room
In addition to these technical considerations, there are a number of logistical factors that may affect where you place your TV, like where electrical outlets are located and whether there’s enough room on the wall. These things are important, but that’s where the conversation stops for most people. If you watch a lot of TV—and most of us have been for the past few years—it makes sense to take the extra step and plan out how to get the most of your TV, especially if you just picked up one of the best QLED or OLED TVs. Some subtle changes might make you see movie night in a whole new light.