The look is unmistakable: bright colors, tempting textures and exuberant prints, all layered with lush greenery. Justina Blakeney’s new bohemian style is the stuff of designer dreams and million-follower Instagram accounts. Founded as a blog in 2009, her Jungalow® brand now includes studio, website, online marketplace and big-name collaborations, plus she’s a best-selling author and devoted wife and parent.
Of course, we all know that multitasking is an essential survival skill when you’re building a business. But which tasks should you prioritize, and what’s the key to staying on track? Even as her success grows, this influential entrepreneur remains down-to-earth and connected with the fundamentals of her brand. That’s the real trick.
How does Justina do it? Let’s find out.
It all started with a blog. What first inspired you to share your words, images and inspiration online?
I dreamed of working at a magazine when I was in high school and college. Once blogs came to be and I understood what they were, starting my own blog seemed like a perfect opportunity to combine my loves of design, photography, writing and sharing. It started as a way to get ideas out of my head and out into the world—I had no idea that it would be the launch pad for my career.
Digital platforms are booming in the design industry. Which digital tools are essential to help you manage your business?
My iPhone and its recording devices for stills, voice and video, are super-essential. Beyond that, I depend heavily on Google’s G Suite, Evernote and QuickBooks to keep the business side of my company operating seamlessly.
I love using the Google Photos app, because I currently have nearly 100,000 images on my phone. The app allows me to search by location and topic—such as green, kitchen, flowers, etc.—to instantly find the images I need. It's a huge time-saver. Also, my blog is hosted on WordPress, I use Squarespace for my portfolio page and my online shop uses the platform Shopify. They all make my job a whole lot easier.
How do you view the impact of social media on shaping trends?
I think that social media is changing the pace with which trends take shape and spread through communities. Trends can go viral and be considered ‘in’ then ‘out’ very quickly, which is fun and exciting. It can also be difficult, especially in the home décor industry where design, development and production times are much longer than in, say, fashion. On the other hand, social media is giving a voice to designers and artists who come from communities that are not normally seen as much in the design world, and therefore anyone—not just big stores or television personalities—can start trends.
How do you balance virtual connectivity with staying present in real life?
It's tough. I reckon I'm not that great at it.
You have expressed frustration with the traditional designer-client relationship. What's broken and how can it be fixed?
I can't speak for other designers, but in my experience, I had a hard time feeling like I could truly express myself and my creativity through the lens of clients. Even though I absolutely love home décor, the traditional designer-client relationship was not for me. I love painting and designing surface patterns on furniture and other products, and that allows me the creative freedom I crave while also helping folks bring style and design into their homes through a different avenue.
Your partnerships range from Loloi to Fabricut to Anthropologie and beyond. How do these collaborations come about, and how do they enhance your brand?
These partnerships come about in different ways. Sometimes, we approach the potential partner and sometimes they approach us. Because my style is so specific, I think that working with us can often fill a void and add depth to another brand’s range.
Working with partners allows me to focus on the creative and storytelling aspects of my job, while letting other talented folks head up production. This frees me up to think about the big picture and grow the brand in a holistic way. Without my partners, I'd likely have to focus on just one thing—producing only fabric or only rugs, for example—but this way, I have the bandwidth to experiment, collaborate and really spread my wings.
Travel informs your designs in so many ways. Which destinations have most inspired your new bohemian style?
I lived in Italy for seven years, and I learned a lot about modernism while living there. I also learned to adore maximalism. My apartment had frescoed ceilings! I grew up traveling to Mexico in the summer, and I love Mexican art, architecture and the colors and textures often found throughout the country. Other than that, Turkey and Morocco have probably influenced my aesthetic the most. I also plan to visit India for the first time next year, and I imagine it will be high on my list of spots that inspire.
What is the value of handmade products in creating spaces that stand out?
I love items with personality, where the hand of the maker is woven into the piece. These are the objects that have real soul, creating spaces that are perfectly imperfect.
How can designers and retailers incorporate your unique style into displays, product assortments and room designs, even if it’s not a core theme?
Don't be afraid to experiment with color and texture! Painting a wall in deep lime and adding plants is a low-cost backdrop for a boho-chic vignette. Balancing contrasting textures and including plenty of natural materials will also make your display sing. I offer tons of tips in both of my books, The New Bohemians and The New Bohemians Handbook. I recommend picking up a copy to get inspired!
What is your best advice for budding brand-builders?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Which two colors embody my brand?
- What signature scents, plants or foods go with my brand?
- Which three stores do I envision selling my products?
- Which three adjectives describe my ideal customer?
- Which brand is an example of where I see my brand in two years?
- Which brand is where I’d like to be in 10 years?
Answering these questions will give you clarity and help set the tone and the direction of your brand for years to come.
How do you see your brand and aesthetic evolving in the future?
Only time will tell, but there are a few things that will remain constant. My love for color, pattern and plants is unwavering, as are my love and respect of natural materials, my admiration for artisans and the handmade and the way my heart lights up when I see two things put together that don't traditionally go together.