Life Tips #8: Kristin Baybars, 79, Toy Shop Owner, Gospel Oak

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‘Constant change is wretched. My window display hasn’t altered since the 70s.’


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'' Portrait by Tom Storr
Kristin Baybars: ‘Aesthetics has largely gone from life, replaced with hideous things.’ Portrait by Tom Storr

1. Constant change is wretched. My window display hasn’t altered since the 70s. People are thrilled to see that. I had one grown woman gasp when she brought her boyfriend here. She said, ‘I didn’t know if you were real or a dream, but it’s exactly the same!

2. It’s good to have your eggs in two baskets. I have mine in dolls houses and toys. Why? Because little girls also have brothers.

3. I buy things because I like them, not because they sell. My shop is a highly individual collection of things, not necessarily toys. I like to foster craftsmen. Children take away another side of life when they leave here.

4. In people’s minds, big size equates with big love. People think that if child is feeling sad they should buy them tremendous bear, but often it terrifies them. Aesthetics has largely gone from life, replaced with hideous things. I look at a toy for what it is. Then ask, is there enough beauty in it?

5. Children today are hooked on their sugar fix. They used to spend their pennies on small toys, now they queue up to spend it on fizzy drinks. Then it leads to alcohol. I could have told the government they’d have a serious problem with alcohol years ago.

6. Life is filled with happy accidents. I developed TB in the 60s. I’m sure it was from the kapok I used to stuff toys with back then. It used to float up. So I started making lampshades instead. We had a workshop where Housepresso now stands. In 1975 a huge raincloud rolled up the Heath and got stuck. The whole of Gospel Oak was flooded. We couldn’t even open the door of our basement. But we were given the keys to this place and since there was a school opposite we thought, why not get a few toys in? So suddenly I was working with toys again.

7. I like to keep an air of mystery, a little magic. There’s never been a sign and people often don’t think we’re open, but the hours have always been the same too. My mother called this area – the original Mansfield Road – the Hampstead Slums! We are a Kentish Town treasure, aren’t we?

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Watch a 7 minute documentary filmed inside Kristin’s shop here. Find Kristin Baybars toy shop at 7 Mansfield Road NW3

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  • Gabby

    So happy to read this – there are so many mysteries around this shop and it intrigues me! Thankyou!

  • Leslie

    I love this interview! What great tips, too. I’ve only ever been to this shop a handful of times, god knows why. I love toys, love miniatures, and mysterious places with a history. This a gem of a write up, a shop and a shopkeeper! Keep up the good work Kentishtowner!

  • fiona

    Oh wow. I feel an excursion coming on.Thankyou for this. Totally inspiring.

  • Sam

    I’ll definitely be paying this place a visit it sounds like my kind of shop. Oh, and my daughter will probably love it too!

  • Bianca

    I love Kristin and her shop , such a lovely lady. I cant leave it for at least 2hrs once in that shop, a magic place indeed.Kristin and all her staff lovely and very intresting.

  • laura

    are you the same Kristin baybars who created oscarboglous toys? my grandparents brought me the big orange owl with sheep fur. I still have him and cherish him.