If you’re spending this stressful time confined to a small, lackluster apartment like me, you’ve probably considered some vicarious viewing options.
For me, that has mostly manifested in travel shows. But as I’ve worked my way through the classics of that genre, I’m finding myself perusing a different escapist category ― the home renovation field.
HGTV obviously leads this type of programming, but I’m not really a fan. The homogenous HGTV aesthetic tends to (in my mind) feature rich white people making tacky suggestions that rely on expensive imitations of bric-a-brac such as expensive, oversized brass jack game pieces.
Netflix has tried to compete in this genre over the last few years and offers some semblance of an alternative.
The Netflix renovation shows aren’t perfect. They still have some HGTV homogeneity and tend to have low budgets that leave the visuals and editing prowess lacking.
But the renovations shows on Netflix also feature more quirks and refreshing strangeness to balance out what’s become a milquetoast genre. I wish Netflix would invest more in these types of programs but what it has is still worth checking out if you’re looking for an alternative to HGTV to fight the pandemic blues.
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“Interior Design Masters” (Netflix Original)
Premise: Up-and-coming designers compete in various design challenges in the hopes of winning a lucrative contract to design a London hotel bar.
Distinct attribute: The sleek competitive aspect to the plot drives a reason to watch episode to episode.
Episodes on Netflix: Eight episodes of roughly 45 minutes over one season
Premise: A documentary/reality hybrid that features tours of unique tiny cabins in the United Kingdom built to become a hotel complex in the wilds of Wales.
Distinct attribute: The host, Dick Strawbridge, has a Ron Swanson vibe that pairs well with the copious shots of U.K. fields of green.
Episodes on Netflix: Four episodes of roughly 45 minutes over one season
“Styling Hollywood” (Netflix Original)
Premise: A Black, gay couple combine their skills to style the homes and fashion choices of celebrities in Hollywood.
Distinct attribute: Unfortunately, it’s still rare for the genre to feature a pair of Black professionals who create projects for wealthy Black clients.
Episodes on Netflix: Eight episodes of roughly 35 minutes over one season
Premise: Renovation experts travel the United States to showcase tiny homes and help build new ones.
Distinct attribute: The show helped create the initial wave of attention around “tiny homes.”
Episodes on Netflix: 14 episodes of roughly 40 minutes over two seasons
“The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes” (Netflix Original)
Premise: Hosts tour architecturally significant homes across the world and ask the owners about the craftwork.
Distinct attribute: All home renovation shows have “nice” spaces to show off, but this show features the nicest.
Episodes on Netflix: 12 episodes of roughly 45 minutes over two seasons
“Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” (Netflix Original)
Premise: Organizing guru Marie Kondo advises people on improving their living spaces through decluttering.
Distinct attribute: Rather than focusing on expensive renovation makeovers, the show beautifies through relatively cheap and simple tricks.
Episodes on Netflix: Eight episodes of roughly 40 minutes over one season
“Amazing Interiors” (Netflix Original)
Premise: People who have spent their own money on quirky spaces give tours of their expensive oddities.
Distinct attribute: The show isn’t about “good” spaces per se and features the strange possibilities of the renovation field.
Episodes on Netflix: 12 episodes of roughly 25 minutes over one season
Premise: Amateurs compete to renovate different rooms in the hopes of winning a luxury apartment. Note ― Netflix’s featured image for the show highlights a different season than the actual season available on Netflix. The season currently on Netflix has “celebrities” competing for charity.
Distinct attribute: The season on Netflix has a “Surreal Life” aspect in that it features a lot of scenes of D-list celebrities fighting and overacting for the camera.
Episodes on Netflix: 10 episodes of roughly 40 minutes over one season
“Instant Hotel” (Netflix Original)
Premise: Homeowners who have transformed their spaces into mini-hotels visit and rate each other’s work.
Distinct attribute: The hotel aspect means the highlighted spaces lean more to luxury and provide a sense of vicarious getaway.
Episodes on Netflix: 18 episodes of roughly 50 minutes over two seasons
“Queer Eye” (Netflix Original)
Premise: Gay men make over the lives of various Americans with their guided transformations always culminating in a massive renovation.
Distinct attribute: The show doesn’t focus only on beautiful homes and comes with other entertaining makeovers that add variety to the typical “that’s a nice home, that’s a nice home” monotony.
Episodes on Netflix: 42 episodes of roughly 45 minutes over five seasons