Our New (hidden) Living Room Projector System
If there was one question in the world that Brian and I were sick of asking ourselves, and each other, it was ‘WHERE DO WE WATCH THAT TV?’ Our house was built in 1926 and therefore just not set up for that perfect 65″ TV wall. No room makes sense, and no wall felt natural. The question of getting rid of the TV certainly came up over and over (and OVER), but then the weekends rolled around and man, that electronic babysitter is really good at watching our kids at 7am. She meets their needs. She entertains them. She makes them laugh and keeps them safe. WE ARE NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO GIVE HER UP. But I hated our set-up…
The last year we had a smaller TV in the den, but the kids really needed that play space and the sofa was taking up too much room. And we really wanted to de-emphasize the TV in our house in the hopes that it would tempt them less. Perhaps there will be less begging, less of us saying and reminding them of the rules. We don’t have one at the mountain house and for the most part they just forget about it and play instead. But up there they have a dedicated play space – a whole room just for THEM (plus acres of forest in the back yard). If our home were big enough we would have both a TV room and a play room, but it’s not, so we don’t. And we had to choose. So after talking about it for over a year we came up with a solution. We didn’t feel like it was perfect, but we pulled the trigger because we were so sick of talking about it and action needed to happen. We gave up the ‘TV’ for the playroom …
I was nervous. So was Brian. We called an IT specialist and he consulted, suggested, and installed. A few weeks later we had a whole new tech life. Welcome to our new (but subtle) home theater/TV room:
Above the sofa we have the projector. It is something we can remove so easily (for shoots) but projects a nice picture when needed. It’s not an eye-sore at all. It’s like seeing a lamp cord – not ideal, but you stop noticing it because LIFE.
Here’s what it looks like from the side:
It’s honestly hardly noticeable, and it doesn’t bother me at all. If anything our friends are excited to see great tech in a more formal space.
Here’s how that magic works:
Our installer hid all the cords behind the shades and then put them inside a white cord cover and snaked them down the middle of the windows. You can see it if you look hard, but it’s seriously not noticeable. Any other tech is hidden underneath the table or on the ground under the sofa (not ideal, but you can’t really see it).
He snaked the cords along the baseboard (in a conduit cover) and then attached a power strip to the bottom of the table. You can see that of course, but it could be SO MUCH worse. And our basket of kids books covers it for the most part.
Now where is this hidden screen? See below.
Right above the window! It’s a white metal cartridge that is hard to see, but then when you are ready to watch Nate and Jeremiah By Design, you simply…
Dear Hollywood, your new premiere venue has arrived. But please don’t come. We are very tired and only like 11 people max in our house at a time, 4 of which are us. We are currently taking auditions for the other 4. I mean 5. I mean 7. I’m fired. Also all positions are filled.
She’s big, the quality is high, and it’s REALLY FUN.
We chose the simplest white cartridge and screen. I of course wanted a smaller screen, but we actually couldn’t get one with the projector that we already had (we considered others but any higher-end projectors weren’t going to be able to project small enough at that distance, from that height). How it’s projected couldn’t be minimized to fit on a smaller screen. Our IT guy gave us options and recommended everything based on our needs (mine: minimal design, easy to remove, Brian: high quality picture, good sound and minimal design, too).
The curtains can go over the cartridge easily if we want to close the curtains completely (which we never do), and it really just disappears. The screen is super easy to pull down and retrieve up.
Admittedly it’s huge but WE LOVE IT. The kids now feel like it’s a special occasion and they kinda know that we won’t just pull it down for a quick show. More on that later.
The cartridge is easily removed if needed – it hangs on small screws that you can hardly see.
Most people wouldn’t need to remove it as often as we do, but it’s nice to know that it can be taken down for special occasions.
I know you have a ton of functional questions. First –
1. HOW DO YOU LISTEN/WHAT IS THE SOUND LIKE?
Sonos, brah. We have one on each side of the screen and we turn it on with our Sonos app on our phone. So far it’s GREAT. The only bummer is if a sitter is watching kids and wants to put on a movie then we have to make sure to turn it on from our phones because there is no manual way. We have to make sure it is on before we leave, or be ready via text to press play. One night before we knew, we were in a movie and we didn’t see the text. No sound unless you press play. (P.S. Not sponsored or gifted, just a great product – but i’m sure there are others.)
