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Our New (hidden) Living Room Projector System

180327 Emily Henderson Projector Pick Ups0942 03

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:

Tudor Living Room Navy Tuffted Sofa Dash And Albert Rug Modern Traditional

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. 

MY LATEST VIDEOS

Here’s what it looks like from the side:

Modern Traditional Neutral Living Room Projector Instead Of Tv

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.

Hiding A Home Projector Living Room

Here’s how that magic works:

How We Hide Our Projector Cords3

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).

Hiding Cords In A Living Room

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.

How To Put Up An At Home Projector

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…

Pulled Back Gif

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.

Installing A Home Theater With Projector

She’s big, the quality is high, and it’s REALLY FUN.

At Home Projector Hidden Low Profile

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).

Toward Porch Gif

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.

At Home Pull Down Projector Screen

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.

Hanging Projector Gif

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 Speaker For Home Projector

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.

Pretty Pull Down Living Room Movie Projector

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

  1. We have a Sony short throw projector with built in speaker. It’s a tiny box that you place 2-4 inches from the wall on which you project. We use it for movies.

    1. wow. i assumed that 2-4″ was a typo but thats crazy and awesome. I wonder if we could have done this but we on’t have a console to put it on that doesn’t have a sconce above it. But that is awesome. i love that the speakers are built-in, too.

    2. cool! I’ve never heard of the short throw projectors before. This might be a great solution for when we redo our basement instead of just buying another TV

  2. I think you have the optimal solution for your space! We had a projector in our lake house that we recently sold. We bought it 10 years ago, so paid 5x what you did and your picture looks so much better. The downside was the daytime light, but we had blackout curtains to help with that. Sonos is awesome. Even in our new build, we didn’t build them in. They really kind of disappear into the decor.

  3. On the amazon listing for the Sonos box thingy it says you can plug it in to any phone with an AUX cable (and they don’t have to have the app/pair the devices) might be an option for baby sitters 🙂

    We have an old house with no good tv spot too and I love that you did this, otherwise you end up with a weird living room that no one uses and a tiny weird tv “area” somewhere else.

  4. Please share where you purchased your curtain rods. I’ve found plenty that are close, but they seem to have a portion on the bracket that sticks up above rod line. Love that your curtain rods don’t appear to have that issue.
    Looking forward to hearing of your curtain rod source, thank you.

    1. it’s from Calico Corners xx

      1. Are the curtains from Calico Corners as well?

        1. Yes:)

  5. “They would watch TV it it were covered in mud, with barely audible volume, on a 3″ wide screen, upside down.” Hahah – so true!

    We’re moving into a new space where this is also a tricky issue and now I feel like we should totally keep a projector in the mix! Thanks for the timely post.

  6. We have a projector and screen in our studio apartment and I LOVE it! It does make tv/movie time more of a special occasion!

  7. We have a projector in our family room and LOVE it! My husband created a shelf on top of a west elm chandelier that blends with the ceiling, and I framed out a huge (9 ft) screen that we built a floating frame around…perfection! We have had it three years and have never looked back!

  8. Very cool! Do your kids really play and not bother you when you’re trying to make dinner, clean up, etc? Tv is the only way I get things together after work, but it’s becoming a huge crutch and I don’t know how to occupy my toddler, take care of the baby, and get everything done with out it!

  9. I think a lot of us would assume that the natural spot for a TV would be over the fireplace in this room. Can you explain why you nixed that? Was it because the seating would then cut up the room too much?

    1. I’m going to guess that Emily didn’t want the TV to be the focal point of the room or detract from the fireplace. Also, it might need to be pretty small to fit — the flat section narrows quite a bit.

  10. Yay! You get what you want and hardly notice the screen or ceiling mount.

    We ditched the tv for a projector. We kept ours portable so we can watch a movie inside, outside or wherever. We pull down the 6’ Roman shade in any of the rooms and project directly onto it or the fireplace or a wall. The quality is unbelievably good. We use our wireless Bose mini speaker for sound and it feels like a theatre. We don’t have cable so we skip live events, but we love ours for occasional movie nights.

  11. First off — ALWAYS LOVE your blog!
    I just tried and FAILED to get a projector installed in our 100-year-old Silver Lake house for the reason you mentioned: The IT guys wanted to install a 5-part Sonos system that involved ripping open the walls to run wires to wall-mounted speakers. It started to sound like it would be insanely expensive to install.
    Do you recommend the company that installed this system for you? If so, would you be willing to share the company name? It looks like they did an awesome job camouflaging all the wires so you’d barely know they’re there. (Or maybe the credit for hiding everything so well belongs to you!)

