Time Inspired Home Decor Guide

Tara Dickinson
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"There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.”

— Leo Christopher


A Home Style Guide Using Time As A Design Element

It’s going to be a bit challenging to not get esoteric about time, but as this is simply a guide to facilitate home designers in creating an alluring atmosphere in their abodes, we shall try. The question starts with: how to represent time? Other than the obvious, using timepieces and clocks, how else has civilization expressed time in physical form? This was an interesting puzzle. Decorating your home in a decor theme that is inspired by the element of time is proving to be a grand undertaking!


How Time Was Invented & Displayed

The Mathematical Association of America, MAA, shares this information about the invention of time.

  • The measurement of time began with the invention of sundials in ancient Egypt sometime prior to 1500 B.C. For the Egyptians, and indeed for a further three millennia, the basic unit of time was the period of daylight.
  • The need for a way to measure time independently of the sun eventually gave rise to various devices, most notably sandglasses, water clocks, and candles. The first two of these utilized the flow of some substance to measure time, the latter the steady fall in the height of the candle. All three provided a metaphor for time as something that flows continuously, and thus began to shape the way we think of time.
  • The first mechanical timepieces, time machines, were introduced in thirteenth century Europe. At odds with the conception of time as something that flows, with the first clocks came the idea of measuring time by splitting it into equal, discrete portions.
  • With the invention of the clock, the basic unit of time ceased to be the day and was replaced by the hour.

TimeHonoring Time

As one of our most valuable resources that dictates the daily cycle of our lives, time deserves to be honored. Using clocks as focal points in home decor as a complementary accent will work with absolutely any decor theme. To use the pun adequately in this situation, a stylish unique clock will always remain a timeless work of art.

  • Like the final touch of some live plants, a well placed clock makes a room look finished.
  • More than timekeepers, modern clocks can be strong decor elements.
  • Clocks, like lighting elements, have been elevated to a high art form and can be found in any style.
  • From whimsical to classic, contemporary to vintage, oversized clocks to abstract patterned clocks, there is a timepiece to compliment any decor.
  • Oversized clocks have been popular design accessories for a while now.
  • Designers have turned a necessary furnishing into a functioning piece of art.
  • Smaller versions are just as important, remaining essential to our lives and valuable elements of decor design. 


Wanting to go beyond the simple expression of time in home decor by using clocks, let’s look at how artists have expressed time in creative works. When time is expressed in artistic terms it can be represented by actual time or implied time.

  • Implied time can be captured in a moment, by illustrating the passing of time, or depicting time that has passed.
  • Showcasing time in the moment has been demonstrated by presenting art that changes over time, showing how time affects a piece of art, or affects its meaning. Thus viewing the art at different periods of time you will witness different outcomes. This type of artwork is fleeting sometimes with only a memory of the piece left.
  • The passage of time can be seen through light, various times of day, different seasons, and distinct phases of human life.

Seasonal Time

Haystack, Sun in the Mist (1891) and Haystack, Morning Snow Effect (1891) both by Claude Monet (image source Wikimedia Commons)  are wonderful examples of captured time by expressing the same location on different days and seasons. Through this series, you can witness the march of time across seasonal periods.

Passage of Time

Memento Mori (The Skull), an etching after Philippe de Champaigne by Jean Morin, 1625/1650, from the collection of British Museum is an ideal example of the passage of time. The skull represents the end of life; fallen flower petals show the process of a plant dying, and the pocket watch represents the literal passage of time.


“Piedra del Sol” is an Aztec Calendar Stone from 1250/1500, in the collection of Museo Nacional de Antropología, México. We may see it as an artistic expression of time while the Aztecs used it as an actual timekeeper. Using the sun and cast shadows, this was an ancient calendar piece. It was used as a chronological and astronomical device. The original over-sized clock, weighing in at more than 24 tons!


Since time is a concept and not an actual element you can take liberties with how to express time in color form.

