A bed that floats down from the ceiling. Stairs that disappear into a wall. A table for eight that can be hidden in a cabinet.
Netflix’s new “Hack My Home” uses engineering ingenuity and a touch of design magic to maximize space in homes all over metro Atlanta. A team of “Avengers”-style helpers show up to tackle some major problems and hey, since this is TV, no real budgetary issues to worry about either.
It’s ultimately a wish fulfillment and entertainment show with a bit of “gee whiz” problem solving in the mix.
“The goal is using your space in ways you never had thought of before,” said Nicole Elliott, an executive producer for “Hack My Home” who also shoots HGTV’s “Married to Real Estate.”
For the first eight episodes of season one, “Hack My Home” chose families in Kennesaw, Douglasville, Decatur, Marietta and Atlanta. “We were able to get a lot of different types of houses and stories,” she said. “It was an easy pick for us. The tax credits didn’t hurt.” [Georgia provides very generous tax credits for production companies to shoot TV and film.]
She said one of the favorite hacks, based on feedback, was the Chan family’s “Inspector Gadget” hidden appliance rack on the kitchen countertop from episode two that goes up and down with a push of a button. Emily Chan from the episode actually used the phrase “Inspector Gadget” when she saw it.
“Everyone loves a good kitchen hack because we spend so much time in our kitchens,” Elliott said.
Emily Chan, in a separate interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said she and her wife Jen don’t actually place appliances in the space. “We turned that into a speakeasy,” Emily said. “It holds our wine and liquor.” (Small appliances can fit in the cabinets, Jen said.)
Their episode showed a cramped house where the two restaurateurs could barely cook in a kitchen and there was not enough space to entertain guests. The “Hack My Home” team created a cool pull-out telescoping table for eight that Jen Chan said they now use regularly. “I had my entire family over and that has never happened before, ever,” she said.
Emily, who with Jen runs JenChan’s in Cabbagetown and MikChan’s in East Atlanta Village, noted that “there were so many hacks they didn’t even choose to air. Where our trashcan is, they have a drawer above it with a cutting board. You can cut and then the cutting board has an opening that you lift up and goes directly into the trash below it which is super cool.”
In all, Emily said “there’s so much room, it’s ridiculous.” This despite the fact their young son Mik has now taken over the kitchen island. “It’s all Legos,” Emily said. (Small world alert: their son goes to school with a child from episode one.)
And the experience itself, Emily said, was fun: “They allowed us to be ourselves. There were a lot of laughs that didn’t make the final cut.”
Casting for a show like this can be a challenge only because when pitching it to people on social media, nobody knows what it is.
“Season ones are always the hardest,” Elliott admitted. “I feel like a lot of people think it’s a scam at the beginning. Fortunately, we have a great casting team. Rebecca Rosichan is a very reputable casting director. She has a way of quelling fears for seasons one.”
Andrew Dunlap, whose Atlanta home was featured in episode six and included the bed that comes down from the ceiling, said he was a little skeptical at first. “I was really pleased with what they did because I’ve heard horror stories,” he said. “This was not. It was actually pleasant.”
Zany, his wife, said she was thrilled to let the experts re-do her inefficient kitchen area. “For me, it was a relief,” she said. “Here ya go. Peace! Have fun!”
The results, she said, were amazing. “If Zany could hug the kitchen, she would,” Andrew said.
Besides good storylines, they needed people with places where hacks were doable. High ceilings often helped. A garage that could be converted into an entire bedroom was another. In one case, they literally dug two feet down to ensure a basement had the right height for a usable classroom.
Elliott acknowledged social media critiques that some of the hacks are “price prohibitive.”
“We made sure we had smaller hacks that anyone can do like glass shelving in the kitchen windows,” she said. (Emily Chan, whose home received that glass shelving, noted it’s the first thing visitors notice when they enter the kitchen.)
Elliott also had to find four different but complementary people to create the hacks: engineer Jessica Banks, construction expert Ati Williams, wild innovator Brooks Atwood and interior designer Mikel Welch.
“They were our hack dream team,” Elliott said. “They are now BFFs.”
Elliott’s quick takes on:
Ati: “A fabulous contractor. She was great in working through problems. The first episode, the hidden bookcase wasn’t matching up so she fixed it, no big deal. She was cool under pressure and was able to pivot.”
Mikel: “He’s been on shows before and is a staple on ‘The Drew Barrymore Show.’ He has clients all over the country. I love what he brought to the table interacting with the cast. He was good at giving shade.”
Jessica: “Very excited to have a female engineer. She felt it was important to be a good example for little girls. She loves creating and inventing new things.”
Brooks: “He’s the mad scientist Kramer of the group. His energy is bigger than his hair.”
Homeowner Andrew Dunlap said at first, he thought they were actors. “Then they told us they were successful professionals in that industry,” he said.
“They were exciting people,” his wife Zany added.
Their daughter’s room was entirely re-done including the drop-down bed. “She has the coolest room among her friends,” Zany said. “But we don’t let any of her friends touch any of the buttons.”
Netflix has not yet said whether “Hack My Home” will come back for a second season. The show was in the top 10 domestically for ten days, but it’s hard to say if that was good or bad relative to whatever metrics Netflix weighs for show renewals.
For better or worse, there are not a huge number of renovation shows on Netflix. “We’re definitely a small category which gives us a higher bar to perform,” Elliott said. “Our fingers are crossed. Hopefully we’ll know something in the next month or two.”
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.