Spike Jonze’s 2013 film "Her" is the perfect mixture between science fiction and romantic drama. The movie stars Oscar-winner Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, an unhappy man going through a divorce who experiences love with his AI voice assistant, Samantha. Although Theodore is experiencing hardship, the overall theme of "Her" is a happy future in which we might want to live. When asked why he made the future seem so appealing, production designer K.K. Barrett told Fast Company he was tired of movies with depressing outlooks on the future, tech, and human connection.
"There are a number of films that cover that very well, so we didn’t need to go there," he said. "This is a pleasant, soft future where everything is designed to everybody’s personal taste." The film itself is a work of art, as "Her" was nominated for five Oscars at the 2014 Academy Awards, including best production design (via The Oscars). While it didn’t take home the top prize for the world it created, "Her" still lives on in the hearts of its fans as a warm, happy film that, in some ways, is the opposite of a "Black Mirror" episode. The film shows us an exciting future with warm, inviting, tech-infused spaces. Here are some of our best tips if you want to recreate this magic in your own home.
Invest in a digital assistant
If you are going to make your home match Theo’s in "Her," it almost goes without saying that you will need a digital assistant of some kind to get you through your day with ease. It doesn’t matter if you choose to use Alexa or Google, just don’t fall in love with her. Something that you can consider, however, is how to make the tech blend a little bit better into your home. When creating the world of "Her," Barrett’s main goal was to integrate tech and the human experience as seamlessly as possible. "There wasn’t an effort to make things look technologically advanced," he told Fast Company. "They’re just tools."
According to Constellation, using a digital assistant is about so much more than just having a console sitting on your counter. Even now, you can remind Google to boil the water for your tea as soon as you turn off your alarm in the morning, use Alexa to dim your lights or adjust your thermostat when you’re stuck late at work. Smart home technology has come a long way, even since "Her" was released in 2013. The world of the film might not be too far from our fingertips, especially due to the many benefits of smart homes, like being more energy efficient.
Use windows to frame the best views
You’ll notice almost immediately when watching "Her" how the large windows in Theodore’s apartment frame the majestic skyline of the surrounding city, as if it were a painting. Production designer K.K. Barrett told ArchDaily, "the spaces for Amy’s and Theodore’s apartments were blank slates. The space originally was cold, architecturally uninspired, dead. We chose them for their views of downtown…" Production purposefully used the outdoor space to bring texture and energy into the more static space of a living room. To get the vibe of "Her" at home, you should also explore what your windows can do for you.
According to American Window Company, taking full advantage of a room’s windows is actually the cornerstone for the overall success of the space’s interior design. This is because windows can help you play with light, making the space look more extensive and inviting. We see this in "Her," as Theodore’s living room isn’t that large, but because the curtains tend to be open and the viewer can always look out onto the dazzling Los Angeles skyline, it seems a lot bigger than it is.
If you live in the city or country and have an interesting view, skip installing blinds and leave your curtains open during the day to make your windows appear huge and take advantage of the stunning visual landscape outside. If you live somewhere with mediocre views, you can mimic the airiness of Theodore’s windows by making your own seem larger than they are. To do so, create the illusion of height by installing your curtain pole near the ceiling line and investing in long, heavy drapes that pool down to the floor. The long curtains will drag your eye upward, making the windows appear larger than they are.
Play with warm, bright colors
The strong, recognizable color palette is one of the best parts of the film’s production design. Its constant use of bright, warm colors creates a cozy setting that invites the viewer into Theodore’s world. If you recreate this at home, your guests can experience the same feeling. "We were all really enamored with red. If you look closely there’s a little bit of red in every frame. It just gave it all a warmer feeling," Barrett told The Los Angeles Times. "But these decisions are all a little whimsical."
Film critics tend to agree with Barrett’s interpretation of how color can impact the mood and feeling of space, going further to say that the use of reds, pinks, and oranges in the movie symbolizes the love between Theodore and Samantha (via Postpace). To this end, we can use our homes as an extension of how we feel, what we want, and how we want others to perceive our spaces. According to The Nordroom, warmer colors really hit their stride in interior design when the weather outside is cold and gloomy. We cling to them to create warmth and brightness inside our homes. This furthers the idea presented in "Her" that colors can foster feeling. If you don’t want to repaint, consider using accessories like couch pillows, throw blankets, picture frames, and plant pots to add splashes of warmth to your space.
Avoid cool tones like blue, which can impact mood
Using warm colors can brighten a room, but too many cool tones can negatively impact your headspace. The production design team on "Her" used a little blue to touch up the film’s aesthetic, but mainly wanted to focus on the color as it occurred in nature, instead of introducing it to living spaces. Production designer K.K. Barrett told The Los Angeles Times, "Hoyte [van Hoytema, the cinematographer] wanted to avoid blue, then we said, ‘OK, let’s do one scene with blue.’ We didn’t want it to seem too dystopian or foreboding. And there was so much blue sky we wanted to avoid it on the ground."
According to the North American Mental Health Professional Advice Council, the phenomenon of our moods being impacted by the colors surrounding us is called color psychology. There are many different layers to how color can affect us, including the state of our mental health before we encounter the color, as well as the shade of the color, and how prominent it is in the room. While color psychology is still an emerging field, colors like blues, blacks, and even certain neutral shades have been documented to bring on more negative feelings of loneliness and sadness. Avoid these tones to keep your home happy and ensure it mimics the movie.
