Barbie's Boston Dream House

A Visual Guide to “Barbitecture” and Real-life Doll Houses

Written by: Sara Brown

Is this the year Hot Pink takes over? Greta Gerwig’s film Barbie has created a glamourous stir, from Google’s search bar to Xbox controllers to NYX Cosmetics, everything is going pink in the most camp way possible. 

Wide pan view of Barbie's Dreamhouses from the 2023 film Barbie
Various Barbie Dreamhouses line the Barbie Way Cul-de-Sac, Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Architecture is a social commentary that mirrors our society’s stylistic visions and evolutions. So, are “Dream Houses” the future? Probably not, and that’s due to two things; the first being that a wide range of architectural styles have been depicted in Barbie’s Dreamhouse over the years. The second, “doll houses” already exist, and there are a few nearby that you may pass by regularly. 

The Architecture of Barbie 

Every doll needs a doll house. In the case of Barbie, the architecture of her dream house has shifted over time changing to represent the dreams and stylistic aspirations of middle-class America.

Barbie’s Dreamhouse is a physical representation of the intersection of Mid-Century architectural trends, ideas of homeownership, and the idea of domesticity for a public audience. 

Barbie's yellow interior walls are unfolded, showing the many decorations and items that make up the bachelorette pad of a liberated woman
Barbie’s 1962 Dreamhouse, courtesy of Mattel Creations

Mattel released Barbie’s first Dreamhouse in 1962, a time when women couldn’t have their own bank accounts. (That right was granted in 1974!) The portable walls of her home became a vision of a bachelorette pad, one of a liberated and educated woman. Her walls were decorated with books and varsity pendants, with no kitchen in sight. It is reminiscent and yet vastly different than the Playboy Penthouse Apartment from 1956.

open page showing three tower home and blown up image of plastic chair
1974 Sample Page from Mattel and Pin-Up’s published monograph on Barbie’s House and furniture. 

1974 saw an elevation of Barbie’s dreams and Dreamhouse. She swapped out her ranch house for a three-and-a-half-foot tower, one that nearly resembles Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-Ino. The interior, however, perfectly mirrored the popular “fern-bar” styles of electric decor and an overwhelming amount of potted plants. This Bohenian home had six rooms and was the first Dreamhouse to include an elevator. 

A frame yellow doll house filled with plants
1979 A-Frame Cabin, courtesy of Mattel

Later in the decade, Mattel released a design that’s considered the most reminiscent of a classic doll house of any of the Dreamhouses. Its A-frame design is a clear reflection of Post-modernism, the growth of suburbia, and environmentalism as society approached the 80s. The warm golden tones were all the rage at the time, and the open walls indicate the era’s interest in environmental awareness and embracing indoor-outdoor living. 

interior and exterior of a pink and purple Victorian-styled doll house
2000 Nostalgic yet futuristic Victorian, courtesy of Mattel

After the 80s, Barbie’s Dreamhouses took a sharp turn. Rather than conform to the architectural practice of the time, there grew a disconnect between what was actually being constructed for homes to live in and what was being marketed as a Dreamhouse. Barbie never gave in to suburban sprawl.

Y2K saw a shift to almost “Neo-Medieval” designs, as Barbie’s Dreamhouse has pink and purple porticos, turrets, and antique details. Though one of the more conservative designs, the Queen Anne Victorian 2000 Dreamhouse maintains a wild feminine energy, channeling a royal “girl power” feel. 

Barbie's 2021 house,  Three hot pink floors with a slide and elevator
2021 Barbie Dreamhouse, Courtesy of Mattel

The Dreamhouse designs you may be most familiar with are the Gen-Z-inspired “Content Houses” of L.A. The rooms are informally yet intricately designed, with various textures and patterns. There’s a party room with a disco ball, outdoor grill, and a bunk bed for an Influencer girl’s-night. The three floors of infinite angles to film TikTok trends, Barbie’s iconic hot pink interior decor, and wheelchair-accessible features make the 2021 Dreamhouse both inclusive and totally Instagram-able. 

 

A Dreamhouse Near You!

 

Outside view of pink house

Webster-Jenkins Mansion at 73 Elm Street, Jamaica Plain 

Up on Sumner Hill sits a salmon-pink Victorian-era home, constructed by John L Webster in 1875 incorporating Second Empire, Stick, and Victorian Gothic stylistic elements.  Surrounded by complimentary Victorians and Triple-deckers, it’s no wonder This Old House named Jamaica Plain as a “Best Old House Neighborhood”. 

