In a bucolic setting in rural Sweden, a handcrafted log cabin nestles within a grove, home to a family of four. The surrounding forest supplied the wood, the amber beams fastened with dowels, not nails. But what’s most remarkable about the dwelling is something else—it’s built inside a greenhouse.
Sweden’s winters are frigid, but within the temperate space, plants, flowers, vegetables and even people thrive, cocooned in a Mediterranean climate.
“A special silence [reigns] inside,” an architect says of the home, “that’s very beneficial for the mind, for the soul.”
The Nature House, built by Anders Solvarm, is just one of the stunning and innovative dwellings explored in the Apple TV+ series Home, a contender for Emmy recognition as Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series.
“It’s pretty awesome to be living in a greenhouse,” comments filmmaker Doug Pray. He directed two of the episodes of Home, including the one about the Nature House, and he serves as executive producer on the series.
“It’s a pretty diverse collection of nine episodes and very different stories…Some are more about almost isolated stories of innovation, like the family in Maine that kind of lives out in the middle of nowhere. [The designer] is using this Japanese “burn board” method for the siding on his house. The stories are…all about reconsidering what’s right in front of you and reinvesting in your land or your community or this idea of home.”
Episode 4 takes viewers inside the tiny Hong Kong apartment of architect Gary Chang, who turned cramped quarters into a marvel of ingenuity that he can reconfigure at will, moving the “walls” which hang from the ceiling on a roller system.
The show producers “just went around the world looking for interesting homes that stood out, outliers,” Pray explains. “They had to be inspiring in some way…like something that people watching the episode could take away.”
Episode 2 revolves around artist and urban planner Theaster Gates, who has transformed a section of Chicago’s South Side, a predominantly African-American area neglected through systemic disinvestment.
“Especially given what’s going on in our country in the last month, the Theaster Gates episode in Chicago is highly relevant to what’s happening today, about the idea of investing into an entire neighborhood,” notes Pray. “Theaster Gates [is] reimagining a formerly blighted and ignored neighborhood and bringing it together with his vision and sort of an architectural cluster of homes.”
“My spaces, almost all of them were at one time abandoned,” Gates observes on his website. He rescued the magnificent Stony Island bank building from demolition, turning it into “17,000 square feet of space for innovation in contemporary art and archival practice,” including a theater and a huge collection of books and magazines donated by the Johnson Publishing Company.
There is an ecological aspect to virtually every home explored in the Apple TV+ series, like a phenomenal aerie in Bali made entirely from sustainable bamboo. Author and designer Christopher Brown’s Edgelands home in Austin, Texas has become as much a habitat for flora and fauna as humans, built on land reclaimed from toxic industrial use. Pray directed the episode about Brown’s “earth-bermed” dwelling.
“Both the Austin and the Sweden episodes really made me love those homes,” he shares. “They both actually were quite similar in the way they interplayed with nature…You’d be inside, but you felt like you were outside in the woods or out in nature and vice versa. If you’re outside, you’re not quite sure if you aren’t inside. There’s just this beautiful blending.”
Pray says Home was the brainchild of Matt Weaver, the producer whose credits include a sumptuous Netflix docu-series on food.
“Matt also was involved with Chef’s Table, and I think there’s this idea of a classy show where you get to know the personalities as much as you get to know the actual subject, in this case, homes,” says Pray. “There seemed to be this space in the world of home shows where maybe it didn’t have to be a home improvement thing. Maybe it didn’t need to be a luxury show where you’re showing wealthy lifestyles and extravagant homes around the world, but that maybe there was this different kind of series that could be really [about] fascinating…homes and the people who lived in them.”
Pray says he didn’t budget the shows, but it’s clear Apple did not spare expense on the production.
“The absolute best lenses and really nice cameras and sometimes cranes and Steadicams and other things” were deployed for the series, Pray says. “I really think it paid off. I’m so proud of the look and the aesthetic feel of the series.”
Apple TV+ launched on November 1, 2019, making this its first opportunity for Emmy honors. On the documentary side, Apple TV+ contenders include the series Visible: Out on Television, the feature documentaries Elephant Queen and Beastie Boys Story, and the hosted nonfiction special Oprah Talks COVID-19. Pray sees Apple as the perfect home for the series Home.
“Remember that [ad] campaign from like 15, 20 years ago, ‘Think different’? There’s sort of this idea that that really was the spirit of the show,” Pray tells Deadline. “I don’t say that just to blindly advertise Apple, but I really mean that their kind of aesthetic and their ethics with the kinds of shows it seems like they want to get behind really matched up with this idea of a very forward-thinking show.”
Emmy nominations will be announced on July 28. Voting runs from July 2-13.
“I really hope [Home] does get recognized—in particular, I think the music was really innovative,” Pray comments. “One thing we did that was very different was use different composers for each episode, which is really uncommon in a series. It gave them all their own specific vibe and their own more personal touch, kind of like the homes themselves. It’s a little more handcrafted approach.”
Pray adds, “More than anything else, I’m hoping the cinematography might get recognized, because we really put a lot of support and effort into that, and it’s not easy…All I can say is, sure, I hope people recognize [the series]. I really do.”