Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Doll House Hunters: The Search for a Christmas Present



By Rachael

Megan playing with my vintage Barbie shopping mall.
Every home buyer is looking for certain features that turn a plain old house into a dream home. When I started house hunting this past summer, I had a few ideas about what I wanted. The choices are endless.

I wanted something fairly large, not too pink, with at least two or three floors, one bathroom, a master bedroom, and a nursery.  A swimming pool or hot tub and a balcony would have been nice, too, but their absence would not be a deal breaker. Oh, and the house had to be proportioned to accommodate 12-inch dolls.

Yep. I was looking for a Barbie house.

A few weeks ago, I settled on the doll house of dreams. The box from Amazon arrived the other week and is sitting in the spare bedroom in our basement, awaiting assembly at the hands of my husband and my father-in law. The house will be a Christmas gift for my oldest daughter, Megan, who is almost 5 years old. Eventually, her 1-year-old sister, Abigail, will share the house. Their grandparents, my in-laws, generously offered to fund the gift.

Megan has a growing family of Barbie dolls, and she recently inherited a shopping mall, some furniture, and a few other Barbie doodads surviving from my childhood collection. The well-loved Barbie Dream Cottage my dolls inhabited when I was a kid was sold long ago, so Megan’s Barbies need a permanent home. I looked on Pinterest at all the homemade doll houses crafted from bookshelves. Then I came to my senses and admitted there is no shame in purchasing a ready-made doll house.


As soon as I started my search, though, I realized I had some big decisions to make. Beach house or townhouse? Stately southern mansion or modern eclectic pad? I relived my childhood as I browsed. I would have loved any of the doll houses on the market today.

One can, of course, go with the large pink plastic home plastered with the official Barbie logo. I was disappointed but not surprised at how very, very pink it is. Mostly, though, I liked the kitchen and bathroom, which came fully stocked with food in the fridge, a loadable dishwasher, and a tiny soap dish and toothbrush holder.

Home buyers looking for something less trendy and less pink can find all sorts of more traditional-looking doll houses that don’t carry the Barbie name. They come with basic wooden furniture. It’s all nice and solid. The dining room chairs probably don’t fall over when Barbie perches in them. Some of these homes also include baby nurseries, something that is decidedly missing from the official Barbie home. I guess they think Barbie is too busy with social engagements to bother with babies. But the main drawback, in my view, to these “off-brand” but quite nice homes is that the kitchens aren’t full of tiny, darling plastic things, and there are no little toothbrushes in the bathrooms.  

I had a hard time deciding. Whenever I thought I had finally settled on a house, my helpful in-laws would show me another one they spotted in a toy catalog. I read online reviews. I printed out pictures of doll houses and pored over them with Megan, asking her which ones she liked and why. (She loves the houses with balconies, but she also likes how pink the official Barbie home is.) My husband obliged me by listening as I recited facts about all the doll houses on the market.

At the last minute, I veered away from the official Barbie house and selected a different brand. It’s tastefully decorated and very large. The house’s size is a good thing, considering that two girls will be playing with it in a few short years. Scratch that. Two girls will probably be playing with the house immediately, because the 1-year-old loves all things that have to do with being a big kid. Abigail toddles into Megan’s room whenever she gets the opportunity and rummages through all the Barbie things. She’s gentle for a 1-year-old, and I’m impressed by how little she actually tries to put in her mouth.

The house I ended up buying is also reasonably sturdy, according to reviews. Also a good thing when the house is for two girls, one of whom is 1 going on 4.

It’s well-furnished but lacking the array of tiny food and bathroom accessories that make my heart quicken. I figured I got a good house, though, and I can add little things to it over the years. Dilemma solved.

So, the house sits tucked away in an inconspicuous box, waiting to be constructed. And I can’t wait until Christmas to see Megan’s face when she first lays eyes on her gift, a gift that much thought went into. Purchasing a doll house is almost as much work as purchasing a real home. But it’s a lot more fun, because the bathroom doesn’t need cleaning and there’s no lawn to mow. You can bet I’ll be playing right along with my girls during the coming years. Now where’s my Barbie doll? It’s time to get her dressed for dinner!

You can contact Rachael by e-mailing her at Rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

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