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When is a big TV too big?

Posted on June 9, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Lady looking at tv prices

A former partner used to love spending a spare hour or so in the local television shop comparing specifications and prices.  Apart from wondering what was the difference between LED and plasma, he’d inevitably be drawn to the biggest televisions in the shop, while I’d trail along commenting, “Don’t you think it’s rather large for the room?” and at the same time muttering under my breath “It’s vulgar!” As you might expect, the battle over television size expanded into disagreements over everything else until I can safely say, “Reader, I didn’t marry him.” I am not the only partner to complain about super-sized televisions, and it seems that the issue is sparking a debate about when is a big TV just too big?

A recent article in The Guardian revealed that broadcaster Justin Webb incurred the wrath of his wife after he sneaked out and bought a 65-inch television. He told readers “I’ve finally bitten the bullet and bought myself a TV worthy of the name,” and went on to add that the loathing of large televisions was “the last refuge of the snob.” Apparently that’s what I have in common with Justin Webb’s wife! So, why are large televisions a ‘must have’ for some people, and a definite ‘must not have’ for others?

Television size and etiquette

According to etiquette expert William Hanson, quoted in The Guardian’s article, it’s because “television is not the high church of culture.” Therefore, an enormous television gives too much space to a downmarket medium and the means of watching it, he says.  I’m sure many of you will disagree heartily. I admit that my own aversion to large televisions comes from an upbringing in which the television was not permitted to be on constantly, had to be turned off if a visitor arrived and was not allowed to dominate the home – books were given far more space. And that’s why I frown at the television being turned on at breakfast and being left on all day. This feeling is exacerbated by larger than usual television sets. But I realise that this is a view of television that is in steep decline, especially amongst men.

Dislike of large tellies is possibly a gender issue with women being more hostile to large screens. Interior designer Linda Levene claims that she’s never met a woman who said, “Let’s go for the biggest TV,” whereas men love large TVs regardless of their social background. The love of gadgets and the need to impress friends with screen dimensions is of great importance to the boys, but us ladies take a dim view of it.


Mature couple watching television together

Use science to identify ideal screen size

So, is there a way to convince your man that a 65-inch screen is just too big? Well, if you’re looking for backup this scientific calculator shows you ideal screen sizes in relation to the distance you sit from the screen. (If you want to win the argument, push the sofa closer to the planned TV location!) For example, if there is only 4.5 feet between the sofa and the screen, then a 32″ set is best. If you want a 65″ TV then you need a distance of nine feet. From a design perspective, a gigantic flat screen fits better in a contemporary residence with large, open spaces. It just doesn’t look quite right in period architecture with smaller rooms and antique furniture (and indeed, those items may need home insurance if you’re worried about moving a TV around them).

What do interior designers think?

Linda Levene says that large televisions are the bane of interior designers because it’s like having a huge black square on a wall, where something more beautiful, like a painting, might hang. But, being an interior designer, she has a solution to the problem, although I have to say it is one that not everyone can accommodate – and that is to have a separate television room. Alternatively, if like me you simply don’t have that kind of space, you could opt for what is called a ‘picture lift’. In this instance, a work of art covers the screen and lifts to reveal the TV at the touch of a button. I have also seen a large mirror that is transformed into a TV screen by remote control, but like Levene, I feel this will appeal more to ‘Gadget Man’ than the lady of the house.

So, where do you stand on the issue of TV size and do you think that loathing large tellies is a bad case of snobbery? We’d love to hear your views and your solutions to any bad case of the big screen – whether you’re a lover or a loather.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.