Blueish Purple and Pastel houses
Colorful houses in Ashmont Hills, Courtesy of Google Maps

 

Ashmont Hills “Easter Basket” houses at 110 Alban Street & 48 Welles Avenue, Dorchester 

With colorful landscapes, rolling hills, and pastel-colored homes, this neighborhood prides itself on its quaint architecture. Ashmont Hills is the home to several colorful Victorians and Triple deckers. The three-bedroom pale pink Mansard Victorian on Welles Ave was built in 1875 and offers plenty of space to live out an old-fashioned Barbie lifestyle. 

 

four images showing the multicolored and heavily decorated interior and pink exterior.
Eclectic interior and exterior views, courtesy of Schillem “Nemo” Guerine of Alouisjeanmedia

The “Barbie House” at 42 Spring Street, Somerville

Cozy, colorful, and charming; all traits of a dollhouse. This Massachusetts home was on the market and sold for $1,941,000. The Sherbert-like home is a Historic Greek Revival built in 1860. It’s a three-bedroom home decorated inside and out in a vivacious Barbie fashion. The cheetah print stairs with blue railings, pink and turquoise fireplace, and multicolored walls it feel like a set from Barbie

 

Three images, one of a white exterior of a Mansion, then two of the interior, showing stairs and interior wall details
Exterior and interior of Burrage Mansion, courtesy of Zillow

The Burrage Mansion at 314 Commonwealth Ave Unit 2

If you’re a classic Barbie fan, you’ll see a slight resemblance to Queen Adrienne’s Palace from Barbie and the Secret Door. Though not a palace, this regal Chateau-Styled building was constructed for Albert C. Burrage and Alice Hathaway (Haskell) Burrage in the winter of 1899, a time when wealth and elegance were vital. It may not be a set from Barbie, but it was used in Little Women


pink book inside white sleeve

Please Note: Photos and information about Barbie’s Dreamhouses are from Mattel’s collaboration with PIN-UP magazine’s limited edition design book “Barbie Dreamhouse: An Architectural Survey.” 

Recent

EVENT: Landmark Love

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Preservation Priorities: Letter to Mayor Wu

Update: February 29, 2024

The Boston Preservation Alliance has submitted a letter to the Wu Administration.

Now Accepting Nominations for 2024 Preservation Awards

Each year the Boston Preservation Alliance presents the Preservation Achievement Awards to recognize a group of exemplary historic preservation projects or activities in Boston.

Rudolph Spotted Around Boston

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A Short History of Boston’s Triple Deckers

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On behalf of the Boston Preservation Alliance and Boston’s preservation community, we would like to thank Councilor Kenzie Bok for her dedication to our city’s historic resources.

My Boston Home: East Boston Library

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Event: Upham's Corner Heart Bombing

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Doyle's Update

As an advocacy organization for historic preservation, the Alliance often advocates to save historic buildings because of their stunning architecture or articulated streetscape.

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Celebrate Harry Potter’s Birthday! 

 

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Written and researched by Dan Bailey.
All photos by Dan Bailey and Matthew Dickey.

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EVENT: A Weekend Photo Workshop with Peter Vanderwarker, Sept. 16-18

Photos by Peter Vanderwarker.

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2022 Boston Guide to Preservation Month

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The Alliance relies on generous supporters like you to continue our work in promoting, preserving,…

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The Pleasant Cafe

Written by Jennifer Dines.
Photos by Matthew Dickey.

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Written by Ava Yokanovich
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My Boston Home: Roxbury Mini Mansard

Interview with Angela Ward Hyatt
Photos courtesy of Angela Ward Hyatt
Before and after photos below!

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Written by Mackenzie Barrall and Corinne Muller. Photos by Matthew Dickey.

Originally published July 2020. Updated July 2021.

Victory! Budget Increased for Boston Landmarks Commission.

The Alliance works closely with the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC), which resides within the Environment Department at the City, to further preservation efforts in Boston.

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Images and words by Matthew Dickey

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Written by Ava Yokanovich

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Images taken by Ava Yokanovich along the Southwest Corridor Path near Titus Sparrow Park

 

14 Ways To Explore Boston This Preservation Month

Written by Matthew Dickey

AllianceALERT: Increase the budget for Preservation
There are untold stories in Boston being lost and we need your help to save them.

