Watching someone’s career unfold in real time has been a fascinating aspect of “growing up” alongside fellow bloggers and entrepreneurs. Many of the women I’ve watched closely embody traits and styles foreign to my own. I’ve often wondered why that is, and I think it’s because you learn more about yourself not by comparing your work to theirs, but by seeing the passion and love they put into whatever they’re making. Enter Justina Blakeney. I’ve been a longtime follower of Justina, her interior design prowess, boldly colorful style and uncanny ability to keep plants alive has always impressed me to no end. She creates spaces that are just magical and so unique, you can practically feel them through your screen. As a lover of all things bohemian with traditionalist tendencies, I am drawn to her whimsical and wild #jungalowstyle because it reminds me to embrace my own wild side. She’s also incredibly resourceful, I’m often referencing her innovative design ideas. As a New York Times bestselling author of The New Bohemians, we’re excited to have the go-to expert for all things boho with us today. We recently chatted with Justina about the many, many projects she has going on in her career right now between her blog, books, design studio and online shop. Here’s what is going on in her Jungalow world!
Justina, tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do!
I am a designer, artist, author (and mama to Ida and 52 houseplants!). I believe that good design increases the quality of life. I believe in the healing power of plants, good light, and fresh air. I believe that creativity and good vibes can save the world.
Describe your style?
Colorful, patternful and plantiful!
What is a typical workday like for you?
Jungalow HQ is a block away from my home, so a workday starts with a short walk or bike ride to the studio. My hours are usually 8 am until around 5 pm five days a week, and every day I’m bobbing and weaving between any number of creative endeavors: painting patterns, designing furniture or rooms, writing blog posts or presentations, working on books, styling vignettes, designing marketing collateral, and concepting campaigns, etc.
We heard you are launching a new home fabric collection – how exciting, tell us more about how you got to this point in your career?!
I started out in the home decor industry as a blogger and often times that has made me feel like an outsider. But truth be told, I never really wanted to be a traditional interior designer – it felt creatively stifling to have to design to someone else’s taste. What I DID enjoy (SO MUCH!!!) was tapping into my own creativity to ignite passion and creativity in others. My blog and books really aren’t just about decorating (and filling your home with plants! Ha!) My aim has always been to try and inspire folks to tap into their own personalities and creativity. I feel that my new fabric line is a natural extension of that goal. I feel I can help to add color and pattern (and hopefully a jolt of jungalicious fun!) to homes while being witness to the creativity and tastes of my readers.
Who are your favorite style icons to follow for design inspo?
A lot of designers and artists I look to for Inspiration are no longer alive (Kahlo, O’Keeffe, Hans Wegner, Matisse) but there are certainly a bunch of living folks that inspire me too – Patricia Urquiola, India Mahdavi, Pamela Shamshiri, Dabito, and my sister, Faith Blakeney (who is an interior designer) to name a few.
What design advice do you have for people looking to insert a little bit of boho into their home?
One of the things I talk about in my new book, The New Bohemians Handbook, is that the only mistake you can really make is to live in a space that doesn’t reflect your personality, your desires, and your dreams – that’s no way to live! I believe that a home should feel comfortable and lived-in. That’s one reason that my textile collection features Crypton Home Fabric technology. The fabric is stain and liquid resistant so that you can relax, entertain, play with kiddos and pets all over your furniture without having to be too precious with your furniture.
What is one of the most important takeaways you have learned since starting your own business(s)?
I joke at times that I’m a business hippie. It’s a joke stolen from Harold & Kumar movies, but at its core, it unearths two character traits of mine that are often in tension with one another. The tension between the business side of me and the hippie side of me has led to some pretty great stuff (like JUNGALOW, and my books) — but the challenge for me lies in how I find balance and react to the omnipresent stress while still maintaining the laid-back lifestyle that fits with who I am, and how I wanna be, and of course, leaves me meaningful time and space to spend with my family. As a businesswoman, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to allow myself to be heard, but also to be a good listener. This balance is so incredibly key.
It seems like you are very busy in your creative career, what are your tips for juggling it all?
My business has evolved SO MUCH over the past couple of years. I went from being a one-woman-show that I ran out of my living room, to moving into a proper office, and this year, hiring my first salaried employees. It was a (very!) big leap. Today, my one-woman show has grown into a real-live business that has three different branches: the blog/content creation arm, the design studio arm, and the online shop. Each of these branches involves a handful of different skills, tools and people to keep them running well. But, with a small team (there are four or five of us here on most days) one thing is certain — organization and communication are the keys to making everything run smoothly — especially when I’m on the road (which lately is pretty often).
How do you balance motherhood and business?
I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic and am pretty used to giving my all when it comes to my career — but now that I’m a parent I do feel like I need to keep some reserves of creativity, of that time of discovery and exploration that I’m used to dedicating to work, for Ida. I also do not involve my daughter in my career. She doesn’t ever appear in sponsored content nor does she “model” for me. Having hard lines and boundaries for this kind of thing makes it easy to decide which opportunities to pursue, and which to turn down.
What are you most excited about right now?
This summer was a busy one with several launches (a furniture line with Living Spaces, our own stationery and gifting collection, and a boho athleisure capsule collection with Beyond Yoga)! We are showing new collections (case goods with Selamat, bedding, rugs, and pillows with Loloi) at Highpoint Market this fall. While I am excited about all of those things, having The New Bohemians Handbook: Come home to Good Vibes come out October 10th, was the cherry on top!
What advice do you have for someone looking to get into the pattern & printmaking world?
My advice would be to create a lot and share a lot. Being prolific is so key. Instagram is such an amazing tool for being discovered and discovering. People may copy you, but you can’t let that stifle you. In today’s marketplace you need to be prolific enough that if you start being copied, you have plenty more designs where that came from. Just keep creating.
Are there any current interior design trends you are loving or that you could live without?
I’m loving the resurgence of terracotta and natural materials. I could do without all white everything, it feels too sterile to me.
What are your favorite go-to houseplants to purchase for your home?
Spider plants, pothos, sansevieria, and zz plants are some of my favorites that are easy to take care of.
What is your favorite quote or life mantra?
Do you have any tips or tricks for parents looking to design their home with small children in mind?
Get my fabrics! Ha! No, but really, getting pieces that you don’t have to be precious about will help you feel you can really live in your home. Don’t just design for your kids — design WITH your kids. Getting their input will help to make them feel involved and care about your family home.
What are your goals and dreams for the future?
I would love to have another child. We’ve been working at that for a while but it hasn’t happened for us yet. I would also like to grow Jungalow into a large brand with concept shops and all kinds of products for the home. I hope to have a business that inspires, empowers, and sprinkles good vibes all over the world! Also, I really want a jacuzzi. 😉
BY Kate Arends - October 31, 2017
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.