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Interior design tips from the Barbie Penthouse

Designer/author Nicole Sassaman’s book explores her project in the old penthouse of Barbie creators and Mattel co-founders Ruth and Elliot Handler.

Nicole Sassaman celebrates the ideal of Barbie and all she can accomplish in the Barbie Penthouse, which is filled with top-quality materials and magnificent art.

We all come at designing and decorating our homes from different perspectives. For some, it is an opportunity to let our imaginations take flight, and be daring enough to choose colours and furnishings that might not suit everyone. Others love the attraction of staying true to the architecture and age of the space, and make every effort to keep history alive. Still others decide that a full-on renovation is the only path to creating the home of their dreams.

Star designer Nicole Sassaman manages to encompass all of these viewpoints. Her ability to celebrate the historical meaning of a place with fresh ideas is stunningly displayed in her recent project. Sassaman bought the Century City penthouse formerly owned by Ruth and Elliot Handler, founders of Mattel Toys. Their Barbie Doll, now a cultural icon, was introduced at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. Today, over a billion dolls have been sold around the world.

In Sassaman’s book, Barbie Penthouse, we are given a tour of this fabulous space, now resplendent with a classiness and style that honours Ruth Handler’s ideal of Barbie and all she can and should strive to accomplish. Walls came down, oversized windows and doors were added, space reconfigured to open up the home’s magnificent views, top-quality materials and magnificent art and objects fill the rooms.


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I was so tired of looking on my own searching blindly and scared, this was our first home and after our first couple of meetings with Diane Evans, I felt a huge relief that she was my agent and team-mate. Diane was meeting us sometimes two times a week and worked with our very busy schedule. She made us her priority and was very patient in my learning experience. We are both so happy in our new home and that we met Diane Evans. I would like to think at the end of it all we became friends.