EVENT: Annual Meeting of Members

Save-The-Date

When: March 25
Time: 6 pm via Zoom
Featuring: Brent Leggs

This event is generously supported by the Nolan-Miller Fund

Tiny Story: Corita Kent

Corita Kent (1918–1986)

Artist, Educator, Advocate for Social Justice

Written by: Vicki Adjami

Event: Coffee Hour–Award Nominations

When: March 4
Time: 10 AM
Where: On Zoom
How: Register below to receive a zoom link

EVENT: Heart bombing Highland Park Addition

Virtual Heart Bombing

Feb. 1-15 

EVENT: Heart bombing Highland Park Addition

Virtual Heart Bombing

Feb. 1-15 

2020 Preservation Gift Guide

Written by Matthew Dickey

Event: Preservation Chatter

The Boston Preservation Alliance and the Young Advisors present: 

Preservation Chatter 2020

Thursday, November 19

6 — 7 PM

32nd Annual Preservation Achievement Awards

6:00 pm. October 15, 2020. Virtual and open to all. 

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Written by Mackenzie Barrall.

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Photos by Matthew Dickey.

An Interview with Boston Preservationist David Rodrigues

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Written by Corinne Muller. Photos by Matthew Dickey.

 

The Boston Equality Trail

Written by Corinne Muller

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Announcing our 2020 Preservation Achievement Award Winners

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Our Booklist for Pride Month

Written by Corinne Muller.

Dorchester Day

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EVENT: The Tale of Two City Halls

When: May 16

Time: 2PM

Where: Live on Instagram!

EVENT: Preservation Coffee Hour AMA

Have a preservation question? Want to hear updates about any of the preservation projects we’re monitoring?

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AllianceAlert: Your voice needed to help the BLC

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Written by Greg Galer

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Tiny Story: Pump Up the Music

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2020 Preservation Award Nominations Now Open

2020 Preservation Award Nominations Now Open

POSTPONED EVENT: 2020 Annual Meeting of Members

Join us for our Annual Meeting of Members

When: Postponed. New date is TBD

Alliance Event Updates

In light of concerns with COVID-19, we have postponed several of our upcoming events.

EVENT: Heart Bombing

Heart Bombing

Feb. 15 | 1 — 4 pm | Amrheins, 80 W. Broadway, Boston

PLAN: Downtown Scenarios Workshop

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2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

2019 Preservation Achievement Awards 

#SaveMyBoston

Detrimental: Preservation Advocates Ask MGH to Reconfigure Expansion Plans to Spare Three West End Buildings

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Beer + Mortar: Another Round

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By Isabella Labbe

August 6, 2019. Updated March 2023.

Seven Magical Places in Boston

Written by Matthew Dickey.

6th Annual Libations for Preservation

The Boston Preservation Alliance Board of Young Advisors presents:

 

Libations for Preservation

When:

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An Interview with Boston Artist Karen McFeaters

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Tracing Queer History in Boston

Written by Izzy Labbe

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Beer + Mortar: A Walking Tour

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EVENT: COMMUNITY MEETING ON THE NORTHERN AVENUE BRIDGE

The City of Boston invites you to a Community Meeting on the Northern Ave Bridge

Monday, June 3, 2019

Announcing our 2019 Preservation Achievement Award Winners

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Advocacy ALERT: National Register Threatened

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EVENT: 2019 Annual Meeting of Members

Please join us for our Annual Meeting | Registration is closed, but walk-ins welcome! 

EVENT: The Restoration of The Mother Church

Boston Design Week Event

Boston Design Week March 27-April 7 2019



EVENT: YA Meet and Greet with Cocktails!

The Alliance’s Young Advisor’s Board is seeking new board members for 2019!

Call for Nominations for the 2019 Preservation Achievement Awards

The Boston Preservation Alliance is now accepting nominations for our 2019 Preservation Achievement Awards! 

 

Less than Boston

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Marty Misses the Mark With Citgo Veto, says Banker & Tradesman Editorial

“An icon of the Boston skyline was very nearly protected against the city’s current rapacious development culture- but then the mayor stepped in.”

Marty Misses the Mark With Citgo Veto, says Banker & Tradesman Editorial

“An icon of the Boston skyline was very nearly protected against the city’s current rapacious development culture- but then the mayor stepped in.”

