Home Sweet Home – Part 26 – TV Trays and The Evolution of Where We Eat In The Home

Today, watching TV and eating seem to go hand in hand. Whether just snacking while watching the Super Bowl or consuming the evening meal in front of your favorite show. But so much has changed in the design of our homes and our TVs since the 1950s.

Raise your hand if you remember TV trays. Chances are that the younger crowd hasn’t seen one outside of a sitcom or perhaps in their grandparents’ living room. TV trays have been around since the fifties. This coincides closely with the introduction of the “TV Dinner,” the catchy name that Swanson had for their frozen food dinners.

TV Dinners

Houses in the fifties and early sixties had only one black and white TV. It was often small and was in either the living room or family room. Indeed, some even called that room the TV room. Early TVs were small and sat on top of furniture. They were so small that you had to sit close to watch them. Luxury models were encased like a piece of furniture to match the décor of the living room.

Eating In Front of the TV

Decades ago, there were mainly two places to eat in the home – the formal dining room or the table in the kitchen. Both rooms were closed off to other rooms. This made eating while watching TV challenging, as food balanced on one’s lap often doesn’t end well – especially with kids. Spilling an entire dinner in the living room was grounds for punishment or going to bed without dinner. The invention of the TV tray was brilliant and offered a third dining option in the home.

Many argue that dining should be time to interact with family and friends. Fair enough! Fortunately, today with on-demand viewing, it lets us pause our favorite shows so we can have our cake, eat it, and watch TV too.

TV Over Mantle

It’s an age-old debate – where do you put the TV when there is a fireplace? Once upon a time, when TV screens were small, but the “box” was big, TVs were placed in a built-in on either side of the fireplace. As TV screens kept getting bigger, the “box” got smaller and ultimately went away. Today, the TV is a flat screen that can hang on the wall. But should the TV be the focal point of the family room? Or should the fireplace take precedent? Many opt to put the TV over the fireplace – but you want to be careful not to place it too high or viewers will get a stiff neck trying to watch it. Most folks like the TV front and center for the best viewing. The fireplace creates ambiance and doesn’t have to be viewed straight on.

TV On porch

Back in the fifties and sixties, there was only one TV in the house. Now it seems they are everywhere. And it is a good thing too if you don’t want to want to watch the same thing as your spouse or kids.

Many say they need a TV to fall asleep at night – so no surprise, you can find them in almost every bedroom in the house. Some folks have gone as far as to install a TVs in the bathroom.

TV In the Bathroom

If you’re feeling retro, you can still buy TV trays at Walmart or online. One advertiser showed a laptop on the TV tray instead of a Swanson dinner. That’s one great way to market and repurpose an old concept in today’s high tech society!

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog