Stylish furniture or black hole? Why We Want To Love Our TVs Even When They're Off (2023)

TVs are not usually pink, but Sky Glass can have a dark tone. The pay-TV company is billing its first set, available in five "rich shades" with matching stand and remote, as a stylishunbranded mobiledesigned to be coordinated with home interiors.

It's an impressive approach in a culture where televisions are often seen as functional hardware rather than beautiful objects. Open the living room pages of any interior decorating magazine and the TV is often conspicuous by its absence.

Fraser Stirling, global head of product for Sky and its US parent Comcast, remembers his parents' television set growing up in Scotland as a model without a remote control with buttons that made the best noise: "It sounded like you were turning on a power station..."

Sky "aren't trying to outdo anyone on TV," he says, but likes to be "a bit of a contrarian." Leading manufacturers Samsung and LG, while "brilliant at what they do," mainly compete on audio and display details.


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With Sky Glass, which Sky worked with design agency Map Project Office on, the challenge was to "find that balance" between serving as a focal point in the living room and blending in with it.

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“It's a really fascinating problem and we take it very, very seriously,” says Stirling. “You'll hear a lot of [tech] companies talk about 'owning the house.' I don't like it, why would someone "own" my house? It is my home.

The frames are made of anodized aluminium, which reflects the light properties of the room during the day.

“It's not brilliant. It's not 'look at me, look at me, I'm a shiny thing'."

Color selection, for its part, is an evolving science that requires “keeping an eye out” for everything from the Milan Furniture Fair to painting the colors projected for the year by brands.

It's no coincidence that three of the launch colors (Ocean Blue, Racer Green and Anthracite Black) are dark, as more people prefer their outfits to be dark. Black, the most traditional option, is also the best seller.

"But people are buying all the colors," says Stirling, whose own ensemble is green. A white ceramic set proved "surprisingly popular" while customers "really like" the pink.

The reasons and prices related to the software will determine if Sky Glass is attractive or not. At the heart of the pitch, though, is its ease of use in the home: the set dispenses with the need for a satellite dish or decoder, while Sky says the six built-in Dolby Atmos speakers make a soundbar unnecessary.

The woven acoustic mesh, black by default, can be covered with speaker fascias of the same colour, with patterned limited editions found on 'tailoring tables' in Sky stores, where customers are invited to personalize their TVs as desired. they would do on kitchen countertops or bathroom tiles. .

"The sandwich you make yourself tastes better, right?"

Thinking about the TV buying process in this way will seem like a new concept to most, if anything closer to phone buying decisions. Apple's penchant for color makes the design influence clearer.


Camouflage instincts only waned properly in the 1980s, when televisions stopped "pretending to be made of wood," ceased to be "brown goods," and became "black goods" with the rise of VCRs.

Previous generations have been here before. The first entertainment devices to invade living rooms were, of course, not televisions, but radios. As they proliferated, so did the sales standard on their aesthetic qualities.

In the 1930s, newspapers carried blackout ads for the "beautiful strong oak" or "veined walnut" finishes of desk and console radios, with radiograms (radios and gramophones combined) especially likely to be marketed as furniture.

Your radio should have three things that your teacher's voice declared in 1938: realistic tone, wide variety of stations, and "a cabinet of rare beauty."

Stylish furniture or black hole? Why We Want To Love Our TVs Even When They're Off (4)

By encouraging readers to turn their wireless equipment into a radiogram, the author of a 1932 article in The Irish Times identified a change in attitude. While once "a mass of wires, a bunch of weird equipment" allowed us to "show our friends how clever we were capable of creating music from a myriad of devices", this was replaced by the desire to " eliminate confusion." followed by the desire for "not just cleanliness, but ornamentation." The ornate radiograms were vehicles for letting furniture fantasies "run wild."

But these observations masked a deeper concern about the technological acquisition of the home.

“Anxiety is pretty much how I would characterize it,” says Dr. Stephanie Rains, an associate professor in the department of media studies at Maynooth University.

“They were really beautiful, some of them, these art deco designs. At the same time, they were costumes. They hid the technology, and that became a more pronounced trend in the early days of television."

Bringing refrigerators and electric stoves into the kitchen, then a hidden space, was a happy event. But amid the plush living room furnishings, visible technology, with all its industrial nuances, can seem jarring.

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“In many ways, it was because of this persistent Victorian idea of ​​the house as a sanctuary in a dirty and dangerous world,” says Rains.

