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Add time to your life

Clocks make a fashion statement for the home

Elaine Markoutsas / At Home

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 wristwatches aren't 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 accessories, especially when they're supersized. One trend that gained traction in the past few years is the can't-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 Miller's 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 sun's 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-TV's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" host Ty Pennington.

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

Among the most intriguing designs at the opposite end of the size spectrum are a series of clocks sold at Anthropologie. Colorful, with the folk-art quirkiness of the cuckoo, these clocks are clad in sweaters. The knit covering is of the Fair Isle variety (or stranded knitting, which weaves multiple hues of yarn in the same row), highlighted by diminutive wolves, horses or love birds. The samples even have pendulums, but for those who prefer something more subtle, there's a creamy 20-inch round version accented with textural ribbing.

Designers sometimes like to group smaller clocks such as these, just as a collection of mirrors can be hung together. Depending on the style, a small clock can be teamed with other pieces or art, or leaned against the wall on a ledge. A bold contemporary utilitarian clock with a lime green face from Crate & Barrel holds its own on a bookshelf in a home office.

A kitchen wall, perhaps even a backsplash away from a stove and sink splatters, is a suitable spot for a 12-inch clock, especially for those with cafe, botanical or fruit themes. An even smaller 8-inch square is engaging because of its rooster print on a block of Italian Botticino marble. Natural veining adds a vintage flavor.

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. The simplicity of the 31 1/2 -inch tall clock from Crate & Barrel is engaging: slim stainless hands are striking against a rich grain, and intriguing is a peekaboo feature, a cutout shadowbox through which the pendulum rhythmically swings. Such a vertical piece serves to balance decorating elements in a space. The same elongated form treated to a painted checkerboard finish on wood from Maverick Creations has a more country vibe.

Themed clocks target everything from dogs (check out Orvis -- resin replicas of master wood carvings of beagles, 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 Nelson's 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 make you forget you're looking at a clock.

One model, by Fratelli Campana for Alessi, is crafted from dozens of chrome-plated, pencil-thin steel 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 Web site

Then there are the DIY clocks. One that is sold at the retail shop Chiasso (also on its Web site) features 12 multicolored plastic blocks that "float" where you wish, creating a freeform arrangement.

More interactive is the Time Square Clock by Black and Blum. It's actually a 23-inch square magnetic blackboard, upon which you can write notes and appointments with chalk or post tickets or business cards with magnets.

Those who love the minimal style of the Movado wristwatch -- with its hallmark dot at 12 -- may embrace the idea of a wall version of this classic, which has been part of the New York Museum of Modern Art's collection since 1959. It's available at The Clock Depot.

It's about time we started rethinking clocks as a decor accessory.


? Anthropologie, (800) 309-2500;

? Orvis, (888) 235-9763;

? Restoration Hardware, (800) 910-9836;

? The Clock Depot, 866-402-8714;


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