Netflix’s Atlanta-shot ‘Instant Dream Home’ features quickfire renos and a helicopter



A family leaves at 7 a.m. and their house is transformed by 7 p.m.

Reality TV shows create ridiculously artificial deadlines to amp up drama. That’s the crux of shows like “Project Runway,” “Lego Masters” and “Top Chef.”

Back in the 2000s, former Atlantan Ty Pennington as host made an art out of quickfire renovations on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Tom Forman, a producer of “Extreme Makeover,” had a variant idea that Netflix ultimately said yes to: fix up a home in a span of just 12 hours. Have the family leave at 7 a.m. and come back 12 hours later to a transformed pad. Called “Instant Dream Home,” the show, shot in metro Atlanta last year, features the type of rush jobs that make great dramatic TV but make no sense in the real world.

So the types of projects that could be built on site over a matter of weeks under normal circumstances have to be resolved in hours, forcing the designers to come up with creative solutions.

“The whole conceit we wanted to play out like ‘Mission Impossible’,” said David Metzler, “Instant Dream Home” showrunner, whose credits include Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Catfish: The TV Show” on MTV.

For example, a kitchen in the first episode had to be built out in advance and forklifted into the home in two parts through a space in the wall that would later be filled by French doors. The wall clearance? Two inches.

In a later episode, an add-on bathroom had to be built out at a warehouse in Vinings and transported to the house with hopes of not breaking anything inside. And in another episode, to install heavy windows, the producers used a robot with suction cups to quicken the process.

For one family with five home-schooled children, the designers built a schoolroom for the backyard. But given the time deadline, the schoolroom was built in advance, then brought on site. The hill gradient to get it delivered by forklift was too steep. The solution: a monstrous crane used for skyscrapers literally lifted the school house 100 feet in the air over the house and gently placed it in the backyard.



The craziest install involved a special window feature placed on an angled roof that enabled the home owners to open it and have a small patio. But it was too fragile and heavy to install speedily from the ground up. So the producers hired a helicopter to fly the window to the location with all the thumping thrills of a Tom Cruise movie.

“That was my idea,” Metzler said.

Friends or family members nominated deserving families who needed home rehabs. They taped audition videos explaining their needs, but the families were told that they were not selected.

Instead, on the day of the renovation, the friend or family member had to engineer an excuse to get the family away from their home for 12 hours. In some cases, the family was told a minor project was being done when in fact their house would undergo a massive upgrade worth $50,000 or more.

Anare Holmes, an Atlanta firefighter and EMT, said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he was completely fooled. He spent the renovation day at his sister’s house fixing things for her.

His partner Andre Davis set him up for the renovation of his 1930s-era bungalow, which Holmes purchased in 2014 in southwest Atlanta. He grew up living in apartments. “This was the first time,” he said, “I had ever mowed a lawn.”

Holmes, when applying for this show, was mourning the passing of his beloved father, who was super handy but got ill and died before he could finish several projects. His mother was still living in his home and Holmes had given her the master bedroom. He and his partner were living in a dark attic and he hated the dated wood paneling in the den.

The 12-hour makeover floored him, including painting the red brick a bold navy blue. “It was almost like moving into a new house,” he said. “We wanted clean, modern and masculine. That’s what we got!”

He was especially awed by the windows airlifted by helicopter for their attic bedroom.

“I now have a rooftop patio,” Holmes said. “Everybody loves it. I called it Harlem meets the Hamptons. They made the space contemporary. It feels like a penthouse at a beach home.”

And his house, he said, now truly feels like a home in the year since the renovation happened. “I hosted Thanksgiving dinner here,” he said. “We’ve held barbecues and had the neighbors over.”

“Instant Dream Home” on the days they did the renovation would bring in more than 200 men and women and four project managers to make the 12-hour rebuild happen. It was like a finely-tuned orchestra. One delay in one area could ripple into other delays. Three months of logistics and planning were needed to make the build work.

“It was a tricky dance,” Metzler said. “You can’t have people blocking up one area when someone needs to do something else.”

The show employs a ticktock sound a la “24″ as if the home might explode if they don’t get it all done in time. Despite inevitable obstacles, they manage to get seemingly everything they need done ― or at least make everything look good enough for the cameras

“Sometimes, the paint was still wet when they walked in,” Metzler said. “And like any real-life construction project, there’s a punch list at the end. You come in later and fix things that don’t quite work.”

Only once in the eight episodes did they finish late. One family on arrival caught some of the crew members sheepishly leaving the home.

To keep the show moving, host and actress Danielle Brooks (”Orange is the New Black”) was there to motivate the troops, saying things like “Less talking, more moving!”

She also has no home renovation knowledge but that was not her job. “She has a big personality,” Metzler said. “We wanted someone to talk directly to the audience and contextualize things. She was incredible with the reveals.”


“Instant Dream Home,” available for Netflix subscribers

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