In 2003, the Pantone color report included the shades Hollyhock, Polignac, Dull Gold, and Frost Gray. It was also the year that Love Actually—a holiday rom-com stuffed with an incredible cast—hit theaters. These two things connect through the apartment of Mia (played by Heike Makatsch), the secretary with a crush on her boss Harry (Alan Rickman), in the film. Over the next two decades, Love Actually would become a holiday classic watched and rewatched by people all over the world every season. What captures me every rewatch isn’t just the romantic storylines, but the early aughts style that is obviously present throughout the film—not just in the clothing (hello to Keira Knightley’s newsboy cap)—but in the interiors as well.
We see a unique time in design reflected in the film’s different homes. The minimalism of the ’90s, perfectly depicted in Daniel (Liam Neeson) and Sam’s (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) sleek, cold modern kitchen, was on its way out and giving way to a softer (often overstuffed) aesthetic, such as Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) newlywed home. But my personal favorite is Mia’s place. She absolutely embraces several 2000s design aesthetics in her space in the dodgy end of Wandsworth, creating a time capsule of Y2K design.
She’s probably one of the most hated characters in the film because she is part of the reason why Karen (Emma Thompson) cries in her beige-and-brown British bedroom and, like, How DARE you make her cry. But putting her part in the home-wrecking aside, Mia’s apartment is incredible. She lives next door to Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) and her family in a terrace-style house, which is very typical in the UK. The implied size of the home leads Principal Designer of Define Home, Casey Scheuerell, to believe that perhaps she’s actually still in her childhood bedroom of the family home. “The 2000s abandoned cool modernism for comfort at home with the use of color and softer, collected furnishings that eventually evolved into what we know as Shabby Chic.” It’s also worth noting that the UK was coming out of a recession at this time and the rise of home makeover shows inspired people to personalize their homes in cheaper ways. “Hence mum feeling inspired to paint her hall a cozy soft yellow over a weekend,” seen when she opens the door for the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant). “Mia updates her room using a sensual purple palette to express her personality in accessible ways—paint and accessories.”