A conversation with interior designer and Jungalow founder Justina Blakeney
LA-based Justina Blakeney is a multitalent, to be sure: designer, artist, entrepreneur, and the author of several books, including New York Times bestseller The New Bohemians: Cool and Collected Homes. Throughout her design work, Blakeney blends bold color and pattern choices with plenty of cues from nature to create inviting spaces and objects—all the while providing her dedicated audience with plenty of inspiration and tips for creating their own personal, layered, and free-spirited environments.
Blakeney is also, notably, founder and creative director of Jungalow, a home decor brand dedicated to “bringing positive energy into spaces through color, pattern, texture, and form.” The brand began back in 2009 as a blog, written in Blakeney’s “tiny, plant-filled living room,” and has since grown into a major lifestyle brand with a dedicated following. Blakeney’s collections often feature her original, hand-painted artwork, and span furniture, textiles, accessories, and more.
We spoke with Blakeney about her intuitive approach, her own creative path, and how good design can improve the quality of one’s life.
What first sparked your interest in the arts?
For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about the arts. I love the experience of imagining something in my head and then bringing it to life. It feels like magic.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer? Was there a particular moment or encounter that made that career path clear to you?
My first foray into design was in fashion. I took a fashion design course while living in Italy after my studies at UCLA. I loved mixing and matching colors and patterns and telling a story through clothing, embodying different characters, or expressing different moods through fashion. After working in the Italian fashion industry for a number of years, my interest in design expanded. I began to write about design for various publications and began to learn more about graphic design, surface pattern design, product design, and interiors. While there was not a particular moment that made my career path clear, I’ve always known that I wanted to work in a field that allowed me to explore and exercise all of my creative interests.
What was one early project in your career that made you think, I’m definitely doing what I’m supposed to be doing?
Once I started my blog and my designs began to resonate with people all over the world, I received feedback that my designs made people feel free to step into who they are. I think that feedback was very powerful and it motivated me to keep on going.
How do you describe your design approach or aesthetic generally?
My design approach is very experimental and intuitive. I try a lot of things out and see how it makes me feel. When it sings, it sings! I describe my aesthetic as fun, vibrant, conceptual, decorative, exuberant, lush, and jungalicous!
What do you most hope people take away from encounters with the spaces you create?
I hope that people feel like my spaces spark their imaginations, take them somewhere, and make them feel comfortable, relaxed, at home, free, and inspired.
How would you describe the spirit of Jungalow? And what inspired you to start the business?
I’d describe the spirit of Jungalow as wild, optimistic, fun, cozy, open, and curious. I was inspired to start the business because I wanted to help people bring good vibes home, and help folks create a home that may reflect their personalities, their lives, their families, and their dreams.
How can our homes reinforce healthy intentions or lifestyles?
I believe that healthy lifestyles are built around habits and that homes can be set up to support healthy habits. A dedicated corner for meditation in my home supports my meditation practice. A game table in our home encourages playing games with each other as opposed to watching television. A home that’s set up for intentional living can support dreams and help to make the dreams come to life.
Over the years, you’ve worked on projects in a variety of contexts. Are there some consistent steps you always take when embarking on any new project?
I almost always thumb through my collection of vintage books and magazines while brainstorming for new projects. I think it’s important to get offline in the initial design phase.
What’s one big lesson you’ve learned on your professional path so far?
I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned—and am still learning—is that it’s all about the journey. The process is everything. Savor it. Soak it up. The goal posts are always moving, so really enjoying and getting satisfaction from the journey is so incredibly important.
What’s your best advice for interior designers just starting out?
Find your voice. Hone it. Cultivate it. Uncover what part of the job that you TRULY love, and do more of THAT. Keep doing THAT. Follow THAT.