In Instant Dream Househost Danielle Brooks (who you’ll recognize from Orange Is The New Black), a team of designers, and a large crew arrived at a house at 7 a.m. and, through what they described as careful planning months in advance, completely remade the house in 12 hours. The design team — Adair Curtis, Erik Curtis, Nick Cutsumpas, Paige Mobley — planned renovations at their “headquarters” up to 3 months in advance. They put up large, color-coded schedule boards to map out who should do what and when. They even did mockups and dry runs to make sure their concept worked.
Opening Shot: A leafy suburb with the Atlanta skyline in the background. “MISSION: Renovate Buitekant House. TIME: 12 Hours.”
The main thing is: In the first episode, the team renovates Butiekant’s house, a small 2-bedroom bungalow that Beth-Anne’s mother has owned for over 40 years. Space has become an issue, especially now that her daughter Ruby-Beth and husband Taylor (who was the one who put their home in the works for consideration) are about to have a baby. Also, Beth-Anne’s eyesight has deteriorated to the point where she needs help getting around.
The plan: Lots of new paint inside and out, new furniture, turning the dining room into a dining room again, a new kitchen leading to what Nick calls a “sensory garden.” Also, a small room will be framed to create a nursery. Lots of work, right? One thing Erik has planned is to bring a pre-fab kitchen, complete with a dishwasher, cabinets, stove and pre-installed panels. One problem: If the floor joists can’t support the load, the floor will collapse. Another problem: When they try to do a dry run at the base, everything flips over and breaks up.
What Show Will Remind You? Instant Dream House basically is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on a more compact timeline.
We Take: Instant Dream House designed to be a fun show, not a show where the design choices are so outlandish that viewers include how the homeowner would react. Families that get home renovations deserve such an extreme effort; Beth-Anne has been an activist for decades, and more or less raised Ruby-Beth herself, for example. The show wanted us to see the transformation and how quickly everything was moved, painted, upgraded and cleaned.
Sure, it was great to watch Danielle Brooks’ endless positivity and infectious energy not only pump up the design team but put the homeowners at ease. Some of the banter between members of the design team seems forced, but generally good-natured. Gaining a little insight into the planning phase is helpful, and its disclosures are always the highlight of any of these types of shows.
But after reading about the problems people have with quick renovation events that create so many shortcuts that homes are often left in worse condition than when they arrived, we began to wonder if this change was in the best interest of the Buitekant family. Beth-Anne recently lost her sight and can barely get past the old version of the house, which she has lived in for over 40 years. How could he find his way in this newly remade house? Wouldn’t they be upset that none of their old stuff was there?
And that kitchen! We can’t believe that the kitchen doesn’t stick to the wall using anything but chewing gum wrap and twist ties. What will happen when the panel rips and falls on Beth-Anne or, God forbid, her new granddaughter. We just don’t believe that anything done indoors or outdoors can stand the test of time. In fact, we would love to see Next 12 hours when Beth-Anne cursed that she couldn’t find anything in her own house.
Aesthetic choices are usually bland for a show like this, which is a shame. The bungalow was forest green with purple trim, for example, and finally painted gray-green with lighter blue and teal trim. Bleah. All furniture comes straight from the Restoration Hardware catalog. The tiny nursery has some great wallpapers but no one seems to have taken into account where this baby will sleep when he gets bigger than a baby. The whole thing just feels like planning for TV and not for how Buitekant lives, which kills the fun nature of the show.
Sex and Skin: There isn’t any.
Last word: Beth-Anne expressed how grateful she was for the renovation, then we looked at her picture with her new granddaughter.
Sleeping Star: Danielle Brooks is just as infectious as a reality show host as she is in her acting roles, and she’s the perfect person to stop by and get things moving.
Most Pilot-y Lines: It’s funny, however, that Brooks is labeled “Project Manager.” She wasn’t involved in the planning of the project in any way, and given her designer outfits, she didn’t even dress to give sweat equity during the project.
Our call: STREAM. If you don’t think about it too hard, Instant Dream House is an entertaining renovation series that rewards deserving families with a remodeled home. But it doesn’t take much thought to realize that this renovation may not be the best for the family that gets it.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting, and technology, but he’s not kidding himself: he’s a TV addict. Her writings have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.comFast Company and elsewhere.