  • Time has three tenses: past, present, and future.
  • One example might be expressing time gone past in golden or antique colors.
  • The present might be expressed as white, bright, now, open to the moment.
  • The future might be unclear, cloudy, or grey in color.
  • A sunrise or sunset can be a colorful expression of time as well.
  • With no rules in place, you can choose your paint colors at will for your individual expression of time in home decor.


Clocks- Working with actual clocks in your home decor can be a really creative outlet. Since they come in all shapes, sizes, and design expressions, you can choose to honor and display time in any decor theme you fancy. To get your creative mind thinking here are some suggestions:

  • Antique clocks.
  • Create a clock wall or tabletop collage.
  • Desk and small handheld clock collection (pocket watches included).
  • Grandfather clocks.
  • Small, medium, and large wall clocks combined.
  • Standing floor clocks.

This “Guide To Clocks” is a great place to start for details and more design ideas.

Choosing a Decorative Wall Clock

The task is to choose one that matches the style of your room. Things to consider:

  • Is this clock a focal point? Or just a compliment?
  • Notice the details, such as do you prefer Arabic or Roman numerals.
  • Square or round shapes?
  • Open or hidden mechanisms?

Hunting for old wall clocks at second-hand markets usually proves to be a successful venture. And if you find some fantastic antique clock that doesn’t necessarily tell the time, that’s perfectly fine. A non-working clock is still a gorgeous (and quiet) decor accessory.

Current collection of gently used clocks at The Local Flea in San Francisco.

Displaying Multiple Time Zones

Maybe more suited for a techno style home or a minimalist style home decor, whatever your theme, another engaging way to represent time in home decor is by displaying different time zones from around the globe.

  • Fun idea too for families with kids who can keep track of relatives in different time zones across the nation.


This early time-measuring device also called a sandglass or log glass, was used by sea captains to help ascertain the speed of a ship. Two connected bulbs of glass allow sand to pass between them at one-minute (or one-hour) intervals.

  • This is yet another time-inspired way to beautifully express yourself in home decor accents.
  • Collections of hourglasses can be quite stunning.

Images Of Time

Prints, pieces of artwork, and other images of time will also of course bring this electrifying decor element to any room.

An artistic expression of time-inspired home decor.

  • You can even cover an entire accent wall with photo-realistic time scenes or the feeling of time using photo-realistic wallpaper as well.


Living Room Wall Clock Decor

Practical art. That’s what wall clocks have been called nowadays. Choosing one with character is an easy way to enhance the aesthetic appeal of a room. Oversized seems the way to go to make an impact.

  • Place it in an eye-catching spot so it’s clearly visible when entering the room, making it the focal point.
  • Clocks work great over the mantle; use one that complements the finish and style of your fireplace.
  • Placed above a sofa is an ideal destination as well.


Placed in an entryway, a timepiece can make an immediate impression and bring your chosen decor theme front and center. As this is the first thing people see when entering your home, choose this piece with care.

Home Office

Smaller time-inspired accents on a desk or side table add an energizing element to a home office or bedroom.

  • But as this image demonstrates, an oversized depiction makes a strong style statement in your home office decor as well.

Home Gym or Yoga Studio

Your in-home workout space, whether that’s more of a gym-style setup or a yoga studio, is another perfect place to add time-inspired decor.

  • Using an exercise-inspired timepiece on a painted accent wall will make this furnishing pop.
  • A time-related feature such as an artistic hourglass can be used for your focus and meditation sessions while adding a stylish design element.

Bathroom Time Decor

Having a stylish timepiece in the boudoir is not only useful but can also be a unique decor element.

  • The advantage of helping you keep track of the time when getting ready in a mad dash is quite convenient.
  • Also, a great tool to help teach kids to be more cognizant of time spent bathing or brushing their teeth for long enough.

Outdoor Time Features

Indoor-outdoor transitional spaces, back porches, outdoor patios, and sundecks are perfect places to continue the time-inspired decor theme.

  • Water and weather clocks are available in a variety of different decor styles.
  • From standing to corner wall features, to larger artsy-type designs, adding a time element to your outdoor decor is a practical and chic accent to include.





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