Monday, 16 February 2015

Kristin Baybars' Dolls House Shop | The Small Desk

On Valentine's Day most people want to go to a fancy restaurant or be given a beautiful bouquet of velvet red roses, not I. This Valentine's Day I requested we go to the dolls house shop in Gospel Oak, London. A while ago I was having a conversation with a work colleague about our childhoods, reminiscing about what we were like and what toys we liked to play with. We found out that we both used to love playing with our dolls houses, and she immediately suggested I go and visit Kristin Baybars' shop.

I am referring to it as a shop, but when you step inside it is like no shop you have ever been in. It is like walking into the house of a hoarder! When you get out of Gospel Oak train station you will immediately see a bright pink house with a turquoise band across the middle of it. This is the legendary dolls house shop; the last remaining specialist store in London. Despite the friendly pink exterior the rest of the shop front is slightly intimidating. With the grate across the window and numerous hand-written notes on the window explaining that this is not a toy shop, one feels a bit nervous to press the doorbell. I put on my happiest, friendliest face and to my relief was warmly welcomed in. 

Kristin Baybar herself was not working that day, which was a bit disappointing as I would liked to have met the legend herself. She has run this store for 40 years! The Guardian has run two articles on her, one is a 'This much I know' from 2007 and the other is a longer article about dolls' houses but the last few paragraphs are very insightful. Kristin makes some of the pieces herself, and I was lucky enough to get a very tiny cactus she had made for a few pounds. Apparently it is part of a real cactus! 

There is everything you can imagine in this cavern of miniatures; from Dairy Milk chocolate bars less than an inch long to entire bathroom suites, paintings and wheelbarrows. The front of the store has the cheaper items, the glass cabinet area (you can see the reflection on the glass in the photo below) is where more expensive items are kept and the back of the store displays precious handmade pieces. I was about to purchase a gorgeous miniature cat that looked just like my cat, but as the assistant was about to get it out of the cabinet she said: 'Just to warn you this piece is around £80, I'm happy to get it out of the cabinet if you are looking to spend this sort of money today'. After a moment of looking horrified, she informed me that the fur on the cat was real and had been put on hair by hair. I kindly asked that she leave the cat in the cabinet for today and that perhaps I would think about it. I thought about it for about a second and snapped out of it! 

It is the most wonderful display of passion and obsession I have ever seen, it is like no shop you will ever go in. For me this is the definition of an Aladdin's cave.


Some of my other purchases! So tiny they are difficult to photograph!
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