The IT guy did give us an option of putting the speakers in the wall and actually plastering over them so you can’t see them. We were tempted but it felt too permanent of a decision with too many variables to troubleshoot. I was worried that our old walls would crumble or something. It also likely would have been expensive, but if you have a newer house or maybe a media room it makes more sense to have them equally dispersed in your wall. But I’m not an audio expert so literally don’t listen to anything I say. I’m just telling you what WE did and what the expert told us.
2. CAN YOU WATCH IT DURING THE DAY?
Meh. It’s not ideal. The sun blasts in through the screen windows ’til about 2pm. The picture is OK, but just not awesome. The kids don’t care. They would watch TV it it were covered in mud, with barely audible volume, on a 3″ wide screen, upside down.
Luckily most important TV events that warrant a viewing party happen in the later afternoon (super bowl, academy awards, political debates). Some of our closest friends have amazing TV rooms. Ours is great for smaller gatherings (ahem bachelor… although NOT HAPPY) and we go to other people’s houses for the bigger nights.
Besides, Brian and I don’t watch TV during the day unless one of us is sick, in which case we would likely watch in bed on laptops. We keep the screen up all day and then pull it down and click it on after the kids go down (if we don’t just pass out ourselves). We’ve lived like this for 2 months and it’s honestly been great (thus the post). Again, if we had a room that could house a TV we would. Our home just can’t without sacrificing the function, flow, and style of the best room in the house (the living room).
On the weekends (or desperate occasions), if we have our friends over and we want to let the kids watch a movie somewhere else we just prop a laptop up in their playroom or in our bedroom so we can hang in the living room.
3. CAN YOU WATCH LIVE TV?
Kinda. We have Direct TV which we can play through an app with the Amazon Fire TV Stick. It’s $35 a month. It’s similar to a Roku or Apple TV. It has Direct TV, Direct TV NOW, HULU, Netflix, Amazon Video, and iTunes. We can watch live events but they might have a lag time and sometimes you can’t rewind. I believe Direct TV NOW is still in beta so they are working on it. We’ve had some troubleshooting, but it’s still been worth it (and no, nothing is sponsored or gifted).
4. IS IT ANNOYING TO DEAL WITH?
NO. We had a projector in our old house and it was more annoying there (because it was 4 years ago with older tech). Plus that house had so much more evening light, making it harder to see until it was really dark. This one is SO EASY. You pull it down, press one button on the Epson remote, another on the Fire TV Stick remote, and the big Smart TV menu turns on. The picture is great. The sounds is good. Plus that big screen is pretty darn awesome.
5. HOW MUCH DID IT COST:
The projector cost $850, which isn’t cheap. But it’s also around the same cost of a higher-end TV, but with a MUCH bigger screen possibility. A lot of the items we got are technically “to the trade”, and were bought directly by our tech guy, but here is the pricing on the items we used so you can get an idea of how much the whole job cost (and links in case you, or someone you know is in the AV industry):
Wall Mount: $80, Wirepath Cat-6 Unshielded Wire: $85, Jumpers: Cat-6: $85, Power Cord: $25, Points Alarm Wire (similar): $35, Wire Moulding: $65, 100″ Inland Projection Screen: $140, HDMI Extender: $380, Projector Hardware: $40, Sonos Connect: $350, Sonos Play 1 (Quanity: 2): $400, Instal./Programming: $1000
We already had the projector and the Sonos, so our bill wasn’t that high, but now that I’m looking at it all I’m like WOAH (it totaled over 3k if you were buying it all at once). Now your space might not warrant all the equipment that ours did. You might be able to set the projector on a console table or in a bookshelf, but we needed to mount it all fancy and it wasn’t something we knew how to do. But I’m sure some of you could save that dough and install it yourself. And now I’m like what is an HDMI extender for almost $400?
ANY QUESTIONS? Do you think this is ultimately the best solution or did we miss an opportunity?
My official review so far is GREAT. I LOVE IT. We watch less TV, not because it’s annoying but because it feels slightly less readily available and more ‘special’. I normally watch an hour or so (while responding to comments) after the kids go down. As far as recommending a projector over a TV this is what I’ll say – If we had a family room for TV watching I’d probably go for The Frame (no longer a spokesperson, but just the most beautiful TV ever). I think I like having a TV more than a pull down screen, but we just don’t have the square footage in our house and no ‘right’ walls in our living room.
Have you opted for projector over TV? I know a few of you mentioned it a year ago and I was anti that idea because our previous one hadn’t worked that well, but thanks for the encouragement and YOU WERE RIGHT 🙂
***Photos by Sara Tramp for EHD