Room Design — Go Small to Think Big

We’ve all got BIG design plans:

  1. Renovate the kitchen.
  2. Update the living room.
  3. Get bold and more confident with color.

All good, but it can get overwhelming. What if instead we take a breather from our giant to-do’s, and gain a little perspective by going small?

The Retro Tiki Lounge by Carole Knaus

I found a group of talented designers that create the most captivating rooms. Creative, colorful, and playful. Playful being the operative word. These are rooms for our old (but strangely still quite youthful) friend, Barbie®.

‘Barbie rooms?’ you say – ‘This’ll be juvenile.’ Many rooms are pure fun—sure—but I found Babs with some seriously fashionable digs.

Cafe Set by Carole Knaus

Southern California movie sculptor, scenic artist and painter, Carole Knaus is used to working large. But when work hit a slow patch, she turned to making small sets.

“Basically with the state of the economy, jobs were slow,” said Carole. ” I got to selling things on eBay and noticed there was a market for Barbie furniture. I started buying and selling it, and then I would buy used furniture and customize it. The hobby took off for me when I started making my own furniture.”

Apartment Living by Carole Knaus

For doll collector Dawn Ellis, creating the small rooms takes her mind off her work. “I work as a counselor for youth and young adults,” said Dawn. “I enjoy my work, but it can be stressful, so creating Barbie rooms is a fun outlet.”

Dawn has picked up lessons for her own home from making her tiny ‘sets.’

“I’ve learned that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a great room. You can do sooo much with a can of spray paint or a paint brush. It is fun to challenge myself to
be creative.”

Adler Living Room by Dawn Ellis

Dawn continued, “Designing doll rooms is a fun and safe way to try new things – try things that I wouldn’t think to do with my own house. I feel free to take risks—rather than worrying about what I can and can’t do—so, that has bled over into how I select items for my own house. I feel more confident to be a bit more bold, and experiment with different styles and colors.”

Educated in fine art and graphics, Carole also loves trying out color combinations. “You are freer to experiment with color and pattern than you would in your own home,” she said. “It’s surprising what actually works!”

“It’s also about composition. I try to make the composition nice, and I have learned more about both photography and design.”

Cozy Little Room - Red Couch by Carole Knaus

Where do these small-scale designers find pieces to outfit their rooms?

  1. eBay
  2. Yard sales
  3. Castoffs from friends
  4. Online sources of ‘Re-Ment’- Japanese manufactured 1/6 scale miniatures

Both Carole and Dawn get most jazzed about customizing their own furniture and accessories. They trick-out, recycle and repurpose household items and found objects.

“It is fun to take something used or discarded and recreate it,” said Dawn. “I also look for items in everyday life or stores that I can use for my Barbie rooms. Craft and hobby stories are always a great resource, as are IKEA, Target and doll stores. You might find a small picture frame that you can turn into a mirror, or a bottle that can become a planter.”

Retro Tiki Bar by Carole Knaus

“People develop an eye for this scale and look at things through a new lens,” said Carole. “For example, candleholders make great tables.”

Sometime soon, Carole may sculpt her own designs and have them cast, so she can sell her own furniture. “Everybody thinks they can make a better Barbie chair,” she said.

I so enjoyed finding and exploring the Barbie Rooms, and learning about what goes
into them.

Barbie Chaise Lounge and Vanity Makeover by Dawn Ellis

“…the Barbie rooms and sets are fun because they are constantly changing and evolving,” said Dawn. “I think I would go broke if I redecorated my house as often as I change my Barbie rooms.”

These designers and other Barbie room enthusiasts can be found sharing their creations at Flickr. Carole goes by partydolly and Dawn is Lil Miss Vixen (Fair warning: Some of Dawn’s doll scenes show grownup situations so adults only for this one!)


Do you need some big design ideas? Why not go small?

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5 Comments for “Room Design — Go Small to Think Big”

tiny heart for the cafe set and the jonathan adler living room. how cool… Small scale may be a good way for us all to get going on our projects!

I really love looking at these; the color and style is amazing and fun. The only down side is that not a lot of these tiny treasures were available when I was designing for Barbie (as my first client in my youth). This forced me to be creative: extra ceramic bath tiles for a table top, sachet pillows for sofa cushions, etc. Finding & reusing items was part of the fun.

Hey there Sonu,

How’s my color-maven friend? I couldn’t resist covering the posh and petite. And yup — think I need to build a mini master bedroom to kick mine into gear.

Thanks for stopping in,

Hi Nancy!

I remembered that Babs was your first client — fantastic that you saw this. And yes, many more choices available today. But in talking to these Barbie room designers, they too like best the furniture and accessories they create (or trick-out) themselves. So fun that a candlestick can be a table, and beads assembled into modern lamps!

I must pop over to your Facebook.

Thanks for stopping in,

[…] this is officially the design with toys week. First the fabulous Barbie Room Designs, and now […]

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