Reel Estate

Love the 'Barbie' movie? Here's how to get a NYC rental-friendly version of Barbiecore

  • Peel-and-stick wallpaper and temporary tiles are two great ways to try Barbiecore
  • You can build your design around a statement piece of decor, furniture, or pattern
  • This article contains spoilers about Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie. Sorry folks!
Celia Young Headshot
By Celia Young  |
August 17, 2023 - 11:35AM
Barbie’s 1986 dream house, with a Barbie in it.

Barbie’s 1986 Dreamhouse certainly has plenty of pink, but even if you hate stereotypical Barbie, you can still embrace Barbiecore.

Courtesy Mattel Inc.

There are two versions of Barbie. There’s stereotypical Barbie—think blonde, bimbo-fied, and Pantone 219c pink. Then there’s the everywoman: the Barbie that can tackle any career, any hobby, or be any person. Both exist in the hit 2023 movie, and both inform the design philosophy of Barbiecore that you can use to deck out your apartment.

Traditional Barbiecore is a hyper-femme, bubblegum brand of maximalism packaged by the toy company Mattel. It’s simultaneously sincere and corporate, and it’s sold big; the movie grossed more than $1 billion at the global box office. 

Even if you hate stereotypical Barbie, you can still embrace Barbiecore, says Julia Gamolina, an associate principal at Ennead Architects and the founder and editor-in-chief of digital architecture magazine Madame Architect. 

“If you have a room that’s entirely zebra print, that to me is Barbiecore,” Gamolina says. “Barbie was designed to a theme, and all of the elements that came in that box referenced that theme. Whether it was architect Barbie and her jacket and her accessories, every element was highlighting the type of Barbie that she was.”

To Gamolina, Barbiecore is about intent. You design a space around a theme you love, rather than trying to aspire to an impossible ideal only survivable by the Margot Robbies of the world. 

“Everything in the room communicates with each other, but it's more than a theme. You think of things popping, you think of maximalism, you think of bold colors, bold statements, and that conviction behind it,” Gamolina says.  “I think that's ultimately like the thesis of Barbiecore.”

You can apply that conviction to your apartment in a couple of different ways. You can put on your rose-colored glasses and embrace pink for all it’s worth. Or you can choose a more human path, and make Barbiecore fit your style. (Just remember to close your eyes, and feel).

Read on for a few renter-friendly ways you say “Hi Barbie!” to the latest design fad. (And don’t worry, they’re all reversible in case you hate it in a few months. Just make sure to check your lease so you know what state you can leave your apartment in to ensure you get your security deposit back).

Barbie's movie poster is seen at the Vue Cinema's front facade in London's West End, London, England, United Kingdom.

The Barbie movie poster, as pictured on Vue Cinema's front facade in London's West End neighborhood. 



Build off a centerpiece, or common element

Every Barbie box came with a theme, so why not pick one for your apartment? Gamolina herself was inspired as a young girl by her architect Barbie and Barbie’s Dreamhouse, which helped fuel her interest in design. 

Your theme can be anything—a color, pattern, or centerpiece—that the room focuses on. For example, you can get all metallic accessories to tie a room together, Gamolina says. Or perhaps a large pink couch might be Ken-ough.

“One thesis to interior design is to get one piece that everything else works around,” Gamolina says. “Pink is not at the heart and soul of Barbiecore, or synonymous with it, but what I would do is maybe get one really significant pink piece of furniture and build the story of the room around it.”

A pink couch in an apartment living room.

A pink couch centers this light-filled living room. No irrepressible thoughts of death here!



For a bedroom, you could make the bed the centerpiece and work around it, says Sasha Bikoff, interior designer at Sasha Bikoff Interior Designs. She’s designed several Barbie-esque pieces of furniture, including a clamshell-shaped bed for Kips Bay Show House New York. 

Bikoff’s version of Barbiecore is about embracing femininity, though she tends to lean more towards 1980s revival glamor pink than pastels. 

“Barbiecore to me really means this kind of feminine, flirty, fun, girl power type of aesthetic,” Bikoff says. “It’s all about embracing your feminine side and being proud of it, and using pink as this powerful tool in a way to embrace being a woman.”

Deck the walls with reminders of Barbie

In that spirit, there’s plenty of ways to bring that glamor to your walls without having to crack open a paint can. 

Jenny Peysin, the founder of Jenny Peysin Architecture, recommends Spoonflower peel-and-stick wallpaper, which comes in a handful of pink flavors with varying degrees of maximalism. You can choose a quieter pattern, like pink Monstera leaves or orange blossoms, or go more extreme with pink printed gators. (Just make sure to double-check your lease in case there are any restrictions on peel-and-stick wallpaper, and check out Brick’s brand recommendations).

Peysin has used Spoonflower on her own past projects, though she currently has more permanent designs on her six-year-old daughter’s bedroom, decked out in Barbie pink. She recommends adapting Barbie to your own tastes, since bright colors aren’t everybody’s cup of tea.

“It’s not for all of our clients, though I have had clients in the past who liked pops of colors, specifically pink pops of colors,” Peysin says. “Barbie as a doll is about trying to show what's possible—even though there's a complicated relationship to that—for women. But I think Barbie core is leaning into the more-is-more aesthetic, layering fun patterns and bright colors, and leaning away from the very neutral palettes.”

Blush-up your bathroom

If you’re ready to embrace maximalism, or if you’re sick of living in a Mojo Dojo Casa House, peel-and-stick tiles are a great way to upgrade small spaces. 

Bushwick, Brooklyn-based TikToker and freelancer Julian Thomas recommends SmartTiles, which come in three shades and sizes of pink for as low as $7 for a 11.56 inch wide and 1.38 inch tall spread. And feel free to check out Brick Underground’s recommendations of eight brands of self-adhesive tiles.

Thomas used iridescent green tiles to coat his kitchen backsplash to help his orange cookware pop (and got 2.4 million people to watch in the process). He’s also working on his own Barbiecore DIY by spray painting a shoe rack pink for one of his neighbors, and has loved seeing fans fall in love with the Barbiecore trend.

“I love to see people embrace cultural moments in their homes—especially if it’s done in a way that speaks to their innate personalities and done tastefully,” Thomas says. “I think that is the key to Barbiecore and any style trend: Embrace it because it already speaks to your style, not because it's trendy at the moment.”

Maybe Barbie’s pretty in pink aesthetics already speak to you. Or maybe you’re looking to apply a maximalist philosophy to your own sense of style. Either way, you can follow one piece of the film’s advice: make your own meaning, don’t be the thing that’s made.


Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.