Therefore, the television electronics were housed in wood-effect boxes, while in some homes the device itself took refuge in cabinets with folding or sliding doors.

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The “television box” shape of the cathode ray tubes also facilitated adjacent decorative touches in a way that is now easy to forget: Rains remembers her mother propping a flower pot on them.

Camouflage instincts only waned properly in the 1980s, when televisions stopped "pretending to be made of wood," ceased to be "brown goods," and became "black goods" with the rise of VCRs.

Unlimited screen size inflation explains why we can love TV but feel ambivalent about the equipment we watch it on, especially when it's turned off.

“It was at this point that the technology became something to brag about,” says Rains.

However, in the age of flat screens, the old mid-century strains may not be completely dead.

"One of the trends we've seen recently is hiding the TV," says interior design consultant Paula McCarthy of Paula McCarthy Interiors. "People don't normally want it to be the focal point of their bedroom."

The televisions with sliding doors are back and this time motorized. They are joined by cabinets with pop-up functions that allow you to raise and lower the television.

“And it doesn't have to show up, it can show up,” McCarthy says, citing covering wall-mounted TV screens with movable screens.

Some homeowners also make their television part of a gallery wall, toning down the harshness of a nearly black screen with paintings and photographs. Placing the TV against a dark painted wall will also help the screen recede into the room.

Stylish furniture or black hole? Why We Want To Love Our TVs Even When They're Off (5)

McCarthy, who headed advertising sales for Virgin Media Television before starting his consultancy, believes Sky is "moving in the right direction" with its foray into Sky Glass.

"People don't want their TV to be just one big black hole."

Unlimited screen size inflation, fueled by pressure from manufacturers to differentiate the "home theater" experience from tablets and laptops, explains why we can love TV but feel ambivalent about the equipment it's on. we see it, specifically when it is turned off.

Current generation Ultra HD TVs start at 43 inches (measured diagonally), and sellers will tell you that all the picture benefits are best appreciated at even larger dimensions.

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When Sky Glass, made in 43, 55 and 65 inches, went on sale in the Irish market last August, he said his experience in the UK was that customers were leaning towards larger models.

Sky's solution to the "cavernous black hole" problem, for those who think so, is to suggest that customers turn on a feature called Glance: motion technology that brings the screen to life on a "recommendations" page when you log in. To the room. People "unsure" about it during store demos often leave it on, says Stirling.

While it's a bit heavier than an ultra-thin OLED array, the Sky Glass sits flat against the wall and its stand doubles as a wall mount. Still, more people put it in a unit.

"I think the technical term is sideboard or, as it is known in Dumfries, table."

At Ikea it's known as a bench, terminology that also refers to today's expansive screens. Ikea recommends a TV stand that is "slightly wider than the TV placed on it." A TV upgrade without a bench upgrade can lead to some sub-optimal aspect ratio issues, with modern mega-screens forming odd T-shapes with older square units.

And while I didn't think of bothering to hide the TV, I did invest the entire €10 in a ribbed plastic "cable hider" from Flying Tiger.

Just as the ability to wall-mount flat screens created a new line of work for electricians hiding cables, the advent of set-top boxes, broadband routers, and gaming paraphernalia made the structure of TV benches It will adjust to handle the spaghetti of cables.

Ikea highlights how their selection will "fix things up", usually by incorporating a discreet opening in the rear through which cables feed back into power outlets.

While my own TV is a modest, if room-appropriate, 32-inch, the cabinet it sits in (a white "Esme" unit with curved edges that I bought from before I went into administration) is my most precious piece of furniture Dear. Just as well, considering how much it takes up my line of sight.

And while I didn't think of bothering to hide the TV, I did invest the entire €10 in a ribbed plastic "cable hider" from Flying Tiger.

As Sky's attack on cable clutter suggests, more market innovations are on the way. Samsung has a patent for a cable-free TV; instead, it will be accompanied by a wireless power bar, positioned behind the screen. Earlier this month in Las Vegas, LG unveiled a 97-inch display with its power cord hidden in a stand leg and a transmitter box that can be placed up to 30 feet away, while a startup called Displace showed a fully wireless 55-inch screen. Inch screen powered by rechargeable batteries. This wireless future will once again revolutionize TV furniture.

Inevitably, we think of technology through the prism of the present. In 1932 The Irish Times posited that homeowners could soon combine radiograms with televisions, forming wireless sets that "resemble miniature talkies".

They sound adorable. Burgundy plush curtains, anyone?


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