8 Kitschy Decorations That Will Never Go Out Of Style

What is it about the cutesy home decorations that situate themselves as vintage linchpins? "Kitsch" — a word borrowed from the German language and meaning something comparable to “cheapness” — eludes a solid definition but lives somewhere among the cartoonishly bold, sometimes garish objects ingrained in popular culture.
Despite or perhaps because of) its lack of defined — or refined — style, kitsch lives on, pervading each generation with a unique gaudiness. Ahead, discover eight of our favorites, from nesting dolls to garden gnomes.
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The Kit-Cat Clock

Black and white with eyes that bounce side to side, the dapper Kit-Cat Clock has been around for over 80 years. Kit-Cat claims the brand caught on because the cat clock's goofy looks managed to bring joy in a harrowing period for Americans — the Great Depression.

As of 2016, Kit-Cat Clock now offers options: a "Lady" (with pearls) or the classic "Gentlemen" cats, each customizable to the buyer's content (including leopard-print bow ties!). Channel Nick Miller of New Girl and hang the Kit-Cat Clock in your room, claiming the space as a cat-friendly zone.

Kit-Cat
Classic Black Kit-Cat Clock, $49.99, available at Kit-Cat.
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Garden Gnomes

There's something distinctly mischievous about Garden Gnomes, which might have to do with their roots in fairy tales and myths. Puckish, tiny men with impressive beards now dot American lawns, with poses ranging from elite golfers mid-swing to hooligans showing their bare bottoms to passers-by.

Because of their distracting and somewhat crude nature, Garden Gnomes have been banned in the illustrious Chelsea Flower Show, leaving the supplies abundant for "gnoming" (loading people's lawns with a score of plastic gnomes). No garden for your gnome to dwell in? Look for a heavier model and use it as a doorstop to invite (or mock) guests.

Joseph Studio
Gnome Garden Statue, $25.78, available at Amazon.
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Nesting Dolls

Matryoshka translates to “little maiden” and is the Russian word for what’s commonly referred to in America as “nesting dolls.” These little ladies are often wooden, with each splitting around the midsection to reveal a compartment with another doll inside, and so on and so forth, until all you’re left with is a doll the size of a peanut. Nesting dolls — first appearing in the late 1800s — are often painted in the traditional Russian folk style, but newer incarnations have given way to silly designs with pop culture characters, from Madonna to Minions.

To display the nesting dolls in your space, open them up! Matryoshka dolls can decorate a shelf when lined up from smallest to largest, exposing every one of the painted figures in perfect symmetry.

Best Pysanky
Semenov Traditional Wooden Nesting Dolls, $19.25, available at Best Pysanky.
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Maneki-Neko

Is there a correlation between felines and kitsch? Maneki-Neko ("The Beckoning Cat") are a highly diverse bunch, given that their raised paws and range of colors change the meaning of the figure in Japanese culture. Despite their changing poses, the cats often hold a koban (currency from the Edo period) and are mostly associated with bringing wealth and good fortune. Although the bulk of Maneki-Neko are produced as ceramic figures, they have found their way onto key chains, wall art, and even Windows log-in screens.

There are several folktales associated with the Maneki-Neko, each of which sees the cat as a small miracle bringing fortune to whomever’s life he happens upon. The Maneki-Neko is often found facing the street, but you can create his home anywhere you need luck, be it your work space or a bedside table.


Lucky Bank
Feng Shui Maneki Neko Lucky Cat Piggy Bank, $15.99, available at Kit-Cat.
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Kissing Salt & Pepper Shakers

Ah, love is in the air, and what better way to express undying love than with decorative kitchen utensils whose lips are magnetically clasped together? Kissing salt and pepper shakers originated sometime in the 19th century with Staffordshire Potteries; the most common portray kids in plaid.

Since then, the lovebirds (figuratively or literally) have been seen on dining room tables across America, and figurines range from vampires biting to a bride and groom on their wedding day.

Westland Giftware
Mwah Magnetic Bride and Groom Salt and Pepper Shaker Set, $10.50, available at Amazon.
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Plastic Flamingos

Ranging from a dusty rose to a violent neon, plastic flamingos vary in hue but are almost always pink. The popularity of the lawn ornament has been long-chronicled, with an article by the Smithsonian noting their importance and attributing the trend to filmmaker John Waters’ Pink Flamingos (though the ornaments had their start in the 1950s). Waters believes the original intent has been lost as America has embraced irony. Says Waters, “You can’t have anything that innocent anymore.”

Although the obvious choice for a lawn ornament is, well, in the lawn, the kitschy spirit of the flamingo lives on in decorations like party lights and pillow cases.

Amols' Flamingo Yard Set, $8.95, available at Amols'.
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Hula Girl

In a grass skirt, with hips that sway side to side, the dashboard Hula Girl symbolizes to most Americans the perfect bliss of a warm, Hawaiian vacation. Although the girls were created in the early 1900s, Retro Planet cites the influx of American soldiers in Hawaii during WWII as responsible for the girls' increase in popularity.

Although she serves as a souvenir for travelers to the island state, the Hula Girl finds her home on even the coldest of dashboards. Computer monitors may now be too slim to hold her, but the motivation behind the '90s collector's item is understood: Keep the Hula Girl wherever you need a reminder of the outside world.

Bell Automotive
Hula Doll, $6.47, available at Amazon.
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