The To All The Boys 2 Production Designer On Lara Jean’s Bedroom & Styling A Treehouse

Photographed by Bettina Strauss; Courtesy of Netflix.
P.S. I Still Love You, the sequel to the Netflix original film To All The Boys I've Loved Before, was released earlier this week just in time for Valentine's Day. Viewers were, of course, immediately taken with Lara Jean's love triangle with Peter and John Ambrose — or love rhombus if you include Gen — but they were also buzzing about the film's many sweetly designed sets. From the teens' abandoned childhood treehouse to the retirement home where Lara Jean volunteers alongside John Ambrose, these backdrops bring memories to life, which is exactly what the film's productions designer Chris August was aiming to do.
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Following the release of To All The Boys 2, we spoke to August about his work on the film. He shared which interior design trends were brought into the sets, which sets were most challenging to create, and how the story's theme of memories informed design decisions.
Refinery29: After the first To All The Boys movie, Lara Jean’s bedroom became an instantly iconic addition to the teen movie bedroom hall of fame. Did you make any changes to the bedroom in the second film?
Chris August: There was literally just a month timeline-wise between the first and the second film, so we couldn't change it and didn't want to change it because it had worked really well. Michael [Fimognari], the director, was the DP on the first film, and he picked a very defined palette with a certain range of colors.

In terms of the bedroom and all the furnishings, one of the problems was that we had to reproduce what had been done because nothing was saved from the first film. We had to have the bedspread made. We even had to build some of the furniture from scratch so that it was close enough to match. A lot of the furniture for the film, especially the first one, were found pieces that were painted so once they disappear, it was hard to match them, but we did basically match everything. 

We tried to match, as well as we could, the style and intent of the bedroom artwork. When they did the first film, they didn't care about clearances as much, but by the time we took it over for the second part of the franchise, we had a distributor that was very keen on risk management so we had to reproduce all of the art in the vein of but using only cleared artwork that our artists created. That was a bit of a challenge, but yes, we tried to stay completely faithful to the initial bedroom.
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Belleview is the chicest retirement home I've ever seen. I was especially taken with Stormy’s bedroom with its vintage glam vibes. How did you find the location and decide to make it so unexpectedly luxurious?
That's what actually got me the job. I read the script and it had an old folks' home, and I had just done a film with two old folks' homes in it and had scouted every old folks' home in the area. They are, as you can imagine, depressing. Really depressing. But anyway, when I first read the script, I thought, well, this is an old folks' home, but it's really about the characters of these elderly people and their stories. All of these Lara Jean movies are about stories and memories so we wanted to play off of memories. It's about her letters, her memory of these letters that were sent out — so we wanted it to not be depressing. We wanted it to be uplifting with the elderly people that she comes in contact with, like Stormy, who have great stories to tell and experiences to relay. 

With that in mind, my pitch in my interview was, let's get a big old mansion. These people want to live like they lived when they were on their own. We spent a lot of time finding the place. We went to a number of different possibilities until we found Casa Mia.

One of the problems with it being a heritage mansion is that you generally can't do a lot of painting so we found the right basic color palettes that we could then alter as we needed to, and we did that mostly with graphics and with drapery. It had great bones to tell the story about being old, but also being classic.
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Photographed by Bettina Strauss; Courtesy of Netflix.
Were there any interior design trends that you decided to incorporate into the sets?
We went with retro, sort of the 50s, 60s, and added the 70s into it to create a certain look. We incorporated that because that's quite current, and that fits in very well with the color scheme that we have. We have a very 60s Gucci color scheme so it was easy to shift into retro. 

For the older folks' home, we wanted to do more of a classic conglomerate of the 20s, 30s, and 40s, but the problem was the 20s and 30s were nice and classic, but the clothes weren't very colorful. You don't get into really colorful clothes until around the end of the war and the early fifties, that's when colors blossom. So we shifted our color palette, but we use styles more from the 30s and 40s. We updated the color palette of those clothes where you'd normally be in browns and grays and some pinks and some greens. We shifted that and made everything much brighter.
Do you have a favorite set-piece that the viewers may not have noticed?
They're all special to me for different reasons. The party was a lot of fun. I liked the basement set pieces there where Lara Jean has that great scene with John around the piano where it's sort of a breakup moment. It was very heartfelt so again, we were surrounding them with just the right sort of antiques — going into the 20s and some art deco pieces — to make that feel really genuine for them. 

Some of those antique pieces we designed — all the visual elements like the murals. The other, we had to go through antique stores and find local collectors and bring in some serious pieces that really sell that era. I'm a big believer in working the subconscious. I think we all have a subconscious connection to different time periods and different elements. It's not something that we necessarily consciously think about, but when you see it on a screen, it evokes an emotional response. I'm always big on trying to find those key elements that evoke the right emotional response that we're looking for in a scene. 
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Photographed by Bettina Strauss; Courtesy of Netflix.
What was the biggest challenge you faced designing the sets for this film?
Generally, your challenges are really schedule-driven and things like that. But one challenge and one set that I really enjoyed was the treehouse. A treehouse is a childhood thing. I built a treehouse for my kids, and they really loved it. We had to think about how to build a treehouse that would work for this generation of teenagers that they could relate to. Also, I think we had seven cast members in that treehouse, and we had exterior scenes so logistically, we had to build it so it could hold a whole crew and be able to shoot it from the outside. It was logistically really challenging, but we managed to pull it off where we didn't have to do a lot of visual effects. We found a great tree in a great yard, and we were able to build a set that gave you a sense of abandonment like this had been their clubhouse but it wasn't anymore. 

We had to build that set I think three times and move it around with us to different locations that would have to match with the same trajectory of the sod. We had to have colored drapery that would allow certain colors of light through to give us a sense of cheer. So, again, it was logistically very challenging but rewarding in that it was a good looking set.
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