25 Super-Retro Photos From the Set of ‘Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge’

Enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek into the making of HGTV's Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge.

Barbie Dreamhouse
1 September 2023

Step into the Past: An Ode to Barbie

In celebration of Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated Barbie movie, HGTV decided to bring Mattel’s Barbie Dreamhouse to life with help from some of the network’s biggest stars. Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge (which hit HGTV July 16) features 15 HGTV designers and one celebrated Food Network chef — and, in true HGTV fashion, the project took on a competitive edge.

Behind the Scenes

Of course, what we see on screen is just a fraction of what actually went down to create this blinged-out space. Ahead: super-retro, behind-the-scenes photos from set, taken with Kodak Ektar 100 film stock. “Ektar 100 is my favorite, because its color profile is closest to the natural environment,” says Brock Zych, film photographer and HGTV’s digital video producer. “While I was on set for Barbie Dreamhouse, I realized this was the perfect project to capture with film, since the show has such a fun, vibrant and retro vibe.”

A Competition Through the Ages

Eight teams of two competed in a race against the clock to transform a Southern California home into a real-life Barbie Dreamhouse, one space at a time. The twist: Each team was given a different Barbie Dreamhouse era to keep in mind while designing.

Living the Dream

No HGTV competition show is complete without a host, and for Dreamhouse HGTV found the perfect mediator for a Barbie-glam competition: supermodel, designer, author and entrepreneur Ashley Graham. (Pictured with Ashley: the actual hairbrush from the Barbie movie set.)

The Challenge

To avoid overcrowding at the house, two teams went head-to-head per episode. Week one was dedicated to a first-floor showdown encompassing the entryway, living room, dining room, kitchen and family room. Week two featured the den and primary suite renovations. The third week honed in on the exterior, while the week four designers worked to create the ultimate Barbie-worthy closet and office.

Team Living Area: Mike Jackson and Egypt Sherrod

Married to Real Estate hosts Egypt Sherrod and Mike Jackson had a big job ahead of them. Renovating the entryway, dining room and living room wouldn’t be easy. “It’s nostalgic; it reminds me of all the best times of my childhood,” says Egypt.

Team Kitchen: Antonia Lofaso and Jasmine Roth

Facing off against Egypt and Mike: Jasmine Roth (Help! I Wrecked My House) and one of Food Network’s most-beloved chefs, Antonia Lofaso (Beachside Brawl). They worked together to tackle the kitchen and family room. “At the end of the day, if you dream something, you can do it — and that’s why this was so different and fun,” says Jasmine.

Team Ken Den: Alison Victoria and Ty Pennington

Ty Pennington (Rock the Block) and Alison Victoria (Windy City Rehab) teamed up to create a groovy, disco-themed 1970s den for Ken. After three seasons of Battle on the Beach together, this duo knows how to collaborate. “I’m the most competitive,” says Alison. “True!” agrees Ty.

Team Main Bedroom: Kristina Crestin and Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight and Kristina Crestin (Farmhouse Fixer) had to press pause on their New-England renovations to infuse 1980s glam into the dreamhouse primary suite. With her pink Vans sneakers tightly tied, Kristina was ready to lead Jon to victory.

Team Curb Appeal: Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas

The competition was fierce, but our HGTV stars still knew how to have some fun while filming. (They’re all friends, after all.) Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas (Bargain Block) had the one-of-a-kind opportunity to add the classic Barbie Dreamhouse handle to the top of the house while working on their exterior renovations.

Team Backyard: Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt

100 Day Dream Home hosts Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt had some ideas for the ultimate Barbie backyard. “This is surreal,” says Brian. “It feels like we’re living in a place out of Barbie and it’s all coming to life.”

Team Barbie's Closet: Christina Hall and James Bender

Christina Hall and James Bender (Christina on the Coast) had the pleasure of creating Barbie’s closet. “It’s amazing what we [get] to work with,” James said on the pink carpet. “We have this incredible 50th anniversary dress on loan from Mattel that I got to try on,” Christina added.

Team Barbie's Office: Michel Smith Boyd and Anthony Elle

Rock the Block Season 4 champions, Michel Smith Boyd and Anthony Elle (Luxe for Less) were more than ready to out-design Christina and James. They put their heads together and dreamed up the perfect think-space for Barbie. “We loved the opportunity to escape into a land we’ve been thinking about since we were kids,” says Michel. “And now we’re here as grown-ups, playing with dolls yet again — full circle.”

Magic Behind the Camera

Even the stars need some help, and that’s where the Design Support Team comes in. Led by Production Designer (and host of HGTV’s Revealed) Veronica Valencia, the team of four — clad in awesome pink jumpsuits — sets deadlines, handles blueprints (more aptly called “pink-prints” by contestants) and even deals with big tasks like the home’s electrical. “Everytime I walk in and see us all in our pink jumpsuits, I’m just immediately happy,” says Veronica.

Old Friends, New Friends

The Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge reunited old friends. Alison and Anthony, who appeared on Rock the Block Season 4 together, pose together on set.

The Pink Carpet

Once the renovations were complete, HGTV rolled out a lush pink carpet for competing designers to walk down on their way to see the entire renovated home for the first time. Of course, a Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge finale party followed.

Ashley's Pink Carpet Moment

“It’s so fun, so nostalgic,” Ashley said on the pink carpet. “I’m so happy to be here.”

The First Tour

Ashley got the first look at the Barbie Dreamhouse in all of its glory. From the moment she walked through the doors, she was taken aback by the beautifully designed pink wonderland before her.

Dollhouse Dreams

After the reveal, pink carpet attendees snacked on Barbie-themed desserts displayed among real Mattel Barbie Dreamhouses.

Star Stop-Ins

Jonathan Scott showed up to the party dressed in his signature plaid. “I know [HGTV] only invited me because I’m the favorite brother, and it’s okay,” he joked. “I do have fancier plaid shirts, but this one felt appropriate.”

Defining the Color Pink

Brian: “Universal.”

Alison: “Confident.”

Michel: “Playful, youthful, optimistic and fun — everything Barbie represents.”

Disco Den Cool

Alison and Ty couldn’t resist dressing up to the disco theme of their Ken Den.

The Perfect Color Palette

Bubblegum-colored interiors aside, the finished home also boasted some very vibrant palettes: ’90s neons, for example, which Ashley said reminded her of Saved by the Bell.

Barbie Movie Props

Talent created and sourced tons of one-of-a-kind, Barbie-cool decor, but the Dreamhouse was also filled with props from the Barbie movie, including Barbie’s iconic hairbrush.

That's A Wrap

“So much nostalgia has gone into every single room,” says Ashley. “The HGTV stars are so funny and hilarious but also very focused. It’s unbelievable how much creativity and history went into each room, the front yard and the backyard. I am blown away by how amazing this house is.”

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