Entertainment center can keep big-screen TV from swallowing room

March 28, 1993|By Rose Bennett Gilbert | Rose Bennett Gilbert,Copley News Service

Q: My husband is dying to buy one of those enormous-screen TVs for our family room. I keep telling him the room is not large enough, but the truth is I'd hate to have that huge thing in there.

If I have to give in, how can I organize the room so it doesn't look like a movie house?

A: A number of furniture manufacturers have teamed up with video manufacturers to solve the very problem that's worrying you. They're making what they call "entertainment centers," case pieces especially designed to accommodate big-screen TVs, plus all your electronic gear, in one handsome wall unit.

In turn, some electronics stores are selling furniture to house their units. The days of letting all your gear hang out as a status symbol are behind us, thanks in large measure to us women. Like you, we resented all those black boxes and wires, not to mention couch potatoes lying all around.

There's yet another way to integrate today's electronics gracefully into the home scene: custom cabinetry and built-ins will do the job seamlessly.

A handsome example is the Fieldstone entertainment center that angles neatly across one end of the family room in the photo we show here. Designed to reach almost to the ceiling, the bleached-wood cabinets add architectural importance to the room, framing the big-screen TV and containing other electronic paraphernalia neatly behind closed doors.

Whichever solution you arrive at, take your pension fund when you go shopping: Entertainment centers can reach into the low four figures without the electronic gear itself. But just think how much you'll save on movies.

Q: I've done my new apartment over in black and white: black-and-white tiles on the floor, white walls and black-and-white toile on the sofa and chairs. The other chair is black leather, and the Parsons tables are black and white, one each.

Now that the room is finished, I'm disappointed. Mainly, my friends say it's too cold, and I guess I agree. Where did I go wrong?

A: Here's the answer in black and white: You need a touch of color -- brilliant, singing color.

Polar opposites like black and white are highly sophisticated and can be hard to live with.

I'd suggest that you jolt things up a bit with accents in a strong color such as red, emerald green, even clear, crisp yellow. It has to be a strong yellow, say, the color of a school bus.

Pastels and namby-pamby colors just can't hold their own against the diametric opposites you're working with.

Q: When our daughter went away to college, we decided to rent her room to another student who goes to school nearby. She agreed, but now that she's graduating, she wants to come home for a while. Our only option is to do over the attic.

Can you give us any ideas about colors, etc.? Also, the floor is just rough boards. Should we put down carpeting? This may be a brief move, so we don't want to make a major investment.

A: Your situation is more common than you might guess, with the tight job market sending a lot of grown children back to the nest. Many space-pressed families are growing up, into their attics, and your daughter need not feel like Cinderella. With its inherent nooks, crannies and architectural eccentricities, an attic hath special charms.

Two problem areas do exist, how ever: Attics tend to be dark with smallish windows, and space can be cramped. Color can help solve both problems. The lighter and brighter the better, since clear, clean colors reflect whatever light is available. White-painted floors and a light-grounded wall covering with vertical stripes will "raise" the roof, visually speaking.

Sheer curtains and lamps with translucent shades also relieve potential claustrophobia.

Q: In our funny old house there is a French door with glass panes between the living room and the dining room that we are using as an at-home office (we always eat in the kitchen anyway). I don't want people looking through the door at our "works-in-progress" (I'm a writer and my husband is an accountant, and both our desks are always messy).

My question is, what kind of a curtain should I put on the door?

A: A double-sided curtain: One side should work with the living room decor; the other should be a color and pattern that complement the office side. Another thought: Replace the door panes with mirrors facing the living room and curtain only the other side.

Q: We held a family dinner party recently for my husband's sister and her fiance. I mixed sets of dishes on the table, partly because I like the look and partly because I don't yet have a complete service for a large party.

The look on my mother-in-law's face has haunted me ever since. Was it gauche to use different china, even if they looked nice together?

A. In a word, no. Many very sophisticated party-givers like to mix things up just for the visual pleasure of it -- and they have matching sets enough to feed the multitudes.

Relax. It seems that your mother-in-law is of the old school of entertaining: Her parties may be proper, but probably not as much fun.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is co-author of "Manhattan Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas.

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