Walsh vetoes Citgo Sign Landmark designation, Sign to be moved

Mayor Walsh, Citgo, Related Beal (the developer of the site), and Boston University release a statement: 

Walsh vetoes Citgo Sign Landmark designation, Sign to be moved

Mayor Walsh, Citgo, Related Beal (the developer of the site), and Boston University release a statement: 

EVENT: Community Meeting on the Northern Avenue Bridge

The City of Boston invites you to a

Community Meeting on the Northern Ave Bridge

Meet our newest Young Advisors

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Opening Remarks at the 30th Annual Preservation Achievement Awards

Opening Remarks: Chris Scoville, Board Chair
Preservation Achievement Awards and 40 30 10 Celebration 

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EVENT: Preservation Achievement Awards & 40 30 10 Celebration

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Alliance, the 30th Anniversary of the Awards, and the 10th Anniversary of our Young Advisors Board.

EVENT: Tour of Mount Auburn Cemetery

Join the Alliance Young Advisors for a stroll through Mount Auburn Cemetery, the oldest rural cemetery in the US.

It’s time to have your say on the Citgo sign’s future

The debate over the future of the Citgo sign is still quietly grinding on.

It’s time to have your say on the Citgo sign’s future

The debate over the future of the Citgo sign is still quietly grinding on.

The Preservation Bucket List + Photo Competition

The Alliance is turning 40 this year!

September 7: Deadline for eligibility forms for Fall 2018 Community Preservation Funds

Boston has an estimated $20 million in annual funds to support capital projects in historic preservation, affordable housing, and parks and green spaces.

Citgo sign here to stay, but maybe not surrounding buildings

Developer Related Beal on Tuesday went before the Boston Civic Design Commission to submit its updated plans to redevelop buildings on Commonwealth Avenue near Deerfield Street.

Citgo sign here to stay, but maybe not surrounding buildings

Developer Related Beal on Tuesday went before the Boston Civic Design Commission to submit its updated plans to redevelop buildings on Commonwealth Avenue near Deerfield Street.

Citgo sign here to stay, but maybe not surrounding buildings

Developer Related Beal on Tuesday went before the Boston Civic Design Commission to submit its updated plans to redevelop buildings on Commonwealth Avenue near Deerfield Street.

Boston, here's the chance to make Northern Avenue Bridge a real destination

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The Northern Avenue Bridge is being replaced, and the city is debating just who will be allowed to use it

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Alliance Included in National Best Practices Report

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Defending Fenway’s Heritage

Emily Kahn, Boston Preservation Alliance Intern

Defending Fenway’s Heritage

Emily Kahn, Boston Preservation Alliance Intern

Announcing the 2018 Preservation Achievement Award winners!

As neighborhoods change over generations, it’s important that touchpoints to their past both remain in place and sensitively evolve to maintain their relevance.

Announcing the 2018 Preservation Achievement Award winners!

As neighborhoods change over generations, it’s important that touchpoints to their past both remain in place and sensitively evolve to maintain their relevance.

Announcing the 2018 Preservation Achievement Award winners!

As neighborhoods change over generations, it’s important that touchpoints to their past both remain in place and sensitively evolve to maintain their relevance.

Announcing the 2018 Preservation Achievement Award winners!

As neighborhoods change over generations, it’s important that touchpoints to their past both remain in place and sensitively evolve to maintain their relevance.

Announcing the 2018 Preservation Achievement Award winners!

As neighborhoods change over generations, it’s important that touchpoints to their past both remain in place and sensitively evolve to maintain their relevance.

Announcing the 2018 Preservation Achievement Award winners!

As neighborhoods change over generations, it’s important that touchpoints to their past both remain in place and sensitively evolve to maintain their relevance.

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City Council Awards First Batch of Boston Community Preservation Funds

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EVENT: Ladder Blocks Walking Tour

You’re invited to a special preview for Alliance and Boston By Foot members. The Ladder Blocks Walking Tour will take place on Sunday, May 20, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.

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EVENT: Preservation, Powered by PechaKucha

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Director of Advocacy, Alison Frazee, recognized with highest honor at 2018 Tsongas Awards

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Alliance ED Guest Editor of Boston Architecture Diary

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Does the three-decker have lessons for us today? 

Alliance Executive Director Greg Galer was a moderator for “Preserving Affordability, Affording Preservation,” an April 27th conference hosted by Historic New England.

The Alliance Appoints New Board Chair and Elects New Board Member

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Alliance Celebrates 40 years, Looks Forward at 2018 Annual Meeting

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Density Done Right: Examples from Boston and Barcelona

By David Nagahiro, AIA, LEED AP

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Paramount Theatre and the Boston Opera House Honored for Their Remarkable Makeovers

Last week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Thank you to all our corporate members, including: