In her New York Times best-seller, The New Bohemians: Cool and Collected Homes, Justina Blakeney writes about her interpretation of the bohemian identity in the modern age. A modern bohemian finds inspiration in travel and collecting objects that reflect her personality. “The new bohemian is a master of layers,” she writes.
Blakeney absolutely embodies this persona. The blogger, designer and stylist grew up in Berkeley, raised by a Jewish mother and an African-American/Cherokee father. Her lifestyle blog, the Jungalow, offers everything from design inspiration to DIY tutorials to recipes.
Blakeney built a personal brand around her eclectic style: bold patterns, bright colors and lots of greenery. The New Bohemians showcases her own home and the homes of other creatives in places such as Texas; Portland, Oregon; and L.A.
Blakeney spent some time in Florence, Italy, and New York but eventually settled in Frogtown with her daughter, Ida; husband, Jason; and “crazy black cat,” Luda. She finds inspiration in the city’s unique greenery: the desert aesthetic of succulents and cacti, the tropical plants “that are so cool and Dr. Seuss–y” and, of course, the palm trees. When she visited her grandparents as a child, she always remembered the trees.
“I just remember coming down on the airplane and seeing these streets dotted in palm trees,” Blakeney says. “And then driving to their house, which was in Ladera Heights, and looking out the window as a little kid and looking up at these massive palms that were so long and lean.”
As a kid, Blakeney says she had “a kind of resourcefulness” that made it easy for her to tap into her imagination to keep herself entertained. That creativity still fuels her practice, whether she’s designing wallpaper or creating her own projects. Case in point: her social media movement called Face the Foliage. Blakeney created faces made out of leaves and flowers and encourages others to do the same. Her designs for Moda Operandi — portraits of fashion icons such as Grace Jones — were featured in Vogue. Now Brooke and Vicki Rawlins from the online boutique Sister Golden manage Face the Foliage’s Instagram account, sharing photos for more than 20,000 followers.
“I start to get really bored and sometimes frustrated if my focus is only on one project.” —Justina Blakeney
Blakeney continually encourages creative experimentation. In The New Bohemians, she urges readers to try something new in their own spaces.
“Action is so important, and it’s something I talk about when I’m doing talks or workshops,” she says. “So many people are just afraid to try things and there’s just a lot of messaging going on in their heads about, like, ‘Oh, I can’t make a face out of leaves,’ or whatever it is. And to just kind of quiet that chitter-chatter that can go on that can be really stifling. Just try it out.”
While her business involves many different design-related projects (styling, designing furniture, sharing DIY ideas), Blakeney doesn’t confine herself to one label.
“For me it’s imperative to be working on many things at one time,” she says. “I start to get really bored and sometimes frustrated if my focus is only on one project. And I think that’s why I’ve been more successful as kind of a design personality or a design entrepreneur than actually an interior designer.”
When it comes to design, she believes in picking objects for personal meaning, not just aesthetic pleasure. But objects aren’t the most important element.
“It’s people that make a home,” Blakeney says. “It’s life that makes a home. And so for me that’s the people, pets, the plants, the things that have that life force and that life energy that you surround yourself with.”