6 Barbie Dream House additions you’ll want for yourself

July 21, 2011

Over the years, she’s been a surgeon, paratrooper, ambassador for world peace and of course a princess. But after more than 125 career changes and regardless of whether Ken wants to settle down, Barbie’s got a new title: smart dream homeowner.

In conjunction with the release of Architect Barbie, The American Institute of Architects and Mattel are sponsoring an Architect Barbie Dream House Competition, and the designs shed light on some great additions for real-life homeowners looking to add value to their residences. We looked at finalist Michelle Krochmal’s design for an oval-shaped 11-room domicile and picked out six stellar features worthy of your own dream home — the pink color scheme is optional. We sorted out the costs and benefits, and leave it up to you figure out whether such amenities fit your lifestyle.

“I can only hope that I get a client like Barbie, someone who is tech-savvy, easygoing and open to pushing the envelope,” says Krochmal, 35, a New York City architect who says being in the contest is like a “Toy Story” plot come to life, since she built Barbie dollhouses as a kid. (Voting is open until Aug. 1, you can see all five finalists and vote for a favorite here.)

If you want to live as grandly as Barbie, check out what it would cost you in real life:

Item #1: Solar power

Why Barbie wants it: Once a lifeguard, always a sun goddess.

Why you want it: You can “get off the grid” while letting your neighbors see how committed you are to the environment.

Cost: A roof-mounted 5-kilowatt system costs about $28,000 — but after utility rebates and federal tax credits, the actual cost is more like $9,300, says Steve O’Rourke, vice president of consulting services for MicrogridEnergy.com.

Value: Drake Housley, 44, of Simi Valley, California, estimates that his $49,000 solar installation and roofing rehab should pay for itself in less than a decade. His $325 monthly electric bill is now near zero, “and if I use less electricity than I produce in a month, I’ll have a credit.”

Did you know?: Housley can monitor his SunPower solar setup via an iPhone app.

Item #2: New kitchen and appliances

Why Barbie wants it: Krochmal thinks Barbie’s into “new appliances and a fresh cheery kitchen with stone or an Icestone/Corian countertop.

Why you want it: New appliances aren’t just luxury. “An older refrigerator could use three times as much energy as a new one, so you’re saving 67 percent,” says Mike Rogers, a senior vice president at GreenHomes America.

Cost: It’s common to pass the $100,000 mark if it’s a gut rehab with new floors, cabinets, countertops and appliances. “You can use home equity lines of up to $100,000 and deduct all of the interest for these home remodeling projects,” says Travis W. Freeman, a certified financial planner with Four Seasons Wealth Management in Creve Coeur, Missouri.

Value: Return at resale should pass 90 percent, says Blanche Garcia, owner of B. garcia designs in Montclair, New Jersey. “But because of the housing market, plan for around 80 percent.” Tax credits for EnergyStar appliances can total $500, says Howard Hammer, principal and CPA at Fiske & Co. in South Florida.

Did you know?: A Sub-Zero PRO 48 refrigerator, with separate compressors for freezer and fridge sections, runs $15,000. That should leave you just enough to pay the $74 in electricity it uses per year.

Item #3: Salt-water swimming pool

Why Barbie wants it: What better way for Barbie to remember her Malibu days?

Why you want it: Since our bodies are salt-based, eco-friendly salt-water doesn’t dry out skin and hair like chlorinated fresh water.

Cost: Custom in-ground pools run about $40,000, and options such as tiling and automation can add another $10,000, according to Pool People USA. Add $800-$1200 for a salt-water chlorinator.

Value: A study co-authored by G. Stacy Sirmans, a real estate professor at Florida State University, found swimming pools add 8 percent to a home’s selling price. “We found a pool added the greatest value in the Southwest,” Sirmans said — close to 10 percent.

Did you know?: Now’s the best time to buy a pool in years. Sales of in-ground pools are down nearly 75 percent since their 2004 peak, according to SmartMoney.

Item #4: New windows

Why Barbie wants it: Barbie’s prudent enough to know that “replacing old drafty windows with efficient windows can save you money,” Krochmal says.

Why you want it: Today’s high-tech windows use multiple glazing layers with special gasses to reflect heat back from the outside in the summer, and the inside in winter, Rogers says.

Cost: High-end brands such as Marvin custom-build windows, so prices are hard to gauge. But count on spending at least $800 for a Marvin Ultimate measuring 3 ft. x 4 ft. with installation.

Value: Energy-efficient windows and shade treatments are eligible for 10 percent tax credits, for a maximum credit of $500.

Did you know?: Shades have also gone high-tech, and can add to the energy savings. Duette Architella shades by Hunter Douglas use a honeycomb design to reduce heat transfer at the window by up to 40 percent.

Item #5: Radiant heat floors

Why Barbie wants it: Barbie barefoot on a hardwood floor in winter? Brrrrr. Even Ken knows those doll toes deserve better.

Why you want it: “There is something really wonderful about having a tile or stone floor warm under your feet on a cold winter day,” says Kimberly Neuhaus, principal of Neuhaus Design Architecture in Brooklyn. “At the end of a renovation, clients often note the radiant floor as one of their favorite features.”

Cost: A radiant heating system typically costs $6-$12 per square foot to install, according to Anderson Radiant Heating in Campbell, Calif.

Value: Radiant heating systems can cost 25-50 percent less to run than conventional forced-air systems.

Did you know?: Neuhaus recommends a radiant heat mat under a new stone or tile floor when renovating a bathroom for an added touch of luxury.

Item #6: Greenhouse

Why Barbie wants it: Though she’s been a Canadian Mountie and a bus driver, Barbie (so far as we know) has never played gardener, horticulturalist or farmer.

Why you want it: Instead of churning out greenhouse gasses, you can go the opposite route by growing organic fruits and vegetables.

Cost: A FloraZone 12 ft. x 24 ft. greenhouse runs slightly more than $3700 at Jaderloon, though you could spend much more depending on how big and durable a structure you want.

Value: At least three crops top $17 per square foot for return: cilantro ($21.20); arugula-roquette ($20.92) and green salad mix ($17.55). You could also grow your own landscaping plants. Otherwise, there’s no quantifiable value spike to a house that also sports a greenhouse.

Did you know?: You can price your own custom greenhouse at the HomeBlue contractor network website.


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The AIA should focus on the health of the architecture profession, which has very poor financial incentives and returns for its members, rather than conning little girls into thinking that you will be successful if you are an architect. The only interest of the AIA is in expanding its association and the dues received from its members.

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[…] Wealth looked at luxury home add-ons through the eyes of Architect Barbie and bathroom lovers. In July, we examined six home additions in a Barbie Dream House Competition, running the gamut from solar […]

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[…] Wealth looked at luxury home add-ons through the eyes of Architect Barbie and bathroom lovers. In July, we examined six home additions in a Barbie Dream House Competition, running the gamut from solar […]

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