Happy 50th Barbie

Jonathan Adler Decorates Barbie's Malibu Dream House

Barbie debuted on March 9, 1959 and I can still remember buying my very first 'Barbie'.  I was 10 years old and I saved my quarter weekly allowance until I had enough to buy her.  I remember looking at the rows of available 'models' until I finally chose one, that I think was to resemble Diana Ross of the Supremes.  She had a black Afro haircut and was wearing a long strapless black sequin gown with a fringe of black tulle on the bottom.  I still have her packed away somewhere.  I spent hours making houses for her from the sleeves of my paper cut-out dolls.  That is probably where my passion for Interior Design started.

Happy 50th Barbie

 Barbie's living room The Jonathan Adler edition Barbie House    
Barbie's living room

Interior Designer, Jonathan Adler has decked out a real-life 3,500-square-foot pad overlooking the Pacific Ocean to look like the blond doll's outrageous home to celebrate her 50th birthday. He was commissioned by Mattel Inc. to decorate the house for today's party.  The installation took six months of planning and a few weeks to install.

I love what Adler said about having Barbie as a client:
"Barbie was a dream client because she doesn't exist as a person, she exists as fantasy and
is the perfect client because she's always happy and fun and loves everything."

He lined Barbie's bedroom with wall-to-wall pink carpeting emblazoned with her initial. Her closet is filled with 50 pairs of pink peep-toe heels while her kitchen is stocked with cupcake-making ingredients. An in-house museum features 25 vintage Barbie dolls on display. In the garage? A pink Volkswagen New Beetle with a motorized pop-up vanity in the trunk. 

So where's Ken?  "Ken's around, but does she need Ken?" said Adler. "No."  Happy 50th Barbie The Jonathan Adler edition Barbie

                                                                                                                          The Jonathan Adler edition Barbie

Barbie Collector Barbie Collector Barbie Collector

 Barbie CollectorimageBarbie Collector

 Barbie CollectorBarbie CollectorBarbie Collector
Images from Barbie Collector

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PATRICIA GRAY INC is an award winning interior design firm writing about lifestyle and
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2011 © Patricia Gray | Interior Design Blog™


  1. Happy Birthday Barbie!

    My favorite Barbie accessory was her house, but before that we used record albums and books, face cloths, books...and well, without knowing, my mom's maxi pads from the cupboard for mattresses. Who knew?

    By the way, the double albums were the best for building barbie's house, because of the hinge.

    Also, the shoes were so cute weren't they?

    Thanks for the memories!

  2. I love your blog, Patricia.

    The 2009 National Barbie Doll Collector's convention celebrating the 50th anniversary will be held this July in Washington, my hometown! My mom recently found all her Barbie, Midge, Ken, & Skipper barbies in our attic, and they're in perfect condition. We had such fun looking at all their outfits! Best, Melanie

  3. Barbie did not show up in Italy until later so unfortunately I personally never owned one...but I had a doll called Genny with the figure of a teenager. She had a ponytail and a green coat with a hood, very 50's.
    My niece Valentina of course had a collection of Barbies with the most beautiful gowns, so I did play with it in the end...

  4. Okay that does it! I am officially starting a Barbie collection. Your blog just did me in today and there is no turning back! I am three years older than Barbie; but, just like her, I am still young....age is only a number. Thanks for the inspiration Patricia! ;)

  5. I loved my Barbie! My favourite place to make a home for Barbie was under the coffee table (so she'd have a roof) and I'd use a table leg as a spiral staircase to the second floor. I never had a Ken doll so I had to use my brother's ugly GI Joe as Barbie's boyfriend (he'd get angry at me haha!). My favourite memory... one Christmas my mom made a whole Barbie-sized-closet of clothes for my little doll!! How hard would that have been?!
    Victoria from EdinDesigns @ DesignTies

  6. Anonymous9/3/09

    Patricia, I just wanted to say thanks for the comment and adding me to your blogroll. I always enjoy reading your blog.


  7. All I had was barbies, not the campers or cars you could buy to go with her. We created an apartment from a bookshelf for her instead (which was better because it required more imagination). I didn't need Ken either :)

  8. Anonymous9/3/09

    wow that is fabulous. I built house for my Barbie's too, but they were not quite a fabulous as Jonathan's!
    I turned my little brothers rocking-chair-thing on its side to create a 3-room apartment, then used small pillows for sofas and beds, handkerchiefs for bedding and drapery, and other bits and pieces that I found around the house : )

  9. Anonymous9/3/09

    What fun to have a client like Barbie....I wish!!!

  10. Maria
    Hi Maria
    You are way too funny…..after all Ken didn’t get the fully furnished and decorated Malibu house.

  11. Be still my Barbie-loving heart. I may have to dig my old Malibu Barbie camper and get myself down south.
    Thank you, Patricia!

  12. Anonymous9/3/09

    This brings back such wonderful memories. I can't believe that it has been 50 YEARS!!!

  13. Anonymous9/3/09

    Barbie's wardrobe really did inspire a whole generation of fashion designers of who I am one.

