Wednesday 16 October 2019

On the Box

Thinner, bigger and almost invisible: Television has been reinvented for the 21st century

Samsung Ambient
Samsung Ambient
Loewe Bild
Author Kate Watson Smyth
Bang and Olufsen BeoVision Horizon
Bang and Olufsen BeoVision Eclipse
Samsung The Frame
Samsung OLED Q9FN

The television licence inspector comes knocking at the door. Again.

He's a regular visitor. I tell him (again) that we don't have a television. He does another quick scoot around the gaff. No telly. He leaves, shaking his head in disbelief for the umpteenth time. We have a projector combined with a decent sound system. It makes for a cinematic experience. It's not capable of receiving a television signal (are you reading Mr Inspector?).

As of January 2018, 93pc of Irish households had a television set. That's according to TAM Ireland, a body set up to monitor television usage. Its research shows that 58pc of us have one TV set while 42pc own two or more. So not having one at all is an unusual choice.

In interior design terms, the television is the elephant in the room. When they're switched on, they command a lot of attention. In July, on average, Irish 24 to 44-year-olds watched two hours and 17 minutes of television every day. The trouble with a switched-off TV though is that then it becomes the large black space.

Loewe Bild
Loewe Bild

"This is the burning question," writes Kate Watson-Smyth in her excellent interiors book, Mad About the House.

"The one that everyone wants the perfect solution for. He wants to know how big a sound system he can get away with while she wants to know how to make the telly disappear." Her suggestions are (a) paint the wall black so the TV becomes less obvious; (b) conceal it behind a sliding panel; or (c) use a projector aimed at a blank wall.

And TVs are getting larger too. Over the last year, Aaron Duff, television marketing manager at Harvey Norman, has seen the average TV size creep up from a 49" to 55" screen. Now, he's selling more 55" TV sets than any other size. Televisions are also getting thinner. From an interiors perspective this is a big plus.

The 65" LG Signature OLED 4K Wallpaper TV (€5,999) is only 44mm deep. "The bezel is so thin you'd barely notice it," Duff explains. If that's too pricey, the LG 55" 4K UHD HDR OLED Smart TV (€2,399) is just 47mm deep.

The next problem is accommodating the boxes. The television is often accompanied by DVD players, Sky boxes and the like - each with their own remote, wires and flashing lights. If you're made of money, really high-end TV sets, like Bang & Olufsen's BeoVision Eclipse, work from a single remote, which can also be used to operate all the associated devices.

"Everyone suffers from having multiple remotes and I don't think they know how much they're suffering until they get a remote that does everything," says Andy Williamson of Bang & Olufsen. "It means that all the boxes can be stored in another room." The price? The BeoVision Eclipse starts at €9,100.

Bang and Olufsen BeoVision Horizon
Bang and Olufsen BeoVision Horizon

It belongs to a generation of high-end sets that are designed to work as pieces of furniture, as well as technology. LIke the BeoVision Avant which can be either wall hung or freestanding. Both versions have a functionality that allow the user to swivel the screen to angle of up to 90°. This means that you don't have to cluster the furniture around the television.

The German brand Loewe has paid more attention to the design of its sets than most and seems committed to restoring the TV to furniture status. Some of its designs hark back to the television cabinets of yore by using wood and other natural materials, but the designs are modern. The Loewe bild 3 (from €2,250) and bild 5 (from €3,500) OLED TV ranges each received an iF Design Award in March 2018. Loewe is a niche brand and Irish stockists are hard to find. These prices came from Hi Fi Hut, which will order them in.

Samsung's Frame TV (€1,999 for a 55" set from Harvey Norman) is designed to mimic a picture. It comes pre-loaded with art and sits within a wooden frame. You can also use it to display your family photographs.

And then there's the ambient mode, a chameleon-like functionality of the new Samsung QLED TVs. You take a picture of the television and its surroundings, and the TV screen will camouflage itself by mimicking the colour or pattern of whatever is behind it. It's bananas, but it works. So in the future never mind the missing remote, we might have to find the telly too.

'Mad About The House' (2018) by Kate Watson-Smyth, published by Pavilion, €20. See also harveynorman.ie, bang-olufsen.com and hifihut.ie.

Bang and Olufsen BeoVision Eclipse
Bang and Olufsen BeoVision Eclipse

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