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VM choice: Mechanisch Speelgoed Amsterdam

In Amsterdam even toy stores are subject to new merchandise mixed with nostalgic recycling, at which the city seems to excel. Mechanisch Speelgoed, a very cute toy store, is a good example.

Located near the city centre on Westerstraat, this store is a mix of recycled toys, new home and toy merchandise, and found items appealingly displayed in a manner rather like a white elephant stall at a UK jumble sale or village fete.

Those who will remember UK artist Peter Blake’s ‘Toy Shop’ (1962) with its Kewpie dolls, tin toys, and joke shop merchandise displayed at the Tate Modern, will find this holds the same nostalgic fascination. The façade is neatly painted - though the temptation to paint it in childlike-bright colour has been resisted, the black and white woodwork lending a more restrained adult sensibility. The Kath Kidston-style oiled cloth effectively unifies the disparate display.

The interior is crammed floor-to-ceiling with merchandise, one of everything, in contrast to a more usual toy store experience today which heavily promotes en masse the new toy or game of the moment.

The walls are lined with curated collections of merchandise, here an array of robots - also a great favorite with Scottish sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi (1924 – 2005). Placing these, museum style, behind glass conveys a collectable quality, elevating their status from mere toys and helping to raise expectations about price too.

This set of glass shelves showcases a range of small mechanical or wooden toys, all too fragile for careless fingers. The contemporary toy collection is displayed in shallow boxes at the foot of the cabinets, satisfying the desire for young fingers to touch and explore the merchandise.

In another wall cabinet is a softer collection of dolls and doll house furniture. A contemporary selection of Christmas decorations and soft toys is strung in front of the glass, adding visual complexity and reducing the ‘hands-off’ message of the glass. Larger merchandise hangs tantalizingly from the ceiling. A visual feast, this is satisfying to all ages, and nurtures the inner child in all of us.

Do take a look at the brands’ colour-blocked website too, with its innovative format merchandising the collection by theme and brand - a real pleasure to investigate.

Photos: Darren Neave