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Ask the Builder: Make a new flat-screen TV look old
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Ask the Builder: Make a new flat-screen TV look old

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No, you’ re not looking out a window. That’ s a modern flat-screen TV that’ s surrounded by window trim. It’ s a great illusion.

Q: Tim, I’ve got a challenge for you. I live in a 100-year-old Craftsman house with gorgeous wood trim around the windows and doors. The trim is wide, and there’s a stunning head piece across the top of all windows and doors.

My problem is that I have a flat-screen TV in my den and it looks out of place. It’s so modern and I hate how it looks. What can I do to make the new TV look old, and how can I brighten the room? --Piper W., Montrose, Calif.

A: I know Piper isn’t the only person who doesn’t like how modern flat-screen TVs clash with stunning woodwork found in many older homes. I’m not a fan of how stark the TVs are. My son loves the modern look, and his flat screen compliments the industrial look in his loft apartment.

My good friends Russ and Ann faced with the same conundrum. They live in a classic Craftsman home that I’ve visited countless times. Russ grew up in the house and it’s become part of his soul.

Ann happens to be the handy person in the duo. She’s a serious DIYer and can do any task, be it plumbing, plastering, painting or carpentry. She solved a problem similar to Piper's by imagining their flat-screen TV as an actual window.

Ann cobbled together wood trim to surround the TV and mounted it to the wall. Once the TV was installed, the room, which only had one window, was brightened in a hurry. The look was so fantastic Russ went out and bought two more TVs for the other walls!

I imagine the woodwork in Piper’s home is similar to that in Russ and Ann’s home. I’m sure her windows have true wooden windowsills that are 4 or 5 inches deep and they project out beyond the vertical wood casing that is on either side of the window. A larger head casing spans over the window much like a flat beam.

In almost all cases there’s a distinctive piece of half-round bead molding on the bottom of the head casing and a cap molding on top of the head casing that looks just like crown molding. I had this same look at my last Queen Anne Victorian home.

Ann simply surrounded the three flat-screen TVs in their den with the same exact woodwork that trims out the one window in their room. It’s easy to do with minimal tools. All one really needs is a decent sliding 10-inch miter saw and a finish nail gun. You’ll never regret using the nail gun, trust me.

The first step is to use 1x4s to create an upside-down U that surrounds the two sides and top of the flat-screen TV. The window sill part of the treatment will form the bottom of this box that surrounds the flat screen. I’d leave a gap of about 1/2 inch between the TV and the wood. Ann decided to have the three U-shaped components project out about a 1/2 inch from the front of the flat-screen TV.

The window sill is fastened to the bottom of the two 1x4s that are on the sides of the TV. The top 1x4 can be cut so it overlaps the two side pieces and you fasten it to the two vertical 1x4s. All you need to do now is attach this to the wall. You can use metal L-brackets or small cleats that attach to the other side of the 1x4s.

All that’s left to do is then trim out this box as you’d put all the trim around a regular window. You just have to add an extra piece of wood to the vertical casings and the head casing so they return to the wall. It’s really easy to do when you look at the photo of what Ann did at her home.

Simple carpentry skills allow you to add the half-round bead molding to the bottom of the head casing and the cap on top of the head casing. You’re just making standard 45-degree cuts to create the outside corners of both moldings. It’s finish carpentry 101 for goodness sake. Look at your existing trim on your windows and imagine how the carpenter installed it all those years ago.

The interesting thing is you can mimic this same look no matter what type of casing you have around the doors and windows in your home. It’s just a matter of building the simple U-shaped box at first and then clone the actual trim.

I would have never thought about putting more than one flat-screen TV in a room, but Russ really pulled it off. He uses one to view the news and movies, but the other two tend to have subtle slide shows on them or fixed images so it actually looks like you’re looking out a window to the mountains, a stream, animals, a beach, a city at night, whatever scene you happen to enjoy or sets the mood! It’s magic I tell ya!

(Subscribe to Tim’s’ free newsletter and listen to his new podcasts. Go to: AsktheBuilder.com.)

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