Novelty Items That Won't Make You Want to Gag

How to find the balance between personality and over-the-top wacky

As someone who is deeply embarrassed of her former Ugly-Bunny-wearing, Spencer’s-Gifts-frequenting self, novelty items have a complicated place in my heart. Especially since I spent a year working at zulily, who sell novelty items and gag gifts year-round. In recent years, I rolled my eyes at anything novelty. But now? As I continue to put together the apartment I moved into at the end of the summer, I’ve found myself drawn to and buying a number of items that could be classified as “novelty.” But then I thought, is something a novelty if it serves a purpose? Because the foosball player shaped bottle opener I just bought is totally functional.

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of a novelty item: “A novelty item is an object which is specifically designed to serve no practical purpose, and is sold for its uniqueness, humor, or simply as something new (hence "novelty", or newness). The term also applies to practical items with fanciful or nonfunctional additions, such as novelty slippers.”

“Fanciful or nonfunctional additions”! My bottle opener doesn’t need to be shaped like a foosball player, but it is lol. Anyway, I really do believe now that you can do novelty without being wiggety-wack. It’s about finding items that both express your personal style and work with your design scheme, while also serving a purpose. Even if that purpose is that it looks cute and makes you smile (but this should be acquired at a lower ratio to those that also serve a practical use). Balance also needs to be found between the number of novelty and non-novelty items in your home. Novelty should not make up the majority of your things. But they can definitely make for fun pieces of flair — bonus points if they’re also functional!

So here’s a list a of novelty items I think are actually really cool, some of which I've already purchased. These would actually make pretty great gifts, too.

Diana Le

Diana Le

Diana is the co-creator and Editor-in-Chief of Oatmeal Cardigan. She works as a copywriter by day and moonlights as a texting guru by night.