Design time: Finding a clock that makes your home tick
The time is right for clocks to be an integral part of a home’s design. The household clock has become less of a necessity and more of a personal choice, says Markus Harris, communications director for the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors in Columbia, Pennsylvania.
“Though long-ubiquitous in our society, these days, the household clock is much less necessary than it was,” he says. “Many modern appliances have digital time displays, as do our ever-present cellphones ... so the household clock is an expression of style and decorative taste.”
With contemporary lines and retro Sputnik-like shapes inspired by mid-20th century design or modern-farmhouse styles with distressed wood and metals, today’s clocks have looks that stand the test of time. Form follows function as modern-style clocks are hitting the mainstream, says Karen Sullivan, wall decor buyer for Omaha, Nebraska-based Hayneedle Inc., an online home store since 2002.
“The clock is a natural focal point on a wall,” she says. “And, while it should stand out, a wall clock shouldn’t conflict with the other wall decor and furniture in the room.”
Sullivan says that an oversized clock with a floating dial is a timely timepiece, especially when hung on an expansive wall in a modern home with an open-floor design. “The clock should be the first piece up on a wall,” she says. “Then, frames and artwork surrounding the clock should follow. There also needs to be a unifying element to the clock and surrounding pieces, whether it’s a color, a metal or wood stain.”
Today’s timepieces are entering a time warp with the resurgence of interest in mid-century modern clocks, Sullivan says. “You don’t have to be a clock collector to appreciate the styles from the 1950s and ’60s,” she says. “George Nelson clocks have been reissued with the Sunburst, Star and Atomic Age designs for a new generation.”
George Nelson (1908-1986) has been called one of the founding fathers of American modernism and was known for applying his design to practical household items, such as clocks. Original collectible George Nelson clocks can start around $500, whereas the reissued designs are less than $150. Reproductions of his original electrified clocks are easily detected because they require batteries to operate.
While modernistic timepieces have a cool vibe, clocks with rustic or distressed finishes add character and warmth to a room. Sullivan says today’s timepieces are generally less ornate and made to match a casual lifestyle. “The clock in your home has to make YOU tick, and we’re finding that floor clocks — or grandfather clocks — and fireplace mantel clocks are capturing smaller and smaller segments of the population,” she says. “The wall clock with the floating dial is popular, because the backdrop is the wall itself, so there’s nothing to match.”
The numerals on a clock face run the gamut from stylized Roman numerals to nonexistent numbers, but Sullivan says more people are searching for clocks that also have a digital calendar and day-of-the-week features while also telling the time.
More than just a way to tell time, a household clock can evoke memories and recall a simpler time, while also making a style statement. Harris recently purchased an emerald green Kit-Cat Clock for his wife, Charlene, to hang in their kitchen. Made on the West Coast since the 1930s, the Kit-Cat Clock was a fixture in Charlene’s grandmother’s home, with the movement of the large eyes and tail also keeping time. “Now our own Kit-Cat Clock ticks away on the wall of our kitchen, adding the perfect nostalgic touch to our decor,” Harris says. “ A really great design always holds up.”
Harris also says modern hipsters are rediscovering a well-made clock’s mechanical complexity. “Millennial steampunks are inspired by the beguiling fusion of past and present that is so perfectly signified by the intricate complexities of mechanical clocks wrought of wood and brass,” he says. “Entire decorating schemes have been inspired by such horological works of art.”