Purchase a projector
Before he connects with Samantha, Theodore has a lot of time on his hands as he goes through his divorce. When he gets home from work, we see him playing an interactive video game that takes up his entire wall. Unfortunately, while technology has made lightyears of advances since the film’s 2013 release, we still aren’t able to immerse ourselves in video games quite like this. However, there is an option to mimic the experience as best we can.
You can purchase a projector to enjoy games with your existing console on the big screen. The best thing about a projector is you don’t need to buy a screen to go along with it — all you need is a blank wall somewhere in your home. For some, this might even be outside against the house or even in the garage. According to ViewSonic, projectors are better for our eyes, as larger images are easier to process. It also gives us a feeling like we are at the movie theater in our own homes, without the burden of an expensive in-home theater setup. Projectors themselves are also typically pretty small and, in most cases, portable, making them relatively easy to fit into any housing setup.
Declutter your home and get back to basics
Everything on screen in "Her" has a purpose, so if you want your home to feel like the film, it’s probably time to start decluttering. "We wanted to try to clean the room, the entire film, of anything that might be distracting or pondered on for the wrong reason," Barrett told The Los Angeles Times. "We didn’t want to build a playground, to build set pieces, that are stronger than the characters themselves." Fans of "Her" might say this wasn’t quite achieved, as the film’s iconic production design is one of the most memorable aspects of it. Nonetheless, creating a tidy home aligns with the aesthetic Barrett and his team were going for.
Using the KonMari Method by world-famous home organizer Marie Kondo is a great place to start when thinking of decluttering your home. The method’s main idea is that a tidy home impacts your mood and lifestyle. Because of this, you should not tidy based on the room of your house, but rather the type of item, which might be spread out all over the place. Next, you must consider whether an item sparks joy for you or not. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, it’s time for it to go.
Purchase tech items to make your home cozier
One of the most interesting things about the future that "Her" creates for viewers is that technology effortlessly weaves itself in and out of everyday life. Most movies in the sci-fi space are hyper-tech focused and cold, while "Her" is more about the human side of things. "We wanted it utopian, or if not utopian, a comfort world so that it wasn’t about Theo fighting the world," production designer K.K. Barrett told U.S. News. "It was about Theo dealing with the human dilemma of contact and connection." To that end, consider what kind of tech makes your home a safe space and invest in those things.
According to Schlage, you can think of tech making your home cozy in quite the literal sense by using an electric blanket to warm yourself up. Or, you can make your living room feel more inviting with a portable fireplace or turn your bath experience into a cozy one with the help of a portable towel warmer.
Consider minimalist design
Theo’s futuristic Los Angeles apartment leans into the less is more approach. This could be because he is still trying to move in while going through a divorce, but minimalism is still a popular enough design choice that this aesthetic can be copied. According to Tarkett, minimalism is all about being simple. We can see this in Theodore’s apartment, as he is in the middle of moving and doesn’t have anything more than he needs around the house. Even as he settles in, his belongings don’t grow much. However, true minimalism is about more than being clean or decluttered. It’s also about monochromatic colors, open floor plans, and furniture with a clear purpose.
When creating your own minimalist space, focus on choosing furniture with clean, unfussy lines and avoid having too much decor. You can have enough knick-knacks to make the room personal, but you don’t want them to overrun the space. Decorate your room with practical, useful items in a monochrome color scheme for best results.
Use wooden flooring, paneling, and furniture to add life to your home
There is something very natural about Theodore’s apartment. This can be attributed to the great care the production team used when selecting the building materials for the space. "We added wood floors that shine and soft toned wood wall partitions that you could alternately see light or space through," Barrett told ArchDaily. "The walls of glass were passive to light and depth and the interior walls were just as often a soft light creating an undefined depth inside as well." These natural materials created a warm, cozy environment for his romance with Samantha to unfold.
To add the same kind of warmth to your own space, focus on decorating your rooms with rich, wooden furniture. You can also mimic the slight mid-century vibe of the "Her" set by DIYing a wooden panel wall that can act as a backdrop for your minimalist furniture. If you have a minimalist, neutral, or monochrome space, wooden paneling can make it feel cozier.
Don’t be afraid to mix styles and eras
Theodore’s apartment is simultaneously lived-in, pristine, futuristic, and old-fashioned … all at the same time. This was done to create the lived-in, future aesthetic for which "Her" is famous. "There are a lot of retro things — a nice quilt on his bed that somebody handmade, furniture that somebody crafted a while back, a computer monitor that has a nice wooden frame that’s more like a picture frame that you’d put a photo or a painting in rather than a plastic or steel manufactured element," Barrett said in an interview with the Motion Picture Association. When designing your own home, you should follow suit in daring to mix and match different styles of design and eras of décor.
According to Toll Brothers, using color as a common theme is one of the easiest ways to combine different styles in your home. If they are the same color, you can tie together something mid-century modern with an art deco element. On the other hand, consider mixing elements that contradict each other but add visual interest to the space. For example, Theodore framed his computer with something that looks more like a picture frame than a typical screen.