Mid Century Modern Stories

DIY project: how to make a mid-century modern clock without tools

DIY project: how to make a mid-century modern clock without tools

Mid-century modern diy clock over office wall

In this easy do-it-yourself project, I'll show you a super quick and easy way to create a mid-century modern clock. It's not exactly a hack in the sense of transforming a piece of furniture into something else, but it's definitely a hack of purpose. This is done without tools or glue, from inexpensive ready-made items that you can buy almost anywhere. Plus, in the video, you'll find a few inspirational ideas if you want to go beyond and add your own crafty touch.

So hop on and watch the video below, then keep reading on the other side. Don't miss the photos at the end.

Let me explain a little bit how this clock came to life...

First, the clock mechanism

Years ago, in my other home, I had this white clock mechanism that I bought at a craft store. It was on a white wall, over the TV and a floating Lack IKEA wall shelf. It was more of a wall decorative element than a useful clock but it looked really nice. Simple and modern. Normally, this mechanism is only the central part of a broader project. You would add your own digits, or if you're crafty, you can think of any glam, original, or fun 12 objects to act as digits. You can put them very close or quite distanced. For me, it was a design element on its own that fit my decor perfectly so I was using it as is, without anything else. We all have the precise time available in so many ways nowadays. Then I moved to Palm Springs and I kept it in a box.

A word on how and where I shop

This is not about the clock per se so you can skip it but it's fun to share how and where we can find inspiration...

Once I had moved to Palm Springs, California, I really took my time to remodel my new condo. I wanted each decor item to be well chosen and fit perfectly in a bigger plan. I was really excited to take the mid-century modern route but I knew I had a ton to learn and to discover before committing to specific items that would dictate the end result. That's why my decor took a few years to take shape. It's still a work in progress but that's part of the fun and it aligns perfectly in this endeavor of designing mid-mod products, running a dedicated store, and writing blog articles with fun stuff like this.
All this to say that this way of remodeling without any deadline means that not only am I constantly shopping and on the lookout, but this takes place in a multitude of different stores with nothing in common, not to mention online shopping.
I make a regular pilgrimage to the uptown Palm Springs Design District, a little north of the city, to see what's new and find gems. This is where I get inspiration for my store designs and product ideas. If you want to know more about my favorite places, see my interview with Shoutout LA, there's a paragraph where I talk about visiting Palm Springs.
I'm also very fond of our local West Elm store and showroom on Palm Canyon Drive, where I bought a few unique items like my gorgeous chrome mid-mod living room chandelier. It also inspires me on how the mid-mod trend is evolving in the current market.
On the other end of the spectrum, I regularly scour thrift stores like Revivals, which benefits a local health organization, and that store also happens to offer a nice collection of brand new mid-mod furniture for a bargain. That's where I got my sofa (the orange one you see in and there on the website and social media—unless I replaced it by the time you read this!).
When I have a DIY project in mind, I visit local hardware stores for inspiration. I love Home Depot for the broad selection of knick-knacks in the plumbing, electrical, kitchen, and home decor departments. Lowes is a must for quality items, superior product lines, and advice. My favorite one is Ace Hardware (previously True Value) where you'll find a cool selection of mid-mod home decor items and a gorgeous patio collection, but that may be just a local thing, and these guys give the best service, hands down.
On the creative side, I should not forget Michaels, the craft heaven where it takes me forever just to look around with my head spinning. My nearby local Dollar Tree store is perfect for quick supplies (except duct tape, they have the worst!!!). Even Walmart has an interesting sewing & craft department and you can even find home decor surprises sometimes. I found a big Jacks game decor item for a steal, very mid-century. And then the likes of Target, with an amazing mid-century line of home decor called Project 62 or World Market for their planters and fabulous artificial desert plants, and finally Marshalls, where you can find true bargains on cool stuff if you go often and dig around.
And this last one is where the clock project is related.

The hacked wall decoration

Back to our clock. As you see in the first picture, the clock is made of a mid-mod metal starburst wall decoration. I found this one at the local Marshalls store. I never miss to visit the home decor section for bargains or diy project ideas. I got it for a mere $20. I wasn't sure what I would do with it but I knew when I saw it, hidden behind a plethora of ugly frames, that it would eventually become something amazing if I waited for the right fit. I installed it on the wall with no thinking behind it, just as a temporary filler for empty spots. First in the living room, then in the bedroom, to be back in the living room above my desk in the office section. And that was it for a few months!

Searching for the right mid-century modern clock

On a completely different level at the time, I was searching for a unique mid-century modern clock. It's such a classic piece of home decor that encompasses this era and it can tone a room in a snap. I have to admit that my search for the perfect mid-mod clock gave me a hard time. Either it was way too expensive for what it is, or too classic and unoriginal, or flanked by too much wood or too much color. So I put this project on the back burner for a while and started opening my mind for a do-it-yourself project. I went to craft, dollar, and hardware stores on a think-outside-the-box quest for any kind of raw material that would spark the ultimate idea. Sticks, dowels, bars, moldings, tongs, spoons, you name it.

Here's a shot from the video as a reminder...

Wood, spoons, plastic items to create a mid-mod clock background

Well, that didn't work either! I found myself collecting a ton of pieces that are now sleeping in a box. Even though it would have been a fun project to plan, execute and shoot, I got lazy and never started exploring. That's ok because this is actually how I gather crafty material that's always useful one day. But still. The clock project was gathering dust and getting old by now.

And then there was light...


One day, I'm trying to get rid of the last moving box and stumble on my clock mechanism from my old home. It reminded me of all the trouble I went through in Palm Springs to find the perfect clock or ideas to eventually create one. On the rush to find a place for every gizmo in that box, hammer and nail in hand, I was scanning every wall for an empty spot... when my eyes crossed the Marshalls sunburst over my office. EUREKA!!! I immediately knew that these two things had to unite and become a clock. Hammer down. Spirits up.

Think time... or time to think it over

The only problem was to find a way to join those two unrelated items. Seems simple right? Not so much... After several attempts with all sorts of ideas, each more crazy or complicated than the next, I realized I would never be able to do this without addressing the main obstacle: the metal beads were in the way. When something like this happens, I do a 180° and try to use the problem to my advantage instead. I scoured the whole condo for anything that could be flexible enough to attach the two together. The simplest solutions are often in your face: a paper clip!!!!

All it required was to straighten it up and twist it back into the shape of a small hook, while securing it on one of the branches. With a few calculations to make sure it would fall in the center, I was able to use one of the beads as a guide and support. This allowed the clock to be hung thanks to the eyelet behind the mechanism. All this in the blink of an eye. Cheap, quick, beautiful! You can't beat that. I was dumbfounded by the simplicity of it all.

Have a look...

Mid-century modern diy clock zoom on paper clip

Mid-century modern diy clock profile of the mechanism

Mid-century modern diy clock how to attach them

Mid-century modern diy clock final result

Think outside the box

Normally, this would end with a shopping list but it doesn't apply here. A clock mechanism is easy to find in various styles and the background decor is yours to decide. You have all the tips and locations advice. Just open your mind, don't be afraid to dig a little if you have to, think outside the box and let your creative soul express itself. Don't forget, the simplest solutions are often right there under our noses.

Be creative and have fun!

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1 comment

Oh, you are so creative. I appreciate your idea of turning a showpiece bought for 20 bucks into a clock. Now I am getting many similar ideas to make my own DIY clocks.


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