  12. We have an ancient phone with a cracked screen — this is our Sonos phone. You can also use a laptop, iPad/tablet, desktop, etc. Basically if you have any other device in your home, I bet your babysitter could turn on the Sonos!

  13. this may be a “duh” comment but maybe some heavy duty blackout curtains layered behind your pretty ones could be useful for daytime watching.

    love that you designed your home around quality time not screen time – but found a way to incorporate the screens when needed!

  14. I think you found the perfect solution for your space! Looks great!

  15. We use an old iPhone or iPad for our babysitter’s “remote” for our apps! Sonos used to have a remote but did away with them because phone said do everything!

    1. Yes, this is also how we solved the Sonos / Babysitter conundrum.

  16. Love this so much! When you bought the house I thought “maybe they could do a projector in there” even though I’ve never set one up, but now that you’ve done it I really want to try it in my teeny tiny living room with no good space for a tv. It seems like tech stuff should be more like this, just receding into the background and not the giant focus of a room so I hope more companies go the way of the frame or start selling cool projector kits like this!

  17. Due to light concerns, why not add remote control room darkening blinds behind the screen?

    1. Because we don’t really use it during the day and you can’t really put it on the window frame because its small and kinda old so they’d be mounted above and you’d see them. Once the sun goes on the other side of the house (4pm) its dark enough!

  18. I’ve been telling my husband that this is the way TV is going: There when you want it – gone when you don’t! Love it!

  19. I still want the frame. Maybe someday…

  20. We’re a projector household, too! I don’t think we’ll ever go back to having a “regular” TV. Our house is really small (1200 sq. ft.) so we just have the one main living area, and I really didn’t want to stick a TV on the wall. Instead, we have the tiny projector next to our Echo on the sideboard, and it throws the image onto the wall across the way. So awesome and discreet.

    1. Would you mind sharing which projector you have? I’m looking into doing something similar!

      1. Oh gosh, it’s really old and we’re not totally sure of the model number. I can tell you it’s an Acer, and that my husband had it foisted upon him a couple of years ago when they did a big clean-up at work. It’s very small, about 4” or 5” square and black. Sorry we don’t know more!

  21. Fabulous Emily!! I often wondered when someone would show this great idea, and you implemented it so well!

    We’ve had a pull-down movie screen in our family room, over our french doors to the porch, that we have tremendously enjoyed for years. Company loves it too! We paired it with an excellent & very reasonable BenQ projector and a floor tower speaker. I have roman shades on the door/windows that provide light blocking when needed and stationary side curtain panels (similar to yours) that give that theater feel.

    It truly is a Treat! Enjoy!!

  22. I have a quick question! Love the idea but can you see the TV in daytime? What direction does the window face? Thanks.

    1. I wrote about it in the post its ok during the day, but around 3pm in the winter and 4 in the summer its good. it faces east, so as soon as the sun is above its all good! Our kids don’t care even when its bad.

  23. I hadn’t realised how beautifully your beams turned out in the end. Mustn’t have been paying attention back when you revealed those! They’re such a lovely, mellow colour and finish. Projector and screen combo looks good too. I’ve been meaning to try out a projector in my bedroom for watching on the ceiling while lying down but haven’t gotten around to it yet…

  24. So, I was going to make a snotty comment about me sitting here watching my 32” TV and who needs a 65” TV and then I saw your GORGEOUS living room and forgot what I was going to say… That 65” TV is perfect, just like your living room.

  25. Question about table lamps: I have been looking for side tables to house table lamps next to the sofa. I’ve been looking at pictures all weekend for examples, and I notice no one uses table lamps next to their sofa! A lot of times, there are not even side tables next to the sofa. So I just saw your living room and you have one floor lamp, and a plant on your table, but no table lamp. Is this what everyone does? This is just so different to me, I’ve never not used table lamps next to the sofa.

    1. ha. i don’t know! The lamp on the left side would block the view into the room (unless it were small) and we have one on the piano, back credenza and the standing lamp so light is evenly distributed you can can dEFINITELY still put a lamp on side tables. it’s not ‘out’ at all 🙂

    2. Jeanette – I think most people do have a lamp on their table – how else do you read a book?

  26. Hi Emily. I love your black and white striped pillows. Where is the fabric front if I may ask?

    1. They are CB2 from last year!

  27. Interesting option! I dig it. my husband and I also have a projector in our basement TV room, and for a long time that was our only television option in the house. When we finally also installed a flatscreen TV in our main floor living room, above the fireplace in a total design faux pas, it drastically changed how we use our home for the better. It can be finicky but there is value in it. My favorite now with mega HD and a giant screen is to be able to read the stupid text on stuff like prop menus and computer screens.

