Designer, author, speaker, brand builder, artist — even collaborator on a sneaker line (more on that in a minute) — there’s not much that Justina Blakeney can’t do. She’s the author of The New York Times bestselling book The New Bohemians as well as the founder of her own distinctive brand, Jungalow. She developed a wildly popular line of colorful rugs with Loloi (which we can barely keep in stock at Chairish). She has an instinctive eye for color, texture, and pattern play. And she loves plants… a lot.
Get to know more about this creative powerhouse below, and be sure to shop her collection of Chairish favorites, including her always-chic rugs, pillows, and more.
On Rug Design…
Your Loloi rugs are beautiful. They’re full of color, texture, and are bold in design. I’m sure you love all of your rugs, but do you have any favorites that are listed on Chairish?
Feroz is my favorite because it was inspired by a Tibetan prayer rug I found at a flea market. When I got home, I researched the history of these prayer rugs and learned how they artfully tell stories about Tibetan culture through Buddhist symbolism. They are usually pretty small in size and quite expensive. I wanted to reimagine a version of these beautiful rugs, while still paying homage to their Tibetan roots. My interpretation is a larger scale rug made of 100% wool and is a fanciful depiction of a tiger — an animal that I love!
Rug design is much more complex than most people realize. Can you give any insight into what goes into designing a new piece, from finding inspiration to seeing it come to life?
My design process for rugs usually involves a few layers of development. I start off with inspiration images. These can be of a color palette, a texture, a shape — anything that piques my interest and gets my creative juices flowing. Then, I usually sketch out a design by hand. I love putting pen to paper and thinking about scale and shape in a tactile way. Next, I share my inspiration images and initial sketches with the design team at Loloi and together, we talk construction. During this phase of the process, the design usually evolves a bit based on construction capabilities. Once we have something that works both creatively and technically, we go to production and the design comes to life.
Are there any artists or design movements that most influence the way you design your rugs?
I approach designing rugs the same way I approach anything I create — I am inspired by images, colors, textures, and elements that can come from anywhere — whether it is a particular artist, design movement, or a book, song… even a piece of jewelry. For example, there are elements of Cubism that have influenced my watercolor art. I like that Cubism breaks the rules. I also gravitate toward the incorporation of natural elements, like water lilies, flower stems and buds, tendrils, and insect wings from the Art Nouveau movement because I draw so much inspiration from nature when I am designing anything.
What’s one thing people should remember when shopping for a rug for their spaces? Are there any rug “rules of thumb” buyers should think about?
Think about what you use the room for. If it’s a high-traffic area like an entryway, make sure the rug you select can withstand a lot of wear and tear and doesn’t have a super high pile. But, if the rug is going in your bedroom or a baby’s room, where you will be walking barefoot or sitting on the rug, opt for something soft and plush that will feel good to the touch.
On Her Creative Pursuits & Collaborations…
The new book is called Jungalow: Decorate Wild and is a deep dive into my design ethos and the elements that have come to define Jungalow: nature, color, patterns, print, and the magic that results from mixing them all together! It will be out in Spring 2021.
You have more than 50 plants in your home and have stated that they keep you sane. If you were to advise someone on a few of your favorite plants to have, which three would they be and why?
- ZZ plants are great because they are very low maintenance and have beautiful, shiny, deep green leaves that are quite hearty. They don’t require a lot of light so they can add some life to a room that may not have big windows or a ton of natural light. I’ve had my ZZ plant for about 13 years now and it is still going strong!
- A viney philodendron adds a very jungalicious element to any room. You can train the vines to crawl along a window sill or up the wall by using push pins to rest the vines on. They tell you when they need a drink by drooping their leaves, so the risk of underwatering them is pretty low.
- Growing up to six feet tall, dracenas put up with a lot of neglect before showing signs of stress. They’ll tolerate low light, low humidity, and a missed watering every now and then. If you’re ready to add a tree to your plant collection, the dracena is a great one to start with.
You did a collaboration with Keds with a design you created. Can you tell us about that?
Keds is an iconic brand. I love that Keds has always been a vanguard in women’s footwear but also stayed true to its classic styles. I was really excited when they asked me to design a collection of footwear that told a story of power. This collection represents the power of coming together, lifting each other up, and expressing our vision for the world. Unity among sisters, people from all walks of life, and between humans and Mother Earth can change the world!
Are there any other companies you’d like to work with or product types you’d like to create?
I recently dipped my toes into the apparel world with our We Wild collection at Jungalow. It was a fun new challenge to design clothing so I may explore collaborations in the fashion world.
What’s something that surprises people about you?
I have a knack for languages and can speak quite a few of them! Italian, Swiss German, and Spanish.
What do you find most compelling about Chairish?
I love that I can find one-of-a-kind vintage items and more contemporary pieces on Chairish. I tend to layer a mix of vintage and new pieces in my designs and being able to find both in one place is a big plus!
Are there any dream vintage or antique “gets” you wish you could have? What’s a dream piece for you?
An original painting by Henri Rousseau.
What are some of your favorite pieces on Chairish now?
- Triangle Console
- Scandinavian-Inspired Geometric Rug
- Francis Lembo Mirror
- Ralph Lauren Daybed
- Brass Palm Tree Lamp
- Waterfall Bench Covered in Donghia Velvet
Some Design Favorites…
Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:
Lots of plants!
Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:
Favorite decorating cheap thrill:
Favorite paint color:
Favorite decor piece in your home:
Art. My whole family loves to paint so we have our artwork sprinkled throughout the house.
Favorite designer from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:
Design destination every decor lover should visit at least once:
Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received:
Don’t strive for perfection; strive for growth.
Favorite vacation destination (next time you travel becomes an option):
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:
Wildflowers in a ceramic vessel
Favorite style icon:
Prince and Frida Kahlo
Lead Image of Justina Blakeney courtesy of Loloi Rugs.