At this year's recent New York International Gift Fair, it wasn't hard to keep track of the time.
There were interesting clocks on every aisle: digital and analog, with hands formed out of slivers of steel, forks, Lego, romping cows, even little plastic insects (on a clock shaped like a flyswatter). Stylish or silly, design studios have fun concocting clever ways to combine artistry and timekeeping.
As a decorative accent, you can't go wrong with a cool clock. It's the epitome of form and function.
Reproduction enamelware kitchen or classroom clocks look great in both cooking and play spaces; check
Modernists can accent a clean-lined space with sleek aluminum, glass or wood clocks. There are designer clocks to be found, original and repro, from Frank Lloyd Wright, George Nelson and Arne Jacobsen.
Pick up a tone in the room with a colored clock face, or bold graphic numbers. You'll find good selections at Coolclockshop.com and
Many of these styles work well with mid-century, Craftsman or minimalist decor. We're not talking about those bulky grandfather clocks that are difficult to decorate around, or prim, traditional mantel clocks. The trick is to treat the clock as one more artistic element in your room; it should add a touch of surprise, and even drama.
Machine cogs are popular cleaned and polished; the industrial design is fun and functional.
Cuckoo clocks have found favor among trendsetters recently.
Kikkerland.com has a deconstructed one in several shades, while Momento Italia has a clever version with a tree graphic on a slab of wenge or black wood, with a little bird appearing on the hour to the sound of waterfalls.
Fred Flare's Early Bird alarm clock would be a nice way to wake up; the clock face features a bright blue sky, and a little bird glows to simulate the morning sun. Another fun alarm for style-savvy early birds comes from Italy: Conran's USA has the Vespa headlight-inspired alarm clock that reflects the vogue of '60s-era Rome; retro alarm clocks are a great way to hit the hip decor button on a small scale.
For iconic clocks, look at MOMA's reproductions of Hans Hilfiker's Swiss Railway Clock, the stalwart European rail station timepiece. They've also got Vitra Design Museum's 1949 George Nelson Sunburst clock in aluminum and oak. There are cheaper knockoffs if you're just after the look; check online. A mid-century-style clock evokes the era without resorting to specific artwork, or even much in the way of furniture.
And remember, a clock doesn't need to function to "work"; an intriguing old metal clock face, or something oversized, is a wonderful sculptural element on its own that adds surprise and interest. As Elsa Michelson, the Encinitas, Calif.-based owner of online shop Modern Clocks, points out, "There's something about a great timepiece that puts the finishing touch anywhere."