Barbie isn’t only a doll; she’s one of the world’s most iconic toys. And her Dreamhouse is just as iconic, what with its lavish rooms, pink colour scheme and aspirational design. As HGTV Canada prepares to step into that Dreamhouse world alongside host Ashley Graham in the new, four-part Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge, we decided to dig into the Barbie Dreamhouse history and see how it’s changed over the years to suit the beloved doll.
When Was the Barbie Dreamhouse Invented?
Ruth Handler and her husband co-founded toy company Mattel in 1945, leading to the creation of toys like the Uke-A-Doodle and the Magic 8-Ball. But it was the 1959 creation and launch of Barbie that may be Handler’s crowning jewel. The company sold roughly 350,000 of these “teenage fashion models” that first year. By 1962, the doll had grown so popular Mattel launched the first of what would become many Barbie houses: A folding ranch home known as Barbie’s Dreamhouse.
That first Dreamhouse was crafted in cardboard and was pretty basic compared to the Dreamhouses Barbie lives in now. There was a narrow bed, a couch, a TV, a sitting area and a library. As for the decor, there were lots of plaids and midcentury designs, but no kitchen. To some, it looked like a dorm room.
How Many Barbie Dreamhouses Are There?
Since that initial Dreamhouse, Barbie has owned more than 20 Dreamhouses. In 1964 a new iteration hit the market that included a kitchen, and in 1965 Mattel sold a simple, fold-out model called the Barbie and Skipper Deluxe Dreamhouse. That one didn’t have a kitchen either, but the vintage Barbie house was easy to pack up and bring to a playdate.
By 1974, a plastic Barbie Dreamhouse with three storeys hit the market, and things only grew more elaborate from there. Elevators, pools, sun decks, stairs, multiple rooms and beds to spare began gracing the different designs, but one thing they grew to have in common was that signature, Barbie-pink esthetic.
How Has the Barbie Dreamhouse Changed Over the Years?
If you go back, it’s interesting to see how the decor evolved to match the decade during which each home was released. Also interesting? Even though those early iterations were single-storey flats, all editions of the Dreamhouse from 1974 onward feature multiple levels. Some are downright mansions, others are townhouse-style. Many of them are pretty lavish compared to the real-life homes average North Americans own.
Do the Barbie Dreamhouses Have Anything in Common?
Even though Ken was invented in 1961, a year before the Dreamhouse made its appearance, the Dreamhouse has always belonged to Barbie. If you look at the included beds, historically, they’re only big enough for one person. That leads us to believe that Barbie was always the one paying the mortgage, no matter how much the house changed.
Has Barbie Ever Lived in a Castle?
As architecture evolved and builders began mass-producing homes, Barbie’s Dreamhouse underwent a big change, too: It became more aspirational. While the old Barbie Dreamhouses were a practical way to live, the new Barbie Dreamhouses consisted of extra rooms, lots of plastic furniture, and whimsical designs.
Case in point? In 2000, Mattel released Barbie’s Castle. It was a turn-of-the-century home with modern and traditional features, like a turret and a flat-screen TV. That made Barbie the ultimate status symbol.
What Features Does the Current Barbie Dreamhouse Have?
When the celebrity designers get to work on the real-life mansion on HGTV’s Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge, you can bet they’ll take inspiration from the past but look mostly towards the new. That includes the latest version of the Barbie Dreamhouse, which was released in 2021.
That Dreamhouse has a very California vibe (just like the upcoming movie) and is inspired by content houses in Los Angeles—spaces where creators and influencers come together to produce all of that social media goodness. There’s a moveable pool, space for parties and a flat roof, plus it’s the first Dreamhouse that is wheelchair accessible.
Given those parameters, we can’t wait to see what these designers come up with.
Catch all of the Dreamhouse action for yourself when Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge debuts Sunday, July 16 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV Canada. It is also available on the Global TV App and on STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, fuboTV, Rogers Ignite TV, and Ignite SmartStream.