Grandfather Clocks

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Grandfather Clocks

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Among the hautest heirlooms we can think of? Grandfather clocks. Whether used in an entryway to add elegance and height, or dropped between two windows to create an unexpected focal point, the grandfather clock is as delightful as it is stately. Whether you’re on the hunt for grandfather clocks for sale near you, or you’ve yet to add a distinguished ticker to your shopping list, it’s hard to deny how one can completely change the tenor of a room.

Composed of a tall case that houses a pendulum and series of chimes, and topped by an imposing clock face, the grandfather clock is also among the few decor items that can add the all-important element of height to a room. Just like the plant stand, top designers have been known to wield antique grandfather clocks as a secret weapon of sorts. Want to try integrating one on your own? We’ll show you the ropes. Read on to learn all about this grandaddy timekeeper, including the best ways to integrate one into your space in a modern and totally sophisticated way.

What is a Grandfather Clock?

Also known as a “longcase clock” or a “floor clock,” a grandfather clock is a tall clock usually measuring about 6 or 7-feet, give or take. Typically, the long body of the clock is constructed of wood and contains the clock’s gearwork (aka: chimes and pendulum), with a clock face inset at the top. Most clocks are set on an elaborate base known as “toe molding” and feature an ornate “bonnet” at the top, which is essentially a split pediment embellished with a central finial. Gustavian grandfather clocks are among the notable exceptions to the split pediment bonnet. Most Gustavian grandfather clocks feature a rounded top that mimics the curvature of the clock face.

Grandfather clocks were created in an effort to make timekeeping more accurate following Galileo’s discovery that rhythmically swinging objects can correctly track intervals of time. Later inventors tacked onto Galileo’s theories, such as Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens, who realized that a pendulum can log a single second with each swing. Originally, these clocks were mounted on the wall and were endearingly referred to as “wags-on-the-wall,” as their pendulums were short and “wagged” back and forth rapidly like a dog’s tail. However, because these early model clocks consisted of cast iron frames equipped with weighted pendulums, they were notoriously difficult to hang. It is believed that the grandfather clock was developed in an effort to support these heavier clock mechanisms.

How did the Grandfather Clock Get Its Name?

The grandfather clock takes its name from an 1876 song penned by English songwriter, Henry Clay Work, known as “Grandfather Clock.” Legend has it that the song is based on a trip Work took to George Hotel in North Yorkshire. While checking in, Work was informed by the proprietor of the hotel that the pendulum clock stationed in the lobby was inhabited by a ghostly grandfather spirit. Inspired by the lore, Work banged out "Grandfather Clock." As the song gained popularity, so did the name “grandfather clock” for the timekeepers that were previously known as “long clocks” or “floor clocks.”

What is a Howard Miller Grandfather Clock?

Plug in the search term “used grandfather clocks for sale near me” and you’re likely to see the name “Howard Miller grandfather clock” pop up. The reason? As of the 1960s, Howard Miller, a company based out of Zeeland, Michigan, was dubbed "the world's largest grandfather clock manufacturer." Today, Howard Miller grandfather clocks are still being produced in a variety of styles, ranging from Gustavian to French Provincial-inspired. That said, the most sought-after Howard Miller grandfather clocks may still be their vintage Mid-Century Modern designs that integrated iconic-to-the-era materials like burl wood, smoked Lucite, chrome, and brass. George Nelson of esteemed Herman Miller fame even teamed up with the brand to create a series of collectible clocks, including ones that showcase Nelson's signature sputnik-inspired clock face.

How Do You Decorate With Grandfather Clocks?

Admittedly, decorating with antique grandfather clocks takes some well-thought-out planning, given that grandfather clocks are no longer necessities in day-to-day life. That said, they’re ideal decor pieces for adding visual height to a room. Use them anywhere you might be inclined to opt for a bookcase or armoire, but crave something a bit more unexpected. Some natural resting spots for grandfather clocks? Between two equal-sized windows in a living room or dining room. Or parked at the end of a hallway. Grandfather clocks in the entry are also ideal, especially if you have a foyer with extra high ceilings.

Since grandfather clocks tend to skew heavily traditionalist, you might consider painting one in a showstopping hue to lend it a prankish kick. Yield sign yellow or fire engine red are both sure to make shocking statements, yet still feel true to the clock’s inherent sophistication. If you’re not ready to go quite so rogue, consider cloaking your vintage grandfather clock in the same color as your crown molding and trim. Especially if you’ve chosen a darker color like black for your millwork opting to cast your grandfather clock in the same hue can make it look like a striking built-in.