Hello everyone! I was thinking how I’ve not interviewed anyone lately and how I should change that so today I’m chatting with the radiant LA-based interiors stylist Justina Blakeney who describes herself as a, “Creative free bird, a traveler, a jungalow-dwelling mom, a thrifter, a stylist, a designer and a merry-maker”, which I think just about sums her up beautifully! This vibrant, lovely lady and her beautiful blog has grabbed my attention over the years so I had to pin her down for a little chit chat. If you don’t know her, Justina has styled for editorial and commercial clients mostly in the United States ranging from shelter mags to books and she has over 1.2 million followers on Pinterest. Her global boho style is colorful and approachable and today we’re going to get inside of her head a little and see what makes this creative soul tick – we’ll talk about decorating, blogging and some of her favorite things. Are you ready?
decor8: Thanks for visiting us on decor8 today, Justina! Where do you live and where were you raised?
JB: I live in my plantastic Jungalow on the east side of Los Angeles. I was raised in Berkeley, California but lived abroad in Switzerland for two years as a teen-ager, and then spent seven years in Florence, Italy in my 20’s.
decor8: How much do you think living in Southern California affects your decorating style?
JB: My style is an amalgamation of the many of the places I’ve been, and the people I’ve grown up around. Being raised in a multi-racial family that loved to travel, our home was always filled with objects from all over the world: Hamsas and African masks, Ethiopian paintings and Mexican artifacts, Indonesian shadow puppets and Mexican textiles. My grandparents have lived in Los Angeles my whole life and I remember coming to visit them as a little girl. I was always in awe of LA’s palm trees. My grandmother had a tropical printed wallpaper all over their Ladera Heighs home and it stuck with me. SoCal also has so many cultural enclaves–did you know that Little Armenia, Thai Town, Little Ethiopia and Korea Town are all within a few miles of each other in LA? Seeing all of these diverse cultures, eating incredibly diverse foods, shopping in ethnic grocery stores–it all fuels my imagination wildly. I think in those ways I think SoCal has had a profound affect on my style.
decor8: How far back can you trace your passion for decorating?
JB: My big sister (who also grew up to be a designer) and I used to play with doll-houses a lot. I even built my own doll house in a carpentry class when I was ten. Playing around with the dollhouse was my first experience with decorating. I remember saving random pieces of paper we’d glue them to the walls for wallpaper. We also used to spend a lot of time rearranging the furniture in our bedrooms and painting and repainting our rooms–even building our own furniture pieces. We were super lucky to have parents who let us do what ever we wanted with our rooms and we experimented all the time—I would steal items from the livingroom and put them in my bedroom. I painted murals on my walls. My mother would take me to the fabric store and I made my own curtains and pillows. I loved to sew from a very young age. I remember distinctly the first curtains I made were these crazy mirrored curtains—almost like a disco ball. Very ‘80’s. Ha!
decor8: When did you start your blog and why?
JB: I started blogging in 2008 when I moved back to the U.S. after living in Italy for seven years. I had a series of craft books out and started the blog initially as a way to connect with readers and share news and DIY projects. I got really into it and started blogging more and more until I realized how much I really loved it–and made a commitment to myself to blog everyday as part of my creative practice–you know, like going to the gym or something. That was in 2009 and I haven’t looked back since.
decor8: What else do you do for work outside of blogging?
JB: People hire me as a creative consultant–that can mean anything from decorating and styling to art-directing, shopping and branding. Sometimes I get paid to craft pretty stuff out of crazy materials, and curate art works and wares–which is pretty great too. Basically, if it’s creative, fun and fresh, chances are, I’m down to work on it! I’m pretty nerdy so I geek out a lot with graphics and stuff, but the hands-on stuff is what I find the most fun.
decor8: How many daily readers do you have on your blog?
JB: Give or take 4,000 readers a day and growing more and more every month!
decor8: Do you find that Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter helps you reach people beyond the blog?
JB: I use Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram pretty religiously. I have met so many incredible people through social media–people that came to my wedding, that came to meet my daughter in the first days of her life–people that I hope will continue to be a part of my life for years to come. I get so much from it. I’m reaching a lot of people–and a lot of people are reaching me, too! (I use facebook for family and old-school friends, mostly.)
decor8: How do you grow your blog?
JB: I try lots of different things out on my blog–and I’m not a very regimented person, so my blog is not very regimented either (besides that I post something at least five days a week.) After I try something new, I use analytics to see which features are the most popular and I do more of that until I get bored—then I switch it up. I do my best to present an honest picture of who I am and I think (and hope!) my candor and sense of humor resonate with people, and when people genuinely like something, or find something inspiring, they tend to share it. Personal posts are very popular on my blog, as are my DIY posts. My large audience on Pinterest has also helped grow my blog. Collaborations with other designers and bloggers, for example my “Like She Said” series, is another way I grow my audience.
decor8: Do you have any other website or social network where you are also talking about design?
JB: I have been lucky enough to have contributed to quite a few sites around the web — from West Elm, to Martha Stewart and many others in between. I also have guest curated for a number of sites on Pinterest including Etsy and 1st Dibs. I can also be found on Houzz and Luvocracy, Tumblr and on Skillshare, as well. (Yikes! I’m kind of a social media whore. Hahaha!)
decor8: There are lots of amazing design bloggers where you live… Do you meet up regularly to connect or share blogging tips?
