Arts, Crafts and Creations, Barbie

Building Barbie’s House From a Shoe Box

As my sister and I contemplated how we would package the refurbished Barbies, clothes and accessories we were putting together for holiday toy drives, we realized that a little girl would need a place to store all of these items. The “Barbie case” would be the traditional choice but a search of Ebay showed me re-sale Barbie cases that were not in good condition and would not be easily refurbished. New and/or usable vintage cases were too pricey for our budget.

Scanning, with astonishment, the wide array of Barbie “everything” that has become available over the decades, I was reminded of the simple Barbie “houses” I had created as a girl.

In the 1960s, we had nothing like the pink plastic palaces little girls ask Santa for today.  What we did have was our imagination. Using the previous season’s Sears or Spiegel catalog that our mothers no longer wanted, my friends and I spent hours selecting and cutting out pictures of sofas and dinette sets, beds with pretty bedspreads and matching drapes. We glued our choices into empty shoe boxes or onto pieces of cardboard that, when leaned against the wall, became “rooms” for Barbie and her friends to live in.

What if I could make a storage box that looked like that?  

I gathered a few heavier boxes from around the house that were appropriately sized.   We no longer have department store catalogs to cut up. Anyone who ever flipped through those pages filled with dreams and inspiration knows the great loss felt over the end of the product catalog! Today we have the internet “catalog.” It’s a more efficient substitute, I guess (though not nearly as satisfying).

Using scrapbook papers, sewing trims, an old country cottages calendar, and my clipart furnishings downloaded and printed onto cardstock, I crafted storage “houses” for packaging our Barbie donations. The outside of the box depicts the front and/or back of a welcoming home. Open the box and you find an indoor scene. A window might reveal an outdoor garden or city scene. Papered walls are “hung” with classic paintings and family portraits. In some, a wire strung between two large buttons gives Barbie a place to hang her clothes. A smaller box dressed up to look like a small dresser can hold shoes and other tiny accessories. When I ran out of large calendar house photos, I compromised and came up with some other ideas. The scale isn’t consistent and no, Barbie can’t actually sit down on a one-dimesional sofa. I don’t expect my “houses” will ever replace a girl’s desire for a big plastic palace. But for the needy child who is unlikely to find one of the pricey doll houses beneath her tree, my cardboard house might be enough bring her some imaginative playtime fun. She may even be inspired to create more Barbie rooms of her own!

As storage boxes go, I think these are kind of cute!

Tips for making your own shoebox Barbie house:

~You want a box that is tall enough for Barbie to stand up inside.

~ A cardboard house won’t last forever but you can make it last longer by choosing a heavier box. Decorative boxes with heavy lids that are sold in the craft store are ideal, but they can be pricey. I found a few at the local thrift store.

~I cover boxes with sheets of scrapbook paper. The easiest way to avoid jagged and torn corners is to run the paper over the corners and end it in the center of the box instead of at a corner.

~I fit paper pieces to my box making needed creases and folds, lie them all face down on newspaper and spray them with spray adhesive. This is faster than spreading glue and it prevents ripples and wrinkles in the paper.

~I got my cottage pics for the outside of boxes from an old calendar.

~When choosing papers for wallpapers, hardwood or tiled floors, instead of suiting your adult decorating tastes, remember the preference little girls have for bright colors and crazy patterns!

~I created a closet rod by threading a wire through two large buttons and gluing them to the side walls.

~Don’t worry about scale. Barbie can’t actually lie down on the photo of a bed or sit at a paper dressing table. Little girls have the imaginations to make it work!

~Don’t try to create an entire house in a single box. Most can accommodate one or two “rooms.” Children can expand on your house by creating additional rooms for themselves.

~Shoes and other easily lost tiny accessories are stored in a small box made to look like a set of dresser drawers.

~Design houses for minority Barbies too! Black Barbie might have framed photos of black family members or hang beautiful African tapestries or art on her walls.

~ If you get an idea, go ahead and try it!

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