Close-Up: Turning a Hearth into a Media Room

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Name: Amanda Johnson Location: North Canton, Ohio Years Lived In: My brother moved into the house in February of last year, and I moved in at the end of May. What's your philosophy on integrating technology into your living space? I think that most people use technology on a daily basis, so when renovating or redesigning a space, be sure to think about where you will be placing things, so that they will easily fit into your design and you don't have to hide your t.v. in a corner armoire as an afterthought. I love the episode of Friends where Phoebe tells Joey about her friend who has no television, and Joey says, "Well what do they arrange their furniture around then?" That's so true for us, so we needed the moving/retracting arm so that we wouldn't have to place our furniture smack dab in front of the telly.

When Amanda's brother bought his 1600 sq.ft. bungalow in North Canton, Amanda and her husband agreed to move in and help him fix it up. "All three of us live in the same house, most of which is under construction right now! Makes for an interesting time- everyone's laptops sitting at the dining room table." When Amanda saw the living room, with its built-in fireplace, she knew she wanted to make some changes, which included busting down a wall, building up a mantel, and installing a flat screen above the fireplace. After the jump we take a closer look at what was done...

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Amanda is an interior design student and her brother is a graphic designer, so the two have keen eyes and creative solutions for everything. When her brother splurged on his Sharp 37" flat screen they decided to mount it to the wall. They used a retractable arm made by Sanus, so they wouldn't have to place their furniture around the TV, but rather the TV can be adjusted for whatever chair or sofa you happen to be sitting in.

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Favorite Feature: I love how the cords for the television disappear into the wall and come out at the base of the fireplace where nobody sees them!

What Friends Say: When are we going to get the computer chip in our brains that makes the TV rotate towards us wherever we move?

Best Advice: When working with a fireplace, make sure all the materials you use are in code. (You might need a building permit.) We researched the issue of hiding cords in a fireplace wall and what building materials to use for the wall. My brother and I are very fortunate to have a do-it-all dad, but if we didn't, I don't think we would've ventured into the unknown territory of fireplace construction without professional help.

Dream Source/Inspiration: I keep a cut book full of magazine clippings (Living Etc. is a favorite) that I go to whenever I'm stumped on an idea. But mainly, my brother and I just talk about the sorts of things we like, shoot emails back and forth with links to pictures from places like Apartment Therapy, and come up with our own joint vision for the space. It really helps, though, to be able to flip open my cut book and say, "You mean like this?" Makes communicating a lot easier, and gives us ideas we would not have thought of ourselves.

Biggest Challenge: Money. And time! We had originally wanted to build a brick facade on the fireplace wall, but couldn't because of lack of funds. We're glad we didn't, though, because cord control is easier to customize without having to break through a brick wall!

Biggest Embarrassment: Probably the fact that the fireplace is so dingy on the inside (as we haven't cleaned/painted it yet!) and the hearth is still not tiled. It's so hard to find the energy to finish those last little details! Especially when the rest of the house is under construction.

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"This was the fireplace when my brother first bought the place. Way too traditional for our tastes."
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"We knocked out the wall in between the living and dining room, only to find that air ducts were hidden in that wall."
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"We built the wall out from the fireplace a little wider than we had planned, in order to hide new ductwork. The hole in the top of the fireplace wall is where we mounted the television. The wires go through a pipe and come out on the bottom left where our equipment and outlets are."
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"The future mantel is a piece of reclaimed timber. My dad and I made the dining room table and coffee table top from reclaimed oak barn siding. The legs on the coffee table are pipe fittings. I have plans for better legs in the future."

Photos: Amanda Johnson

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