From cardboard brick walls to rooftop hot tubs, see what an expert thinks of Barbie Dreamhouses throughout the years.

Meghan Overdeep
May 8, 2018

“Very hip,” “truly luxurious,” “fantastic,” and “a real bargain.”

These are just a few of the descriptors an architecture expert used to describe a half-century of Barbie Dreamhouses in a hilarious piece for Apartment Therapy.

Nancy Mitchell begins her trip down memory lane with the first Barbie Dreamhouse, a studio-style apartment made entirely from cardboard, which debuted in 1962.  “Later, Barbie Dreamhouses were designed as townhouses, or even freestanding single-family homes,” she notes. “But this one is clearly a studio, the home of a single girl living life on her own terms.”

Next comes a more suburban incarnation circa 1964. Like its predecessor, this one is still made exclusively of cardboard, except it has multiple rooms. ‘The design—painted brick, stone living room walls—is very '60s,” Mitchell writes.

In 1974 Mattel debuted the Barbie Dreamhouse’s now-iconic multi-level townhouse format. “The townhouse has a design detail that bugged me as a child, and still bothers me now: the furniture and features printed on the wall,” Mitchell exclaims. “You're not fooling me, Mattel. I want an actual pool, not a picture of one.”

1979 saw the creation of a decidedly avant-gard Dreamhouse, which Mitchell describes as “a bit Swiss chalet meets midcentury modern,” which “actually works quite nicely.” A year later, the version of the house opened up in three parts made its triumphant debut, an innovation Mitchell calls a “genius solution” for being able to reach inside and play.

Next came the $400 Barbie Magical Mansion, which, at four feet long, three feet high, and almost two feet deep, Mitchell describes as “truly luxurious.” She goes on to applaud the design’s bevvy of modern advancements including working lights and a functioning doorbell, though she can’t help but wonder why the home doesn’t include a single toilet.

“I would live here,” Mitchell says of the 2012 Dreamhouse, which finally provided a realistic way to move between floors: an elevator that’s not in the center of the house. “This is one of the rare Barbie Dreamhouses that actually addresses the necessities of both bathroom and kitchen, while also providing a realistic way to move between floors,” she notes. The rooftop hot tub, however, isn’t exactly realistic.

The most recent iteration of the Barbie Dreamhouse is available now for $170 at Walmart. This latest layout is the first to include an attached garage. Mitchell can’t help but realize how the Dreamhouses have evolved from “miniature versions of a place someone might have lived” to curiousities that are clearly toys. “But for Barbie, that's just fine,” she concludes.