Barbie’s Dreamhouse is no place for the bashful. “There are no walls and no doors,” says Greta Gerwig via email. “Dreamhouses assume that you never have anything you wish was private—there is no place to hide.” That layered domestic metaphor has proved rich fodder for the filmmaker, whose live-action homage to the iconic Mattel doll hits theaters July 21.
To translate this panopticon play world to the screen, Gerwig enlisted production designer Sarah Greenwood and set decorator Katie Spencer, the London-based team behind such period realms as Pride & Prejudice and Anna Karenina. The two took inspiration from Palm Springs midcentury modernism, including Richard Neutra’s 1946 Kaufmann House and other icons photographed by Slim Aarons. “Everything about that era was spot-on,” says Greenwood, who strove “to make Barbie real through this unreal world.”