Homeowners Sara and Bob called House Specialties to wall mount their TV. Typically this is a straight-forward project, but they sensed that their situation might be more complicated. And they were right. 

Their 1924 brick home in Evanston had received an addition in the 1930s that included a small room with built-in wooden cupboards and paneling and a small fireplace. It was above this fireplace that they wanted the TV. 

House Specialties owner Lightning Atkinson had concerns about whether the wall above the fireplace could support the weight of the TV. Often the wall above a fireplace is simply a cosmetic finish to hide the chimney and does not have much structure. He was also concerned about puncturing the flue with the long fasteners typically used for TV installation. 

The existing tongue-and-groove wooden wall paneling offered no clues as to the strength of the framing (or lack of framing) behind it. Because of this, Lightning wanted to spread the weight of the TV over as much of the wall as possible, rather than rely on just 4 screws to hold the TV in place. “I’m sure the entire wall is strong enough to hold the weight of the TV, but I’m not sure any specific point in the wall is strong enough” he explains. In addition, Lightning wanted to do all of the wall attachment on either side of the fireplace, but not drive screws directly above the fireplace to prevent potential damage to the flue. 

As Sara and Bob talked through these challenges with Lightning it became clear that they wanted to honor the room and preserve the character of the built-ins and the paneling. Removing the paneling was not an option, nor was adding horizontal framing on top of the paneling. They wanted a way to mount the TV that was mostly invisible and didn’t change the look of the room. With all the structural concerns and the visual considerations, a custom solution was required.

The cabinets on either side of the fireplace have a trim line 77” above the floor. Lightning envisioned extending this line above the fireplace, and then utilizing it to mount the TV. He designed a plywood structure that would span the entire 80” width of the fireplace wall. This structure would mount on either side of the fireplace using a metal French cleat to distribute the weight. The TV mounting bracket would then mount to the plywood structure. After hours of engineering and several iterations, a final design was created. 


This plywood structure was fabricated at the House Specialties shop and dubbed “the bull head” because of its shape. Incorporated into the design was a small channel to hide all the TV wiring. After fabrication of the plywood, it was stained to match the existing 70 year-old paneling in the room. Using 4 different stain colors applied in layers, the team was finally satisfied with the color. 

On installation day, the French cleat was mounted on either side of the fireplace. A laser level revealed that the horizontal trim on the cabinets was not level by 3/16”. The bull head was hung on the wall and all the cables were put in place. The built-in cabinets were slightly modified to allow passage of the TV wires and installation of the home theater equipment. Sara and Bob’s TV and soundbar were put in place and the final touches were added. 

“Lightning designed, built, and installed a mounting system that securely supports the television, hides the cables and cords, and coordinates beautifully with the 1930s paneling in the room. He and his team are professional in every way. Their work is excellent–and Lightning’s creativity in solving tricky design challenges is a huge asset. I will hire House Specialties again for sure!”

-Sara B of Evanston, IL