Justina Blakeney: The Jungalow


Words:
Chelsea Sonksen

Photography:
Michelle Mishina

Justina Blakeney has started a Jungalicious design craze, inspiring people to decorate their homes wildly, with layers of pattern, color, textiles, and plants.

Her journey began when she moved to Florence after college and opened a tiny shop called Compai with her sister. The shop became a sort of clubhouse where ex-pats could gather to eat pasta, drink wine, and hang out. While running the shop, the sisters decided to write a book: a manual for how to cut up your t-shirt. They self-published it, but a year later Random House picked it up for $75,000.

Then, in 2008, after a brief stint in New York, Justina moved to LA, a city she deeply resonated with. She made a commitment to blog daily and started doing interior design. When she became a Suggested User on Pinterest, her blog audience blew up, and really, the rest is history. Recently, Justina published her first solo book, The New Bohemians, and designed a number of products ranging from wallpaper to bedding.

What was your professional highlight of the past year, and why was it particularly meaningful for you?

As we began remodeling our little Jungalow by the river, it was pretty amazing to be able to use products I designed (rugs, pillows, wallpaper, etc.) in my own home. But seeing them, via Instagram, in homes all over the world has really been a highlight! 

What’s the best part of your day?

Bath time with my daughter, Ida, and combing her hair before bed. 

What is the single most important thing you have learned over the years?

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Was there a turning point in your career? If so, what was it?

When my book became a New York Times bestseller. I felt legitimized as a writer and as a design authority. The term ‘blogger’ has a lot of baggage, so all of a sudden being a New York Times bestselling author felt very legit.

What is one thing about you that most people don’t know?

I bite my nails. 

What 3 books have influenced you most profoundly?

The New Bohemians - This isn't just a plug for my own book! Really, going from being known as a blogger to getting a publishing deal helped me launch new aspects of my business.

The Women Painters of Mithila by Yves Vequaud - This beautiful book brought to light the work women have been creating all over the world and opened up my eyes to different art forms. It got me exploring Indian art in a more profound way, and I found a lot of inspiration for my first wallpaper line through their work. 

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel - As my first introduction to magical realism, this book had a significant impact on me. Magical realism affects the way I think about my brand and influences how I want people to feel when they look at my work. 

What advice do you have for young women who want to start their own business or pursue the same path as you?

Don't wait for anyone to give you permission or help you start your own thing—just go for it. Look inward before you look outward for answers. And be sure you really love what you're doing.