in every dream home a heartache

The other day, as I was trawling the wilds of the internet, I came across this:

It was probably the first home I ever fetishized. I remember myself belly-sprawled on the floor, chewing my lip and flipping through the Sears Wish-Book, admiring the windows that really opened and closed. It represented all of my young ideas about worldy success - stylish furniture (in matching sets for every room); a modern kitchen tricked out with appliances; everything new and clean and specific in a hygenic new house made just for you.

It's amusing and a little frightening to see how closely old ads for Barbie's dream house mimic a realtor's pitch (you can watch for yourself here). Plenty of room! A sundeck! Sliding doors! The idea of dream houses pre-dates the Mattel era, though:

This photo of an enraptured little girl is from 1915, and even earlier examples abound, but back then, miniature dreamhomes were mainly the province of the well-to-do. It wasn't until after WW II that dollhouses became affordable and mass-produced, neatly coinciding with the post-war boom in home ownership and general prosperity. These dream houses for all were disarmingly modest - brightly painted tin transmitters of the property aspirations of the newly solidifying middle-class. Picture windows, tile bathrooms, fireplaces, bedroom sets, well-kept yards for cook-outs and shiny televisions in pride of place. Modern and up-to-date, but not outlandish - no hot tubs or elevators.

These appeal to me. I often think about creating my own little subdivision, a la Rachel Whiteread, but there's the rub: these little ranches and colonials were the cheerful harbingers of fifty years of relentless suburban growth.

I wonder about desires and expectations these toy houses establish.  Maybe Mattel is thinking the same thing - in these uncertain days, you can either spring for the dream house, or confine your child's play to the comparatively cramped confines of the Forever Barbie Totally Real House or the even more humble Barbie My House. Since a dollhouse may be the closest any of us ever get to owning a dream home, I say swing for the fences, consequences be damned. I'll take this one. Or maybe this one in the city and this one for the weekends ...