Food Network star chef Antonia Lofaso is part of 15 HGTV home design and renovation experts that have taken over a mundane Santa Clarita home and transformed it into the ultimate Barbie Dreamhouse, in a meticulously detailed project that premieres on the network Sunday, July 16.
In Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge, eight teams overhaul areas of the home with an era-specific style, like an early 1960s atomic-age kitchen designed by Lofaso and Jasmine Roth from Help! I Wrecked My House, a ‘70s disco vibe for Ken’s Den and a main bedroom decked out in ‘80s glam.
The rest of the lineup includes Egypt Sherrod and Mike Jackson from Married to Real Estate, Ty Pennington (Rock the Block), Alison Victoria (Windy City Rehab); Jonathan Knight and Kristina Crestin (Farmhouse Fixer); Christina Hall and James Bender (Christina on the Coast); Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas (Bargain Block); Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt (100 Day Dream Home); and Michel Smith Boyd and Anthony Elle Williams from Luxe for Less. The show is hosted by supermodel Ashley Graham.
“It was amazing working with Jasmine because she has her own style just like chefs do,” Lofaso tells L.A. Weekly of the three-month kitchen makeover. “HGTV design folks and chefs are exactly the same people. One designs, the other cooks — that’s the only difference. Jasmine was all about having hidden somethings all over the kitchen. Our pantry looked like bookshelves, so I was obsessed with finding Barbie cookbooks or designing some so they would be in the front of this bookshelf. What really makes a home a home is seeing the books of whoever lives there. You open this bookshelf to an even more amazing pantry. Barbie or no Barbie, I could live in this kitchen.”
Other hidden things include a pink blender and a toaster that pops out of the kitchen’s counter, something that you would actually find in a 1960s kitchen, arguably the best Barbie era. With extensive help from Mattel and their archives, Lofaso combined her experience with designing home and restaurant kitchens with her love for the iconic doll, to create a sleek modern version of a kitchen that Barbie herself would actually want to cook in. And yes, she would have wanted a microwave.
“It was more about research and exploring the era,” says Lofaso, owner of Scopa Italian Roots restaurant in Venice and Dama in DTLA. “We were putting ourselves in the shoes of an actual Barbie living in this house. Having all those conversations with Mattel and reading so much about this particular Barbie era was enlightening. Yes, those were dolls we played with, yes, these were dream houses we played with, and yes, we loved all those little shoes. But there was a large progressive undertone to all these toys young girls played with.”
To help illustrate that, there’s a framed photo of an Astronaut Barbie in the family room adjacent to the kitchen.
“That was one of the most popular Barbies during that time,” she says. “It really sat with Jasmine and me as women, because it was the ‘60s before anybody had actually been on the moon yet. So before there was even a person on the moon, Mattel designed Astronaut Barbie. With those ideas in mind, the kitchen represents the futuristic ideas that Mattel was hinting towards. So when we were designing the coming up out of the countertop toaster and blender, it was a reflection of that race-to-space time.”
As Barbie fever continues to heat up in anticipation of Warner Brothers’ release of the Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling on Friday, July 21, the Food Network chef shared some of her own childhood memories.
“I had so many Barbies growing up and would play in my room for hours by myself. I’d connect all of my Barbie dreamhouses and make them into mansions that would go from under my bed up into the closet onto a side table and pretty much just take over the whole room. I loved all the small little intricacies of things, like a little plate you could put a sticker on with the food, and forks. I remember being so very careful never to lose my little pieces.
“I had a brother who was 15 months younger than me and he would take my Barbies and throw them into his swimming sharks. I told Jasmine the story in one of the interviews on the show and she freaked out, she said I couldn’t share Barbie mutilation stories. And the haircuts. I actually heard there’s a Barbie in the new movie with mismatched hair because everybody had a brother or cousin that would chop her hair off. Every little girl out there cries about some other kid coming in and cutting Barbie’s hair trying to be funny.”
Go inside our photo gallery above for before and after pictures of the entire Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge project, all courtesy of HGTV.
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