Netflix’s Delightful Home Makeover Show Is a Balm for the Madness of 2018
Giant aquariums, Chicago Cub shrines, DIY sci-fi museums—Netflix’s ‘Amazing Interiors’ is a big-hearted celebration of individual eccentricity.
In Amazing Interiors, Netflix’s first original home improvement series showcasing homes that look ordinary on the outside but are extraordinary on the inside, the subtext isn’t exactly subtle. We get it: you can’t judge a book by its cover, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and all that. But the show’s tone is so earnest, its approach so enthusiastic, that you can’t help but smile through the sap. And when viewed amid a grating spate of mindless reality remodeling shows that seem to be getting blander and lazier with each iteration, the show is undoubtedly a warm and lively upgrade.
Unlike many of its counterparts, Amazing Interiors doesn’t have a set of hosts supervising the projects and shepherding you from house to house. Instead, the showrunners zero in on homeowners who have opted to deck out their own places, often with a relatively modest budget and little-to-no professional aid. Installing these everyday people as the guides of their own spaces fills the show with a personal, genial spirit, and exploring their idiosyncratic homes feels less like a window into some interior design pipe dream than like a housewarming party at the home of your quirky neighbor.
The blueprint for each half-hour episode is to introduce three distinct residences: one that’s under construction, two that are already completed. The in-progress pad provides the episode’s arc, which begins with the homeowner’s plans for remodeling and unfolds as the venture progresses. The two finished living spaces are each revealed in one-off cutaways, before the episode ends on the initial project, rounded off and ready for use.
The houses stand everywhere from cities like London, England and Haifa, Israel, to small towns in Missouri and North Carolina, often blending in with the surrounding properties. “You’d never know what’s inside just from passing by!” is an oft-repeated remark, as is the stylistic flourish of following an enigmatic shot of the homeowner entering the front door with a white flash—like an X-ray—before unveiling the interior. Giant aquariums, horror movie memorabilia, and furniture made entirely of recycled items dot the interiors of the already-constructed homes, and the homeowners show off their handiwork with a ceremonial sense of pride and accomplishment.
But the show squeezes the most juice out of the central stories of the houses currently under construction. In the first episode, this position of honor belongs to a funky young British couple named Rosie and Joel, who are seeking to convert the inside of an old oil carrier boat into a Scandinavian-style loft. The couple is sweet and funny, taking on the DIY project with zeal and flair despite a lack of construction or design expertise. In the second and third episodes, the chief narratives belong to a car collector in Austin, Texas building a lofted bedroom inside a giant auto garage, and a father of two toddlers who yearns to open a sci-fi museum inside his northern England cellar.
The stories work best when, as in Joel and Rosie’s case, the home is owned and being remodeled by a duo—watching people debate and learn to cooperate as a team is always gratifying—but all of the subjects are compelling in their own ways. Like the interiors they inhabit, the characters are a diverse bunch: they’re employed as a policeman or a novelist or an autoworker; they love scary movies or sports or sustainability.
Significantly, the show is judicious about limiting much of the audience’s access to the subjects’ outside lives. We learn that the Israeli scuba diver is retired, but we don’t know how he made his small fortune. We know that the Chicagoan sports fan loves the Cubs, but we don’t know who he voted for. It’s a deliberate move to withhold much of this information (particularly anything having to do with politics): by leaving out the subjects’ opinions and judgments, the show places them on even ground. The most controversial choices they make on air are whether to use bespoke furniture or shatter the center of their bathroom mirror for an atypical stylistic flair.
The result is a big-hearted celebration of individual eccentricity, aesthetic pleasure and taste. But it’s also a portrait of global connectivity, emphasizing the power of livable spaces to bring people joy and comfort, and to bring people together.