The timelessness of timepieces as accent dcor


Time was when a clock graced a wall in most homes. Often it was not so much stylish as functional (think old-fashioned school clock). But sometimes it induced smiles: A chirpy cuckoo clock or the unforgettable cat-shaped Kit Kat clock, with its rolling eyes and swinging tail as pendulum. Introduced in the 1930s, it still is a popular retro offering.

Tracking time today often is a function of computers and cell phones even wristwatch wearing isnt embraced by 20-somethings and younger.

But clocks are ticking their way back into homes, this time making fashion statements. Clocks as wall decor, after all, can be dynamic focal points or compelling furnishings accessories, especially when theyre supersized. One trend thats gotten traction in the past few years is the cant-miss-it clock that spans up to 48 inches in diameter. Often affixed with elegant Roman numeral digits, the design is reminiscent of prototypes in European train stations.

Set alone above a fireplace mantel, for example, an overscale clock commands attention. One modeled after a London train station design available through Restoration Hardware is shown above a stone mantel in a living room setting and its girth and visual weight balances that of a chandelier hanging over a round dining table to one side.

The mega-sized clocks can be elegant and intricately detailed, burnished with gilt, such as Howard Millers 37-inch Rosario, which builds a series of embellished frames with black tracery behind its gold hands. Another from the company features a border composed of small gold-framed antique mirrors that surround it like the suns rays.

More rustic is the recently introduced Talmage, whose black iron Roman numeral dial and aged charcoal hands with open cut diamond tips are mounted on a 35-inch square grooved board, aged and distressed to resemble weathered wood planking. It was designed for Howard Miller by ABC-TVs Extreme Makeover: Home Edition host Ty Pennington.

Coordinating design and function is very important when creating home furnishings, says Pennington. I love clocks. Theyre the ultimate in functional room decor.

Shapes are not confined to conventional round or square. Rectangles are another option, one that complements a host of decorating styles. 

In a modern living space appointed with leather upholstery and wood and stainless steel tables, a rectangular clock crafted from engineered wood with a walnut veneer finish also echoes a wood wall panel. 

Themed clocks target everything from dogs (check out Orvis; resin replicas of master wood carvings of beagle, retrievers or labs are silhouetted on a circle of oak), favorite places (Paris Eiffel Tower at Ballard), sci-fi (an alien clock at Maverick) as well as storybook themes, such as Alice in Wonderland (from Timeworks Inc.)

Aficionados of mid-century modern design long have been fans of George Nelsons iconic clocks. Reproductions of some of his late-40s, 50s and 60s designs (he produced nearly 300), such as starburst, colorful ball or simple kite crisply divided into black and white, still are widely available, manufactured by Vitra.

While some clocks are adapted from other objects (like a floral-sprayed ceramic plate converted to a timepiece), others are rooted in art and design that makes you forget youre looking at a clock. One model, by Fratelli Campana for Alessi, is crafted from dozens of chrome-plated steel pencil-thin bars that resemble a bunch of pickup sticks. All are centered on a small face with skinny red hands. The Blow Up clock is available from the website

And for pure novelty, theres the irrational numbers wall clock. The 12-inch black-faced clock features those digits such as pi and the square root of 2 that cant be represented by simple fractions. The clock, which was designed by a mathematician, of course, tells time in irrational numbers placed on a 360-degree circle. When its 10 oclock, youre looking at the square root of 90.

Materials range from wood, metal and glass (hand-decoupaged on the reverse, which lends translucence) to ceramic, resin and leather, with prices from under $20 to $1,000 or more for custom pieces. When choosing a clock to complement your style, take cues from appropriate walls, ceiling height, furniture and accessories. 

Still not convinced? Observing a digital countdown on a computer screen is like watching paint dry. Why not opt for something streamlined and handsome, elegant, fancy, frivolous or just plain fun? Whether its on art or in  art, kinetic, provocative or just simply colorful, rethinking clocks as interior accessories is just about time.