    1. thank you and for the record i do not think that a TV in a living room is a faux pas, we simply didn’t have the wall space. Windows on both walls, small fireplace chimney, sconces everywhere …. i think decorate for how you can actually appreciate your house the most. xx

  28. You need a Harmony Hub/ remote that turns everything on at once or through Alexa. I got exhausted reading how many buttons and devices you had to turn on. Seriously, one button. It works for your speakers as well. https://support.myharmony.com/en-us/harmony-experience-with-sonos

    1. OOH interesting. Yah, I did no research, just trusted our dude, but that seems very smart …

      1. There may have been a reason he didn’t mention it. And it does cost an additional $200. You could always ask your guy.

        If you decided to look into it the Harmony Hub/Remote would also solve the problem of the speakers only on an app.

        Even if you don’t get a Harmony Hub, this is very cool solution in your beautiful home! Please know I wasnt trying to rain on your parade just trying to pass on some helpful info to make your life easier! Can’t wait for the play room reveal!

  29. I did this back in 2004 actually. I loved it. Then I moved from the apartment and later ended up getting a flat screen.

    But, this would work for my family because we have screen time after 5:00 pm. Also, my kids aren’t into tv. They like watching youtube, nintendo, iPad games…

    I think this was ingenious. 🙂 We are chord cutters anyway and just have basic cable and netflix and amazon prime which we love.

  30. I love these posts that bridge how you work something functional (and historically unperturbed) into design! I am working on my master bedroom and am wondering if you could do a post on one of 2 things: attractive and affordable ceiling fans (seems like a unicorn to me!) or alternatives to ceiling fans that will keep you cool enough.

    1. Unpretty – not unperturbed. Oh autocorrect

  31. To solve your babysitter TV sound issue, you could get an iPod touch to use strictly for controlling the media in the house and leave it there for sitters to use.

  32. My husband had a projector and screen before we got married, so when we moved into our house together, we had to install all the projector stuff plus ceiling speakers. We watched everything on it because we didn’t have a TV in the living room. The projector died after he had it for 7-8 years, and we haven’t replaced it yet. But the rest of the equipment is still up and look forward to replacing it for awesome movie nights with the kids.

  33. Well This is very different concept of watching TV in a Room
    My Fav Blog :http://happywheels.in

  34. So we have the issue of no good wall for a tv. We bought a smart tv and keep it in a cabinet (existing credenza, not a tv cabinet) and just pull it out and set it on a chair across from the couch when we want to watch something. There are no additional components (it has apps for Netflix, prime video, etc) and just a Regular electives Cord that plugs into the wall. When Alex are done watching tv gets put away. Basically like setting up a large iPad. Super cheap too, tv was less than $300.

    1. Stupid auto correct. Should say electric cord and “we are” not Alex.

    2. This is a brilliant idea, specially with the FIFA approaching this year.
      Also, I’d like to view my favorite blog( http://relationadvisor.com/flirty-questions-to-ask-a-boy/ ) on a projector like this.

  35. Can you share your IT guy’s info? We’re looking to do something similar and it’s all Greek to me. We need help!

  36. In order to watch movies you have to turn the lights off, but can’t close the curtains? This is… madness.

    We have a normal flat screen that doesn’t face/ sit in front of a window and sheers in the living room. It drives me batty at certain times of the day because the light screws with the television. I can’t imagine having to turn my lights off AND still have to face directly at an open window in order to watch The Birdcage.

    1. I can’t imagine that all of this was cheaper or better than getting one of the newer Samsung “The Frame”, esp if you can find an open box.

  37. This post is perfect timing! We just bought our first APT in K-TOWN and need to mount ours differently than before. Your details on the “not so pretty” stuff is exactly what I wanted to find and see. And you of all people created it, its a dream. Hiding cords is so necessary and unsexy work. We have been living and loving our projector life for 4 years now. Couldn’t go back. I love not looking at a TV in the room. xoxox

  38. I love it it looks great! We have Direct TV Now and Netflix and I love it. Now our biggest expense is the internet it used to be the satellite tv.

  39. Hey Em!
    How much would this cost?

  40. I love love love love this post! Grant and I have been talking a TON about doing this in our next home and this was just the post I was looking for. Thank you so much for sharing – very helpful!

  41. I absolutely love your living room. I purchased a similar blue sofa a year or so ago and haven’t done anything else to the room. I really need to start with a new rug and one like yours would be perfect. You have probably answered this before, but if I might ask again, where did your rug come from? Thanks so much and great job.

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