HGTV made life-size, livable doll house for 'Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge.' Here's what it's like (2024)

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. − On a sunny afternoon in mid-April, the Canyon Country neighborhood appears to be just like any other sleepy, well-to-do Southern California suburb.

That is, until you see the massive white house with three flamingo fountain statues, a hot-pink triple-decker fountain and a 900-pound, 12-foot-tall steel handle on the roof, emblazoned with the iconic Barbie "B."

“When you walk in, it’s going to be sensory overload," Veronica Valencia, host of HGTV’s “Revealed,” warns as we approach the front door.

She wasn't kidding.

This property is the final product of HGTV's "Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge" (Sunday, 8 EDT/PDT, and streaming on Max), a four-part special hosted by Ashley Graham that chronicles the makeover of a modern home into a palace of Barbie history based on the iconic Barbie Dreamhouse toy. The show coincides with the highly anticipated "Barbie" movie, directed by Greta Gerwig and due in theaters on July 21. (Both are products of Warner Bros. Discovery.)

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HGTV made life-size, livable doll house for 'Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge.' Here's what it's like (1)

Eight teams of designers from several shows on the home improvement and real estate cable network remodeled the house into a property that's a livable homage to different iterations of the Mattel toy franchise through the decades. The kitchen, for instance, is based on Barbie designs from the 1960s, while the front living room draws inspiration from Barbie aesthetics of the '90s.

Competing against each other, each design team had one week to complete their area of the house, which had to include a "toyetic" feature − a component that could be found in a toy dollhouse, like a mini-elevator. Each team also competed on behalf of a Barbie superfan, and at the end of the series, the winning team's fan won a four-day, three-night stay inside the house. The competition was judged by design and renovation experts and celebrity guests.

HGTV researched more than 300 houses online, and 40 to 50 in person, before landing on this one, selected for its views, pool, a two-story frame and potential for a "Ken's Den" space. Crews spent four weeks taping the competition.

"What's so special about the HGTV Barbie Dreamhouse is that it's not a set," Valencia, the design director of the project, says while giving a quick tour of the property, less than an hour before cameras roll to tape the final episode. "Everything is real, so we really had to work with the architecture."

Not only did designers have to work around the house's existing structure; they had to work in front of nosy neighbors. Evan Thomas, who designed the roof and front yard with his "Bargain Block" co-host Keith Bynum, recalls seeing people walk by the house every day of filming, with "What's going on?" looks on their faces.

HGTV made life-size, livable doll house for 'Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge.' Here's what it's like (2)

"The neighbors are excited, I think, because I mean, who isn't excited about Barbie?" Thomas says. "Everybody starts pointing out all the features that they remember as a kid. That's kind of fun."

What's the 'Barbie Dreamhouse' really like in person?

Walking through the house with Valencia, I'm immediately struck by the attention to detail as she explains the intention behind every design element. The colors are overwhelming but purposeful, with a spiral staircase in the living room painted the same shades of bright pink and green as the accents on Margot Robbie's and Ryan Gosling's roller-skating outfits from the "Barbie" movie. A palm tree by the stairs bears black-and-white stripes on its trunk, a nod to the zebra-striped swimsuit of the first Barbie released in 1959.

In the front living room, four large windows of multicolored plexiglass feature Barbie silhouettes. The windows cast a kaleidoscope of color into the space to nearly religious effect, as if we're standing in a Barbie chapel adorned with stained-glass depictions of her legacy. “When the sun rises, it’s literally like Barbie shining her light down on everyone," Valencia says.

HGTV made life-size, livable doll house for 'Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge.' Here's what it's like (3)

A couch in the back family room looks exactly like a life-sized replica of the cardboard toy couch from the original Barbie Dreamhouse in 1962. A mug sitting on a side table has pink lipstick left on the rim, and a portrait of astronaut Barbie, released in 1965, hangs on the wall.

Even the faux address placed on the house's exterior is an Easter egg: 219, the Pantone color of Barbie pink.

Valencia estimates that nine to 12 different shades of pink went into the design, which includes a stunning Barbie-pink spiral water slide in the Y2K-themed backyard.

And yes, those "toyetic" features showed off in the series actually do work. At the press of a button, a secret compartment rises out of the island countertop in the kitchen, containing a blender with pink bananas. Another secret compartment has a toaster already loaded with bread.

"Our heart-shaped waffles did not come in time, but we have burnt toast," Valencia says. "We debated if Barbie likes white or wheat, and we went with classic white because it’s the ‘60s.”

More:'Barbie' cast reveals morbid things they did to their dolls, Ryan Gosling garners Oscar buzz

Ashley Graham reveals favorite part of 'Barbie Dreamhouse'

While getting her hair and makeup done for the final episode's taping, Graham opened up about her experience hosting the show.

“It’s really felt super nostalgic because I’m such a big Barbie fan, and growing up with Barbie, this feels very important," she says. "I also love a good house renovation, so it’s been really exciting to watch in real time as well.”

More:HGTV to turn Barbie's Dreamhouse into real-life home in new series hosted by Ashley Graham

Graham's favorite feature: An ATM in Barbie's closet that can provide specific clothing and accessories at the touch of a button.

Thomas and Bynum agree the most fun part of filming was seeing each HGTV star let their creativity run wild.

"I mean, how often do you get to put a handle on a house?" Bynum says. "That's kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

More:Margot Robbie re-creates pink 'Barbie' outfits for movie premieres, press tour: See photos

HGTV made life-size, livable doll house for 'Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge.' Here's what it's like (2024)

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