Flat-panel TV mounts, lifts, covers, and hide-aways

When you turn off your flat-panel TV, it becomes a black hole in the wall. Here’s how to hide it away when you’re not watching.

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My friend Steve just bought a large flat-panel TV and mounted it to the wall. He assumed his wife would love the sleek look, but she’s not happy with the way the TV becomes a “piece of black glass that’s just hanging there” when it’s not in use. It seems like she wishes the TV would just go away when they’re not watching it. Luckily for Steve, it doesn’t take any magic at all to make that happen.

Trompe L’Oeil TV
Mounting a flat-panel display on the wall often means having to take down artwork or pictures. Why not follow in the footsteps of Optimus Prime and transform that TV into “more than meets the eye,” simply by disguising it as the art it’s replacing?

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This idea emerged about five years ago. The first products in this category used a fairly simple frame with a built-in motor that rolls up the artwork to reveal the TV. Since its conception, though, the idea has evolved in many ways.

Most of these frames demand that the TV be recessed in the wall, which usually requires professional installation. There are versions that work with non-recessed TVs, but they protrude several inches from the wall and thus aren’t as stylish. Solar Shading Systems’ VisionArt frames can be custom-fitted to conceal recessed or non-recessed large-format displays.

More than 250 different prints and photographic works are offered for use, but customers can also use their own artwork or photography. You can choose from more than 40 frame styles. When it’s time to stop admiring the art, just hit the TV’s power button; a current sensor inside the frame commands the screen to roll up whenever it senses power. The process reverses when you turn off the TV. Similar products are available from Media Decor, Chief Manufacturing, and others.

Vutec expands on this idea with its ArtScreen line. ArtScreens work essentially the same way as other such products, but they come in a wider array of standard configurations. The CineScape covers front- or rear-projection video screens up to 45 inches high and 100 inches wide, and the SoundScape 360 is a roughly square-shaped frame that provides room below the TV to accommodate one of the new single-speaker soundbars.

Auton takes an entirely different track with its In-Vis-O-Trak and Shadow Trak. Instead of keeping the flat-panel TV inside a frame and rolling up the artwork, a concealed rack-and-pinion mechanism moves the entire picture out of the way. The In-Vis-O-Trak works with recess-mount TVs, while the Shadow Trak provides a wood-frame box that fits around a surface-mounted TV. These products obviously require more space than the VisionArt and ArtScreen, but there’s no denying that the In-Vis-O-Trak, in particular, exudes James Bond cool.

One might say that Tapestries, Ltd. is getting medieval on your TV’s butt. The company offers cloister-style tapestries that scroll down to cover a flat-panel TV. You choose between four ornate brackets, each offered in four antique finishes. Little else is visible—there’s no frame around the TV set.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall
For those who’d like their flat panel to “reflect” their taste, why not disguise it as a mirror? Up to now, the problem with this solution has been that two-way mirrors cause a fair amount of light loss that robs the picture of its brilliance. Media Decor’s Mirage Mirror takes a different tack through the use of “beam-splitter” technology, which results in much brighter images.

A blackout curtain rises behind the front screen (in front of the display itself) to reveal the TV picture. The system works best in low ambient-light environments and can be used with either recessed or wall-mounted flat-panel displays up to 65 inches.

Another choice is the Sanus Decorative Frame and Optical Mirror Kit. The kit includes a filter that is placed between the TV screen and the frame, which is then snapped over the display’s bezel. The frame fits most 32-, 42-, and 50-inch flat-panel displays and includes an IR repeater kit to ensure that the TV’s remote works correctly. When the display is off, what you see is a framed mirror; when the set is turned on, the picture pops into sight as if from nowhere.

What’s Up, Doc?
Sci-fi fans can appreciate the way a flat panel descends from overhead like a spaceship coming in for a landing. However, unless you have an attic, you probably don’t have enough space for the flat panel to retract upright into the ceiling. The solution is to have the display “flip,” or recess horizontally into the ceiling before being lowered and flipped to a vertical position for viewing. That’s very cool…and exactly what Auton’s Ceiling Flip-Down Lift does.

This product comes in a number of sizes to accommodate panels from 42 to 66 inches, weighing up to 200 pounds. The panel drops 7 inches and then tilts up to 95 degrees. Note that you need a professional to install this product properly; in some cases, the ceiling structure will need to be reinforced, and there are building and safety codes to take into account.

In contrast, Sanus’ VMUC1 Under-Cabinet Mount can be installed by just about anyone who possesses a bit of patience. Not only does this product hide the display, but it gives you back your counter space, so it’s well suited for kitchens and home offices. Don’t discount using it in a bathroom or even a garage, though. The VMUC1 can handle flat-panel LCD TVs from 9 to 17 inches and up to 15 pounds.

You attach the display to the mount with screws and then screw the mount’s base into the underside of the cabinet or shelf. When it’s time to watch TV, you pull the LCD panel down and tilt or swivel it in any direction for optimum viewing. When you’re done, just “fold” it back up and out of sight. A wire-management system routes the wires through the arm of the mount so that they don’t hang out from the back.

Pop Goes The Plasma
Some people have no desire to mount their flat panel, choosing instead to set it on a piece of furniture. The TV is just as bland sitting there, but now it blocks the view of anything behind it, like a picture or window. A better solution is to use a pop-up lift.

It’s like that scene from Goldfinger where a scale replica of Fort Knox rises up out of the floor, only in this case a special lift mechanism is concealed inside the furniture, which has been custom-built for this purpose. The push of a button lifts the display out of the furniture; when you’re finished watching TV, the display descends back into the cabinet. Another benefit to this approach is that all of the cables and power cords remain hidden, keeping the top of the cabinet clean and the room uncluttered.

Auton’s Plasma Lift With Swivel comes in varying sizes to accommodate displays up to 74 inches wide. The automated lift features an optional remote-controlled, 360-degree swivel to angle the display for maximum viewability and flexibility; as such, seating need not be limited to the area directly in front of the TV. Since Auton doesn’t sell to the customer directly, you must work with your furniture maker, designer, A/V installer, or integrator to install it.

Another choice is Chief’s CM2L40 Automated Pop-Up Lift, which is designed to handle flat panels that measure 31 to 61 inches and weigh up to 190 pounds. All it takes is the press of a button to raise or lower the flat-panel screen; the lift can rise up to 40 inches (with a stored height of 31 inches), and it moves quickly and quietly into position. The CM2L40 offers customizable stop positions and a cable-management system.

Whether you hide it, disguise it, or sci-fi it, in the end it’s all about blending your flat panel seamlessly into your home’s surroundings when the TV is not in use.

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