In Living Color | UCLA

A swift spin by way of her home office, nestled in mountain-check out Altadena on the outskirts of L.A., reveals every little thing you want to know about Justina Blakeney’s aesthetic. The place is a haven of lush textures, botanical prints and seafoam walls. Graphic patterns adorn a plush chair and pile rug there’s a fluffy shag throw, Aged Globe-type furnishings (courtesy of her grandparents) and lots of what Blakeney fondly calls her “plant toddlers.” “It’s a mix of goods that depict who I am as a particular person,” she says, pointing to watercolors perched on a nearby classic chair. “There’s an in general nurturing vibe that Jungalow attempts to deliver — the concept of dwelling a healthy everyday living in a healthy home.”

Jungalow is Blakeney’s 15-year-aged juggernaut inside design enterprise. What commenced as a wildly common decorating blog in her very small, plant-loaded bedroom is currently a multimillion-greenback empire that sits alongside Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia and Kelly Wearstler’s eponymous design and style conglomerate as 1 of the premier way of life brand names in the country. Blakeney is an completed interior designer, artist, bestselling writer and award-winning blogger (with 3 million social media followers). But initial and foremost, she is a design expert who would like to color your earth — literally. Her purview is entirely technicolor. It is an clever vibrancy that is at the main of Jungalow, which aims to deliver pleasure, serenity and color to living areas.

“It’s an expression of my eclectic design design,” she states. “But the coronary heart of it is about tapping into your own creativeness, bringing out who you are in your area.”

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Significantly of Blakeney’s inspiration is instantly connected to her multiethnic qualifications. Black and Jewish, she grew up in Berkeley, a metropolis recognised for embracing range. “In quite a few methods, growing up in a multicultural household gave me authorization to place things jointly in a way that’s not conventional,” she says. “Meals at our household could be matzo ball soup with collard greens on the side. That is just how we rolled. These have been loaded cultural activities that influenced me.”

The children of two professors, Blakeney and her two siblings (an more mature sister and more youthful brother) ended up uncovered to diverse cultures early on when the family moved to Switzerland for a calendar year while her mother and father taught at the Université de Fribourg. She later returned for another calendar year to dwell with a host family members. As a baby, Blakeney normally selected the brightest crayons in adolescence, she appreciated stitching, crafting, and decorating and redecorating her home.

Jenna Peffley

From remaining: Blakeney enjoying her lush outdoor room the lanai is a blend of rich hues and tropical accents, a hallmark of the Jungalow look.

Nevertheless, design and style wasn’t on her brain when she entered UCLA as a freshman in 1997. “I went in undecided,” she claims. “I was flirting with communications, tunes or performing.” That is, right until a new key — Earth Arts and Cultures — caught her eye. “It sounded like fun, and a thing that would include all the points I was fascinated in. UCLA was a great working experience for me,” she states. “One of the most essential factors that came out of UCLA was my circle of girlfriends, who I’m however most effective pals with nowadays.”

Caitlin Levin ’01 is one of all those good friends. The two bonded junior 12 months through a research overseas flight to Italy. “We have been a group of four eccentrically dressed American ladies who experienced all signed up for the same plan in Florence,” recollects Levin, now a New York-centered resourceful director. “Tina was carrying a outrageous leopard-print hat. She was fearless.”

Blakeney credits UCLA with offering an academic experience that resonated with her culturally as well as artistically. “I don’t forget using a course about liminal place, which is an in-in between or transitional area. I feel possibly simply because of my biracial identification, I’ve generally felt like I have lived in this in-involving area,” she states. “I really related with this plan. It made me assume about how I can create my personal liminal room. UCLA uncovered me to these sorts of frameworks.”

Soon after faculty, Blakeney used 6 decades in Italy right before shifting to New York, the place she shared an apartment with Levin. There, Levin received to witness her friend’s maximalism and tenacity in whole impact. “‘Justina Blakeney,’ the brand name, began here,” Levin claims. “Tina would be up into the wee hours typing away, doing the job on the weblog. Blogs weren’t definitely a issue but, but she persevered. Her creative imagination is ginormous.”

“Once I was in the position the place I started out finding invited to do activities or being showcased in textbooks, I would check with, ‘Who else is currently being included?’ It’s all about making an attempt to pull in individuals who are not necessarily invited to the desk.”

In all those days of the early aughts, Jungalow — the title combines jungle (a nod to Blakeney’s adore of wild botanicals) and bungalow (her first solo apartment) — wasn’t even a completely fashioned concept but fairly a enthusiasm venture assembled from an assortment of botanical printed décor (wallpaper, pillows, materials) that Blakeney had collected through her travels. She labored as a freelance prop stylist to shell out the charges, and in 2008 she moved back to L.A., where by she had a gig as Do-it-yourself editor for Venus Zine, a life-style journal. The Jungalow web site was born a calendar year later the evolution from blog to complete-blown model would get a further decade. Blakeney’s significant break came when she turned a prompt person on Pinterest: “It felt like overnight I went from acquiring a couple thousand followers to about a million.”

All through her journey, Blakeney has stayed true to her design aesthetic. “It’s not just about building s— appear fairly,” she states, smiling. “I want my work to have meaning. It has to be significant not only in my life, but in the lives of others, also.”

