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Photo credit: Dezeen Magazine

Barbie fever is raging with the release of the big budget Barbie. Take a look at her first dreamhouse – a mid-century modern! – and how her investment in home ownership grew from there.

When Barbie made her debut in 1959 her creator, Ruth Handler, wanted a doll to help young girls envision futures outside of the traditional gender stereotypes. Barbie was mature and aspirational. Barbie was confident, stylish, and independent. Barbie was different from any other doll or toy – or role model – available at the time, and her homes followed suit.

Dreamhouse #1

Though she was only three years old (in retail years), and 19 (according to Mattel) in 1959, now “22” year-old Barbie needed someplace to live. So, in 1962, the first Barbie Dreamhouse hit the market.

Essentially a cardboard foldout, her Dreamhouse was modern and futuristic. Bright colors and geometric patterns were paired with low, angular furniture, the hallmarks of a contemporary early ‘60s home. Barbie even had a combination television-record player hi-fi system and convenient built-ins, including storage and a vanity.

Barbie’s Dreamhouse only had room for one. The college memorabilia indicated that she was probably a career-minded recent grad, and her home was not designed for a family, but an independent woman. There’s not even a kitchen. Also, Barbie probably rented. It would be 12 years before women could obtain a mortgage without a male co-signer! It’s easy to imagine forward-thinking Barbie rolling her huge eyes at that injustice.

Dreamhouse #2

Let’s jump ahead to 1974. Barbie’s new Dreamhouse was a big upgrade from that studio!

Now the proud owner of a three-story townhouse decorated in vibrant tropical colors, her home featured a variety of eye-catching patterns that reflected the timelessness of mid-century design’s affinity for mixing materials.

Like any modern woman of the 70s, Barbie furnished the Dreamhouse with durable and stylish plastic chairs based on famous pieces like the Panton by Verner Panton and the Cesca by Marcel Breuer. Decals were a practical solution for adding finishing touches to the home, giving it an eclectic, stylish vibe without dozens of separate accessories to be lost (or stepped on). This Dreamhouse and its colors, patterns, and modern touches was a futuristic take on an independent woman’s home.

Dreamhouse #3

This Dreamhouse went on the market in 1979, at the end of mid-century modern’s heyday, and home ownership has paid off for Barbie. Now she can afford an A-frame cabin to escape busy city life, her seeming affluence giving her a private mountain retreat for weekends and holidays away from the pressures of her (many!) career(s)!

The geometric angles and clean lines gave Barbie’s cabin a cool, modern look. No rustic Lincoln Logs for her! Despite having more structured rooms than her previous Dreamhouses, this one still maintained an open-air feel with breezeblock walls, balconies, and skylights. Furthermore, no decals meant more freedom to decorate each room however she wanted. And still no tiresome housekeeping for this homeowner: no kitchen, no cooking, and no clean up.

Barbie Dreamhouses remain a huge hit, and Mattel notes that families who purchase one are almost guaranteed to spend twice the amount of money on Barbie products than average. The Dreamhouse would continue to incorporate popular architectural styles throughout the next half-century. Barbie is nothing if not on-trend, though, so it’s safe to assume that her real estate will remain so, too.

Now, who’s ready to see the newest Dreamhouse interpretation in Barbie?!