Intrepid iconoclasts create soulful homes in the new Apple TV+ docu-series ‘Home’
In a bit of fated synchronicity, Apple TV+’s docu-series “Home” premieres just as everyone’s been spending a lot more time there. The nine-episode lineup, a South by Southwest Film Festival selection, debuts in its entirety April 17.
The short take: The series is exceptional.
Surprisingly varied as well as profound, the half-hour segments document nine international iconoclasts and their bold domestic visions. What might have been just another “OMG” take on outré luxury digs, or a breezy riff on ways to make homes sustainable, is actually a deep dive into the very meaning of “home.”
Don’t be surprised if the series transforms the way you consider your own residence — whether you inhabit a six-bedroom manse with jetliner views or a 344-square-foot studio apartment.
In fact, let’s start with that 344-square-foot flat.
You might already be familiar with architect Gary Chang’s tiny Hong Kong apartment termed the “Domestic Transformer,” given its widespread news coverage. Toying with those 344 square feet as one would a Rubik’s Cube, Chang has devised 24 room layouts and “endless permutations,” using sliding wall units and a design genius reminiscent of origami or a Swiss Army knife.
“Home” takes you inside the protean wonder.
A mere push on a wall reveals a kitchen with a stocked minibar — or a full bath, walk-in closet, CEO-worthy desk, home cinema …
The episode examines the very perception of space — and Chang commands it like a shaman, inspired by the manic pulse that is Hong Kong, where 7.4 million people share limited resources.
“All of these homes stem from some kind of problem, limit or challenge that results in a series of decisions to solve that problem,” said “Home” executive producer Doug Pray, who directed episodes based in Austin, Texas, and Sikhall, Sweden.
Rejuvenation is another recurrent theme among all the intrepid mavericks, whose personal journeys are also explored.
A Toronto-born woman raised in Bali moves to New York City, where she designs fashion for Donna Karan, only to return to Bali. There she becomes a kind of bamboo whisperer, creating fanciful, Seussian homes out of the fast-growing plant.
In Sweden, engineer Andres Solvarm builds a log cabin and encases it in a lush greenhouse, creating a sustainable bio-environment. It’s like living in northern Italy year-round, while surrounded by brutal Nordic winters.
“You’re just overwhelmed with how it’s filled with oxygen and the lush feeling of life — the equivalent of being in a deep forest,” Pray said of the leafy home, part of the “Naturhus movement” created by Swede Bengt Warne.
In Chicago, the indefatigable Theaster Gates rejuvenates a decaying South Side neighborhood, its centerpiece the restored 1923 Stony Island Bank, now a space for art exhibitions and archives. There’s deep grace in the way Gates enlivens rather than gentrifies his surroundings as he identifies value (his “love investment”) in abandoned objects, buildings and, indeed, his community.
As Gates terms it, he reveals the “life within things.”
“If there’s a takeaway from the series, it’s that the solution is right in front of you,” said Pray, who lives in Mount Washington.
That’s exactly the genius behind “Home” — all nine domestic dreamers have their feet solidly on the ground and, like wizards, seem to conjure a kind of clear beauty from empty air.
Case in point: design visionary Tony Duquette, whose oddball-opulent aesthetic graced the homes of the Duchess of Windsor and J. Paul Getty. Among other creations realized before his death in 1999, Duquette built Malibu’s mystical “Xanabu,” a kind of bohemian Shangri-La. Now stewarded by architect David Hertz and his wife, Laura Doss-Hertz, the 42-acre property featured on “Home” includes an East Asian-influenced village built from such repurposed finds as Duquette’s movie sets.
All of the series’ pioneer creators have developed and promoted their concepts in hopes of widespread adoption. Witness the Mexico segment, in which innovators extrude two 3-D-printed homes for the “world’s first 3-D community” of 50 residences located in poverty-crushed Nacajuca, Tabasco.
The revelatory light that passes over the families’ faces as they view their new homes — they previously lived in leaky, corrugated-metal shacks — is priceless.
Rounding out the lineup are India’s artisan-built “Wall House” and Maine’s “Soot House,” which employs the ancient Japanese wood-burning technique yakisugi. The family-centric Maine episode arguably lends the series its most deeply felt moments. Scenes of the couple’s sons being born in their handcrafted home, set deep in the forest, are exquisite.
Such payoffs from emotional investments are well known by anyone who infuses their home with care. Chang, the Hong Kong architect, summed it up: “Not only did I transform my home — it transformed me.”