JB: Good question. I am very lucky to live in a place so packed with so many talented bloggers and designers. I do have quite a few blogger friends that I love hanging out with: Dabito from Old Brand New, Jessica Comingore, Satsuki Shibuya, Bonnie Tsang, Victoria Vu, Jon Lo, Joy Cho—to name a few — but mostly when we hang we end up talking about a million other things besides sharing blogging tips! Joy was enormously helpful and supportive throughout my pregnancy and still is a great friend to get mommy tips from. Bonnie and I end up talking about food all of the time… and Dabito and I always end up doing impromptu photo shoots when we hang — it’s hilarious. I had lunch with Emily Henderson and met her for the first time a couple of months ago and she’s a firecracker — I just adore her.
decor8: Is there someone else that helps you with your blog, or only you?
JB: Right now I’m pretty much a one woman show, besides my enormously talented friend, Caitlin Levin, who sometimes pops by to share her simple and delicious recipes with us.
decor8: What are your favorite topics to blog?
I like to switch it up a lot, but topics that are thought provoking or even kinda hard to talk about are fun to me. I love hearing what my readers think about, say, body issues, lack of cultural diversity represented in the design-blog universe and breast-feeding. I also love to share new ways of looking at things, whether it’s an upcycled object, turning instagram photos into imaginary wallpaper or transforming a Enoki mushroom into a pendant lamp — I have fun getting deep, kooky and being unpredictable! Oh, and I LOVE plants!
decor8: What can people really learn from bloggers that they can’t get from a magazine?
JB: I love that I can be TOTALLY real on my blog. And I am. I write what I want—when I want. I think that this is so important because in mass media and culture articles and editorials pass through so many eye balls, so much editing and so much pressure from publishers and advertisers. Because of this, I think that at times the soul can get sucked from the stories. Fashion magazines time and time again share the same, trite, old, standards of beauty — I’m REALLY sick of that. On my blog I can take the status quo and turn it upside down and give a voice to a minority (be it curvy ladies, people of color, people in underserved communitires…etc.) without worrying (or caring) if I’m alienating a large demographic. Often times, I think that people read through magazines and by the time they’re through they dislike themselves and their lives more than when they opened the magazine—because they are not thin enough, not rich enough, not interesting enough…I hope that on my blog, readers leave feeling inspired, empowered and like they love themselves a bit more than when they first landed in my Jungalow.
decor8: How do you define great personal style?
JB: To me, great style is confident, bold and unapologetic. It’s surprising, thought provoking and groundbreaking — it’s the authentic manifestation on the outside, of what’s happening on the inside.
decor8: Name some creative people who really inspire you…
JB: I’m inspired so much by people who are skilled craftspeople along with having a great eye and a unique perspective. This month, I’m crushing on Ariele Alasko of Brooklyn to West, Adam Pogue and Todd Selby also does it for me pretty much every time.
decor8: You use a lot of bold color in your posts – why is color in the home important to you?
JB: Color invigorates me. It really sets the tone in a space. I believe that color has an effect on people’s moods and can make you feel clean and fresh, or alive, or tired or cheerful or uneasy…it’s so important to get the color right because of the profound effect that it can have on quality of life.
decor8: What are some current trends that you really love?
JB: I love what I love and it doesn’t change so much with the trends. My style is pretty consistent regardless of what’s trending… But if I had to name a few things that I love and also happen to be kinda all over the place right now, I’d say brass finishes, Moroccan rugs, kilim pillows and textile arts, especially macramé.
decor8: What are some trends that really annoy you?
JB: Is it OK to say that all trends annoy me? Haha. No, but seriously, it annoys me when living things become trendy — like a certain kind of dog. Somehow the word trend to me connotes a disposable culture and that is bothersome when speaking of inanimate objects, but down right wrong when speaking of living things.
5 Quick Q’s:
decor8: Favorite color combination right now?
JB: Kelly Green and Brass
decor8: Favorite room to decorate?
JB: It changes all of the time, but right now my baby daughter’s room
decor8: Accessory that must be present at all times?
JB: My iphone! (is that what you meant?) if you mean home stuff—than PLANTS!
decor8: On your playlist you’re listening to…
JB: Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Zap Mama, Fleetwood Mac.
decor8: Stores that you love online?
JB: Plumo, Furbish Studio, ethanollie, Totokaelo.
decor8: What is your ultimate career goal – where would you love to be in 5 years?
JB: Let me confess first that I am a VERY ambitious person, probably almost to the point of being a little nuts, but that having been said…. I look at Jonathan Adler’s amazing career (of potter, designer, author, and personality with a home furnishing collection and boutiques) and I think to myself… THAT is where I want to be with my stuff (but it may take more like ten years!) ha! If, in five years though, I am still able to support myself and my family, work from home and collaborate with other inspiring creatives, blog and continue consulting, I won’t complain.
Justina thank you for hanging out with me today on decor8! So happy to have you and enjoy the weekend!
Readers if you have ANY questions for our lovely friend, Justina, please ask in the comments section below.
(images: styling- justina blakeney)