We’ve long been big fans of boho chic designer Justina Blakeney, who is founder and director of Jungalow. (We love her so much, in fact, that we had her create two of our cover images, back in spring 2015 and winter 2016.) Girl crushes aside, Blakeney is known the world over for her effortlessly vibrant style that celebrates the human/nature connection. So who better to tap to get some much-needed advice for creating an at-home paradise? Here, she shares her top tips for making our homes more inviting and inspiring.
We’ve been spending a lot more time in our homes lately. Why is it important to create an at-home paradise?
Home is our refuge and sanctuary from the outside world. Now it is also our office, classroom, gym and where we spend all of our time. It’s so important to keep our homes feeling fresh, inspired, comfortable and cozy because our homes have become our whole world. With all the uncertainty of the global health and safety situation, we need to have a place where we can feel safe and held. Our homes have the ability to give us that gift. If we are surrounded by things we find beautiful, that motivate and energize us, and that bring us comfort, we can keep our spirits up and keep moving forward.
What are three simple ways we can make our homes more inviting and comfortable?
Start with a good cleaning session. Wipe down surfaces (this is a good habit to get into anyway considering our new reality), vacuum and sweep all the debris away so you are starting with a fresh palette. As you are cleaning, take stock of what is piling up where, what is just sitting around collecting dust but not necessarily being utilized, and anything that you are missing. This helps to make design decisions that harness more flow in the home. For example, if you notice that shoes naturally gather up near the door, consider placing a large decorative basket there to catch them.
Lighting is really important for creating a welcoming vibe. During the daytime, harness all the natural light you can! Clean those windows to maximize the light flowing in. If you don’t get a ton of natural light, you can use the reflective power of mirrors placed across from a window or other source of natural light to amplify what you do get. Natural light is so good for the mind, body and soul. Plus, your plants will thank you! In the evenings, you can light a few candles or, if you have a backyard, string some lights up and enjoy their glow.
Comfy and cozy soft goods such as a heavy quilt, a fuzzy throw or a pillow that your head just melts into are really important elements in a welcoming home. Some homes can be beautiful but feel a little over-designed or sterile. Making sure that you are surrounded by things you find beautiful and that are meant to be touched, used and integrated into your everyday life is what gives homes that welcoming, inviting, lived-in feeling.
Jungalow is based on the idea that good design increases quality of life. Can you talk more about that?
We are all the designers of our own lives. We are constantly making “design” decisions: What color shirt do I feel like wearing today? What organizations do I want to support during this time? How do I want to cultivate healthier habits? All of these decisions shape the way we live. I think that if we get really intentional about the world we want to live in, what we want it to look and feel like, and what we can do to make our little slice of that world consistent with that vision, we can increase not only our own quality of life but also that of the people around us. For example, we started composting at my house for environmental reasons, but once we started using the soil we made from composting to grow our herbs and vegetables in the backyard, it turned into a fun family project. We even get some “volunteer” veggies that we didn’t plant once in a while. Good design always surprises you with a little bit of unexpected magic!
You recently wrote an essay for the Los Angeles Times about the magic of plants. How are they keeping you sane right now?
Tending to my houseplants is a really grounding experience at a time when everything seems uncertain. They still need all the same things to thrive: light, water and attention. It’s a good reminder that keeping up some of my own self-care routines during this strange time is a way to stay balanced and keep moving forward — even if I don’t know what the future holds.
At a time when many of us are working from home, how can we design our homes to foster creativity and productivity?
If you can, try to create dedicated spaces for the different things you are doing. For example, I created a work-from-home office space in my casita so that my family knows when I am there, I am in work mode. Or, if working out is something that is important to you, try rolling out a yoga mat in a corner of a room and make that your gym spot. It’s important to have these dedicated areas of our homes so that we know each space serves a purpose. Some spaces can be multipurpose. For example, your home office can also be a reading area (since you have a chair there anyway) or a crafting area (since you probably have a desk, table or other surface to work on in that space). Just make sure you are utilizing all the space you have for things you want (or need) to get done.
And finally, how are you staying inspired right now?
I am working on my next book (coming out in spring of 2021), and in it, there are quite a few photos from my travels over the years. Even though we are all staying home these days, I’m very grateful for the memories and photos I have from the travels I’ve been on with my family.
I am also spending as much time as I can outside in our yard. The weather in Los Angeles is generally mild and sunny, so if I can sit outside among the trees and birds, and soak in the vitamin D, I feel refreshed, energized and more creative. I have also been doing #facethefoliage portraits with my daughter. We collect flowers, leaves, twigs, pretty much whatever is available in the yard, and create portraits out of them by intentionally placing them on a black or white piece of paper. It’s amazing to see what we can create from nature!