It’s another installment of Let’s All Decorate!, a series where we explore the design trends of the not-so-distant past! Today we look at what happened after the geese in bonnets and pastel southwestern decor was sent to Goodwill.
A wise man once said “when you’re living in America at the end of the millennium, you’re what you own.”
And when you were living in America at the end of the millennium, one of the things you owned was probably a bigass faux French-Country armoire that you hid your tv in.
The question of how to make your television seem appealing is as old as TV itself. In the 50s, televisions were encased in these weird wooden tv boxes that were probably supposed to make them seem like furniture. My grandparents used one their whole lives. By the ‘70s, a lot of families had TV stands with shelves on the side and a big cut-out hole for the TV.
By the late 90s, we had moved beyond that. Television was no longer novel and impressive. All the fanciest people didn’t have giant televisions, they were bragging that they didn’t own one. What’s a TV junkie to do?
Sometime around 1997, some brilliant mind came up with a solution. Oversized, plush furniture was in vogue, and we all wanted to look like we lived in a cushy French country house. Except, with television. Because we’re Americans. So why not hide the TV in a giant tv sized armoire?
I’ll tell you why not. Because that was weird. First of all, most people’s TV armoires had the doors flung open all of the time anyway, because – will wonders never cease – people like to watch their televisions.
Second, why is your TV a secret? Are you actually embarrassed that people will enter your living room and know that you like to watch the NBC comedies on Thursday night? Do you even remember the late ‘90s? That TV block was amazing. I’d be ashamed NOT to watch it.
And finally, is an armoire at all BETTER than a TV? If you’re going to be embarrassed about the state of your home, it’s probably worse to have guests think that you have so little clothing storage that you have to keep your armoire in the living room. Unless you are Belle (Poor Provincial Town Belle), and that thing is going to fling open its armoire arms and dress you in the finest French country fashions, it’s not a piece of furniture that needs to stay out in the open.
I can’t blame Americans for trying. At the time, I thought the TV armoire was a great look. Trading Spaces was about to hit the airwaves, and we were trying to channel our inner Grace Adlers. It replaced an unsightly television with a classy yet chunky piece of furniture. Then flat screen televisions came onto the scene, and as quickly as they appeared, the armoires were all sent back to… France? Maybe? Bedrooms? Closets? Where did they go?
Actually, a lot of people are finding fun ways to upcycle their TV armoires. And other people are still using them, which isn’t a terrible option if you don’t watch TV much or if it fits your living room. At this point they aren’t as ubiquitous as they used to be, so if you have a TV armoire today you aren’t following trends, you’re following your heart.
The point is, it took us decades, but eventually we realized that televisions are made to be watched, and hiding it in a weird piece of furniture doesn’t make it more attractive. No, what makes a television attractive is what is on it. Or who is on it. Whatever.