Judging by her achievement, it is. For the earlier 15 decades, persons have been clamoring for Jungalow’s wildly preferred styles. All a few of her books have been bestsellers, and she’s in the middle of a multiyear partnership with Goal, which signed on as a retailer in 2020 and nowadays sells her Opalhouse line, which contains everything from bedding and wallpaper to paintings and furnishings. “A collaboration with Target is one thing we talked about as a objective in a single of our 1st conferences,” suggests Kimberly Muroff M.B.A. ’09, Blakeney’s licensing agent given that 2014, “so it was a very pleased second for equally of us when that partnership eventually arrived jointly.”

Blakeney enjoys the artistic liberty the Concentrate on alliance presents her. “I am like a kid in a candy store,” she admits. “The genuinely fantastic matter about the partnership is it enables me to close my eyes and visualize things, then wake up a couple months afterwards with them in hand.”

Blakeney’s model resonates on a mass-retail degree due to the fact of its authenticity, Muroff claims. “Almost all the types for our accredited partnerships arrive straight from her possess arms. There is normally a story behind them.”

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Blakeney is absolutely nothing if not a living testament to her design aesthetic. A statuesque 5’10”, she favors boho glam printed dresses and sports a absolutely free-flowing, waistline-size curly mane. Her infectious chuckle is as significantly a element of her signature as her placing appear. She throws out colorfully descriptive phrases like “jungalicious deliciousness,” with a penchant for combining phrases to produce her possess vernacular. (She admits to “loving a fantastic portmanteau.”)

All of it helps make Blakeney a really exclusive existence in the planet of interior layout. Her aim now is to make herself a little bit much less special, generating prospects for other persons of shade to prosper in the shelter space. “I imagine representation is a substantial piece of it. Coming up in the structure blog globe about 2014, 2015, it was a really homogenous location,” she says. “Once I was in the posture the place I began finding invited to do occasions or currently being featured in textbooks, I would request, ‘Who else is being involved?’ or ‘Are you fascinated in creating this challenge a lot more diverse?’ Then I would provide tips. It is all about striving to pull in folks who are not necessarily invited to the desk.” When she feels a shift towards more inclusivity, there’s nevertheless work to be completed: “There’s undoubtedly a lot more visibility, but we need to have to continue to keep obtaining candid discussions to make absolutely sure illustration is there in diverse means.”

As the style and design earth evolves, Blakeney carries on to, as effectively. “Justina is artful in how she employs her platform,” states Shannon Randall M.P.P. ’03, a near buddy and fellow Bruin who now is effective as a writer and imaginative director in L.A. “She donates sales to nonprofits, auctions her art, crops trees to assistance the natural environment. She’s generous in spirit.” Through their 20-year friendship, Randall has been awed by Blakeney’s multifaceted artistry. “It’s unusual to meet up with someone who can do almost everything perfectly,” she claims. “She will make daring moves and retains evolving. It is truly inspiring.”

Courtesy of Jungalow

From still left: Blakeney’s eye-popping powder room vegetation in clay pots and hues of comforting tangerine make the kitchen a culinary oasis.

Muroff, who aided Blakeney broker some of her most prosperous licensing offers, would like that evolution to include an global growth. “Justina has fans and followers all around the world,” she states. “Right now, she connects with them via social media and her books, but they are unquestionably hungry for her certified products as perfectly.”

Turning her brand name worldwide appeals to Blakeney on a private level, far too. “I would like to dwell abroad with my relatives at some point,” she muses. “It was something that created my upbringing incredibly distinctive, so I would want that for my daughter.” In the meantime, she’s joyful living the Southern California life-style with her partner, writer Jason Rosencrantz, and their 10-yr-old daughter Ida — her most loved collaborators. “If I look like an extraordinary author, it is simply because of him. Jason is a excellent editor and a massive element of my writing course of action,” she states. Young Ida has concepts, as well. “She’s just so current to every little thing that I am undertaking,” Blakeney says. “She has a minimal clipboard with thoughts for my new ebook that I have basically integrated.”

Together with the forthcoming e book, at this time in the offing are a new rug assortment, a new bedding line and a lot more paintings. Whilst Blakeney owns up to obtaining a little bit of “‘can’t end, won’t stop’ electricity,” she suggests she’s searching ahead to embracing a slower-paced upcoming, which includes paying much more time at her new residence. The place is, of class, unapologetically Jungalicious — with terracotta- and teal-colored walls, palm tree-embroidered draperies and pencil rattan sofas. Unique tchotchkes (South African fertility dolls, Moroccan pottery) from Blakeney’s extensive sojourns can be uncovered in just about every room, alongside with an array of crops that would rival any botanical yard. “I wished to develop an indoor-outdoor really feel,” she suggests. “Each area transports you to someplace unique.

“I’m making an attempt to get pleasure from what I’ve created and not be on a hamster wheel so a lot,” she says. “I’ve bought an unbelievable daughter and husband. I’ve received a bunch of collections in the performs and a new household. It is all a blessing. So what is the rush?”

Soon after years of proving herself in the extremely-competitive way of living room, Justina Blakeney has acquired a instant. This second. And as with every little thing else she’s carried out, she options to seize it.


Read much more from UCLA Magazine’s Winter 2023 issue.