BigStuffPhotoshop-1
Composite by VICE staff

Scram, Millennial Minimalism—Giant, Stupid Novelty Decor Is Back

A five-foot-tall pencil. A person-sized toothbrush. It's time for things to get enormous, silly, and pointless again.
MF
New York, US
Ian Burke
Brooklyn, US
May 11, 2021, 9:49pm

Imagine, if you will, the perfect 1989 soirée: The Bagel Bites are fresh from the microwave. Rick Moranis is there, being fed aforementioned Bites from a cartoon-sized fork held by Paula Abdul, who sits on a stool—or, wait! Is that a giant faux cob of half-eaten corn? Why, yes it is. Which, for the record, would not have been uncommon in the 80s, when such kitsch design objects abounded. You see, for a brief and jaunty window between the late 80s and early 90s, our favorite niche decor movement thrived: Big stuff. Especially pointlessly oversized stuff.

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One of the top purveyors of big, pointless, joyful decor was ThinkBig!, a megamall fixture that specialized specifically in, well, massive versions of everyday objects. VICE’s own Marissa Rosenblum brought the now-defunct retailer to our staff's attention, remembering “some kind of store with big stuff” from her childhood. Now, we wonder how such a place—such a truly bananas business model—could have existed. (Oh, did it ever.) 

The brand was founded in 1979 by two friends, artists Phyllis Prinz and Bob Malkin. As People reported in 1982, “[They] gave up secure, high-paying jobs four years ago to sell oversize replicas of crayons, pencils, paper clips and other familiar items from a tiny shop in Manhattan’s SoHo district.”

“I loved pop art from the 60s,” explained Phyllis, “like Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can. And I thought giant products would be more exciting than posters and prints.” Kids loved them. Adults loved them. It was the new high-low-brow aesthetic, perfect for the bachelor pad of Tom Hanks in 1988’s Big (which was indeed furnished by Think Big!):

What better way to manifest the weird transitional energy between the Time of Reagan (think: big, late-80s aesthetics) and the Era of Clinton (an ease into the loose 90s vibe)? Computers were exciting, but still big and clunky. The pop art world was consumed with consumption. Fashion was driven by Jil Sander’s loose tailoring and Michael Jordan’s oversized suits (the true MVP of The Last Dance). So, naturally, the emergence of pop art home objects that served few functional purposes—other than to bring the joy begat by a five-foot Crayola crayon—fits that comedown from the 80s quite well.

It was weirdly infantilizing (remember Pee-wee’s Playhouse?), but always gratifying to see; a Fisher-Price-adjacent answer to the energy, in a way, of the Memphis Design movement that was exploding during that period (and has recently been trending again). 

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ThinkBig! sent out its last catalog in 1994, but found new life in 2001, when businessman Jeff Bruette purchased the rights to recreate much of the OG stuff from ThinkBig! under the new name of Great Big Stuff. (Which will indeed sell you an 11-inch paperclip.) 

These days, old school Think Big! decor goes for a pretty penny on collector’s' sites like eBay and 1stDibs. And the only thing more fascinating than an oversized, $3,000 light switch? The person who buys it:

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Vintage ThinkBig! Light Switch, $3,750 at 1stDibs

While not as present on our Instagram explore page as mustard yellow sheets or spray foam mirrors, big stuff decor is perhaps slated for a larger renaissance. Remember when the massive corn on the cob stool was the it-object of summer 2020? Who knows. Maybe after the mental and emotional exhaustion of the past 15-ish months, we’re ready for the simple joy of sitting on a big hamburger, yet again. 

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So put on your propellor hat, and join us for a big, stupid shopping spree… 

You’re a Midwestern mom at heart 

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Didn’t think we’d leave this out, did you? The gall of the manufacturers (another big, 80s-stuff brand, Rotary Hero), to bring the mental associations of “stool” and “corn” so close together. We’re transfixed. Of course they have a burger version

Rotary Hero Giant Food Stool, $210 at Urban Outfitters

Because Chuck Taylors are cheugy 

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But you know what’s not cheugy? A two-foot-long plaster mold of a Keds sneaker. It looks like a left Ked, so if this one sells before you get a chance to bid, there’s a good chance there’s a right Ked out there that’s in need of a home. 

Original Think Big! Two Foot Long Keds Sneaker, $225 at eBay 

Sleeping on the Ritz

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Feeling crummy? Cuddle up to a little cracker. Or drive to San Francisco’s world famous Lombard Street, and chase it down the winding road like a millennial Charlie Chaplin. You’re welcome. (Hot tip: I also purchased a more sobering cracker pillow for my parents, and it’s very helpful for playing on the floor with their grandbaby). 

Cracker Pillow, $47.38 at The Apollo Box

Gluten morgen, fraulein

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We must have the big bread. Much like the last loaf you tried to bake during your short-lived foray into quarantine baking, you must “tap it gently, leave it for a day or put it under the sun for 30 minutes, [and it] will return to what we describe,” according to the product description. 

3D Simulation Bread Plush Pillow, $26.99 at Amazon

Safety first

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While we wish there were a banana for scale, you can kind of get how massive this safety pin is by looking at the tape measure next to it. Unfortunately, you probably won't be able to pin up the sleeves on your short-sleeve Levi’s button-down. On the other hand, it makes for some pretty good home defense.

Monumental Safety Pin by ThinkBig!, $745 at 1stDibs

The only bulb you want to expose

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Make sure you keep any former presidents or foreign heads of state out of your living room, or they might start doing some weird shit with your cool new lamp.

Edison Floorlamp, $198.99 $137.19 at Amazon

A sensual spud 

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Tuck in with your tuber and just ~vibe~. 

Large Plush Potato Pillow, $41.58 at Etsy

Sleep sunny side-up

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“Unfertilized” is actually our favorite way to rest. It’s an egg, but also a blankie. Egg blankie!

Fried Egg Shaped Quilt, $15.99 at Amazon

Oh, you don’t have a money stool?

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What an awful life you must live. Pull yourself together, friend, and bring a little class into your living room. Nothing, as we all know, screams “tasteful” quite like a money stool. 

Rotary Hero Giant Money Stool, $210 at Urban Outfitters

Low-effort drinking

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I, too, have a tough time pounding armagnac when my snifter is too… not-giant. We wish we’d found this long boi earlier in quar, when its 18-inch stature might have helped with socially distant drinking, or something. Either way, walking around with 14 ounces of liquor on top of a glass staff looks pretty sick. 

Giant Snifter Slim Lady, $133 at 1stDibs

Not disposable

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And don’t even *think* about getting it developed. Straight from the collective womb of Phyllis Prinz and Bob Malkin, this ThinkBig! original offers a snapshot of times past. 

Kodak Camera Store Lamp from Original ThinkBig! Store, $1,200 at eBay

Put the “baby” back in baby grand

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Nobody wants to sit next to the person who whips out a guitar at the next freshly vaxxed house party. On the other hand, everybody wants to hang with the hero who dramatically unfurls a stompable keyboard mid-rager. 

Click N' Play Gigantic Keyboard Play Mat, $32.99 at Amazon

For coloring outside the lines

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An absolute ThinkBig! classic. We’d be remiss to draw up a list without it.

Rare Original 1989 Jumbo ThinkBig! Giant Crayola Crayon, $299.99 at eBay

You are a deranged animal 

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But you’ll be sleeping like a wittle, wittle baby in this massive balloon bed. So go to your bedroom, get rid of your California king, pop on your adult onesie, and get ready for some nightmares. 

Ballooning Kids Bed, $61,239.46 at 1stDibs

We just have one more question:


The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. VICE may receive a small commission if you buy through the links on our site.