A 60-year trip through Barbie’s dream homes

Barbie’s Dreamhouse was the first of many homes that changed with the times when it was released by Mattel in 1962, three years after the birth of Barbie. It was a foldable ranch house.

The Dreamhouses evolved from cardboard to plastic, pastel, opulent, and electrified—often all at once—after starting off simply. Although Barbie remained permanently unmarried and held the lease, they added elevators, sun terraces, contemporary European furnishings, recycling bins, and various bedrooms (or mortgage).

Barbie Dreamhouse: An Architectural Survey, a limited-edition art book created by Mattel in association with the design publication PIN-UP, was published to commemorate this 60-year milestone. Six examples from the 151-page monograph that are displayed alongside their original furnishings and architectural plans depict the development of Dreamhouses.

Readers won’t get to see Barbie or any of her family or friends. Feminist repulsion toward the doll is giving way to sarcastic excitement as Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie, which debuts in July, and the doll’s hyper-pink style take Instagram by storm.

Whitney Mallett, a contributing editor to PIN-UP who co-edited the book with Felix Burrichter, the magazine’s founder, claimed that “camp has become the white noise of our culture.”

The book explores the cultural and architectural influences, such as Queen Anne Victorianism, midcentury modernism, and granola-ism (going back to the land), that shaped the Dreamhouses across time.

It also includes quotations from authors, painters, and architects who discuss how Barbitecture influenced their own psyches. A cultural critic named Elvia Wilk claims that Barbie’s house is infinitely more fascinating than Barbie herself. The buildings we inhabit or imagine inhabiting speak more about our lives and aspirations than plastic bodies ever will.


Plastic Fantasy

Barbie’s first house, a cardboard ranch that unfolded from a case, looks remarkably masculine with its brash plaids and midcentury wood textures. Was this the sole acceptable aesthetic in 1962 for a young woman starting out on her own? Yes, Mr. Burrichter replied, pointing out the varsity banners and the absence of a kitchen. He remarked, “I guess it’s a coded dorm room.”


Psychedelic Townhouse

The three-story townhouse has elements of Victoriana with a modern color scheme. Mr. Burrichter and Ms. Mallett link the swanky bohemian design (Tiffany lights, flora) to the singles bars of the time.


Adaptive Cabin

Cabin porn in the early hours. Three separate pieces that made up this A-frame may be removed and rearranged. Mr. Burrichter was reminded by this of the homes designed by Charles Moore and other avant-garde architects at the Sea Ranch community in Northern California.


Flounder Mansion

Barbie “really leaned into hyperfemininity” in the 1990s, according to Ms. Culmone, going full bubblegum pink and dreamy. The McMansions springing up in American suburbs are a perfect partner to the Doric columns, Palladian windows, and rooftop sun terrace.


upcoming Victorian

When it was first unveiled before the year 2000, this purple Queen Anne Victorian-style mansion seemed dated. However, Ms. Mallett noted that it had an obvious resemblance to the house depicted in a painting that hung in the original Dreamhouse, as if Barbie had somehow “manifested” it.


House of Content

The most recent Dreamhouse is a TikTok-ready tower that can be filmed from countless perspectives, similar to the actual collab mansions where influencers produce content. The original Dreamhouse played out like a sitcom set with a single camera.

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