  14. Dear Patricia, this is so fun!

    I can´t believe we were not invited, the little lady is just my age,( not the very same date). What a party we would have.

    And she had all this made for her by a male designer, great work...she sure doesn't need Ken.


  15. what a hoot !!!

    love the barbies in the post
    ( i never owned one...weird )

    they remind me of a few of the gals i went to boarding school with.

    hee hee

  16. Hi again, Patricia.
    Thanks for your kudos on my old condo's kitchen remodel! You asked about the colourful chairs in the eating area... I gave them, and the pine table, to a co-worker. I loved them for a time - painted them and recovered their seats in coordinating fabrics - but my love was fading. Besides, they weren't very well made and would separate at the seams. I had to glue them back together too many times!
    Victoria from EdinDesigns @ DesignTies

  17. Hi Patricia
    I am another girl who didnt own a barbie but I tell you what, I would love to be invited to that party, how much fun would you have!

    Thanks for popping into my blog and leaving the link. I fixed it now so I will always have updated posts that you write...Hooray!
    The rooms you have designed and decorated are just stunning, in particular the bedroom with the oversized mirror and the blue/teal accents. I have used this picture as inspiration for my own bedroom.
    Mrs B

  18. Anonymous9/3/09

    Happy Happy Birthday Barbie...can I come to your party

  19. Anonymous9/3/09

    How sad that Ken doesn't have a room in Barbie's house.

  20. Anonymous9/3/09

    I love Adler's new take on Barbie's wardrobe and her mid century modern house.

  21. I have never been a Barbie Fan I have to admit (for obvious reasons - maybe I was just jealous because maybe I wanted one when I was a child -lol- just kidding)

    I can wait to see more about the pad that Jonathan Adler has done for her celebration. That is so cool!

    Happy B-day Barbie ! and many many mooooooooore

  22. Yes, I had a Barbie Dream House!
    As a little girl I had a large closet that became my imaginary world. Barbie's home was the focal point.
    I can't tell you how many hours I spent there.
    Now I have passed on my passion for Barbie to my daughter, Leila, although I am not quite sure she is ready for the glam that is Jonathan Adler's vision!
    My other realization is that no matter how many accessories you have for your Barbie, she always ends up naked! Mine did and so do my daughter's!

    My Mom went to school with the original Barbie at Fairfax High School here in Los Angeles. My goodness, it took your post to make me realize the history I have with Barbie. Happy 50th, Barbie!


  23. These Barbie dolls are all so glamorous! I only remember having the jazzercise Barbie with a leotard and leg warmers...I guess this is what I get for being a little girl in the 80s.

  24. Anonymous9/3/09

    I guess I am the same as Laura. I grew up in the 80's and didn't have a Barbie, but I think I have to have the Adler version.

  25. Oh if all clients were like Barbie! I was a Barbie lover too so I can really appreciate this incredibly talented instillation. Such a fun post Patricia, xv.

  26. Adler does amazing work, even for a fictitious client. Maybe better so that the client does not exist :)

  27. happy birthday to you,
    happy birthday to you,
    happy birthday, sweet Barbie,
    happy birthday to you.

    *jazz hands*
    and many mooooooooore . . . .

  28. Barbie and I are the same age - who knew! My husband foolishy said last night, "Is Barbie THAT OLD?"

    Barbie had a great museum in Palo Alto for awhile. Very cool to see all of her outfits and accessories.

    Thanks, Patricia!

  29. Oh Patricia I love Barbie!!! I still have all of mine in hopes that one day I'll have a daughter!!! (When I found out I was having a son, I was like, "What do I do with all my Barbies?!!!") hahaha mutterings of a pregnant woman...

  30. Hahaha! I saw this in our local paper and was thinking about posting about it! I loved Barbie as a girl. I think she may have been behind my design career. I was always arranging houses for her and her friends. JA is the perfect choice to design her human sized pad!

  31. Hi Katie
    Isn’t it amazing to see how this little Barbie has influenced our lives and our career choices....
    although there were a few years that she was out of favour with the woman’s liberation movement, she outlived it.
    And yes JA is the perfect choice to be her Designer.

  32. Anonymous10/3/09

    Happy happy Barbie!!

  33. Anonymous10/3/09

    What ever happened to Ken?

  34. Ok, WOW. I actually get the barbie catalog and this post totally blew me away. That Jonathan Adler barbie room is to die for! Thanks for sharing the fun Patricia :)

    Karen O.

  35. Anonymous11/3/09

    Ahhh, yes BARBIE.... so much fun memories of me drawing mustaches on my sisters Barbies.

    Love your blog Patricia it's really inspiring!

  36. What a fun post :-) Jonathan must've had a blast designing and decorating Barbie's Malibu dream house. I love his comment about why she was the perfect client :-)

    I had a Barbie doll when I was a kid. A Marie Osmond doll too :-) But my favourite things to play with were my toy cars!!


  37. Thanks for your lovely emails and comments on this post.
    You are all amazing.


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