Social media's favorite maximalist renovates her family's wee Los Angeles bungalow into a bold expression of her signature "jungalow" style.
AMY PREISER: You've fit more pattern into 1,050 square feet than most could in twice the space.
JUSTINA BLAKENEY: I love pattern. It immediately creates a statement and relieves the need to add a lot of stuff. Look at the bedroom — besides the bed, we literally have no other furniture in there, but the patterned wallpaper and rug make it bold.
You do have that one tree.
Right, but plants fall into the same category as patterns. Adding a plant instantly breathes life into a space, especially a small room. When people ask my advice on decorating an awkward corner, I always say, "Why don't you just put a humongous plant right there?"
You should have that printed on a T-shirt: "Put a plant on it!"
I've yet to find a design conundrum that can't be solved with plants. That's why they're such a big part of the Jungalow look.
Back up — can you explain the Jungalow to the not yet initiated?
is the name of my daily blog and multidisciplinary studio. We design prints and products, like the wallpapers, rugs and pillows you see in my home, as well as an upcoming furniture collection with Selamat. The word comes from a combination of bungalow and jungle — it's all about coziness and vivaciousness. If I had to boil it down, Jungalow style really consists of four ingredients: color, pattern, plants and global finds.
It also feels family-friendly.
Yes, and the compact size and layout of this particular house helps. The kitchen is right in the middle of everything — it's the heart of our home. You'll often find my husband in here cooking, me working at the nearby dining room table and my daughter playing in the adjacent living room. The proximity creates a triangle of conversation between the three of us. I've lived in bigger houses, but this one feels just right for our family.
What was most important to you in remodeling your kitchen?
When we moved in, the house had a galley kitchen, but we worked with our contractor to demolish and rebuild. We went bold with the tiles and added a window behind the sink, which makes the space feel airy and light. We love looking outside while washing dishes. And talk about bang for your buck: The window cost about the same as an expensive chair, and I'll take a window over a chair any day.
The dining room is equally eye-catching.
We designed it around a set of iconic Verner Panton chairs I inherited from my grandparents. I grew up eating bagels and lox on those chairs! I have so many memories of them. Now, they're part of the modern Jungalow vibe.
You seem fearless when it comes to mixing styles.
The secret is color. I use it to tie disparate things together that might not jell otherwise. For instance, in the dining room, the white chairs are balanced by the white console-slash-secretary desk. I work with white a lot because I love contrast — when it comes to layering textiles, it's easy to go overboard. White helps a space feel relaxed.
What inspired the blue room?
You mean Bluhemia? That is our little lounge, where we watch TV and wind down. Since it's on the other side of the house from my daughter's room, we don't have to worry about waking her up when we're in there. It also doubles as a guest bedroom, thanks to the sectional sofa that comfortably sleeps two.
Was it challenging to find furniture that works in these petite rooms?
In small spaces, it helps to seek out furnishings that not only fit the space, but also maximize its function. If I can't find the perfect piece, I'll have it made — like our bed, which has built-in night tables and a headboard that rests seamlessly on the wall, so not an inch is wasted.
No wonder you didn't need any other furniture!
The first night we slept in our new bedroom, between the sparkling glow of the pendant lights and the gold of the wallpaper, we felt like we were staying in a fancy hotel. Since there's no stuff — no dresser with a ton of photos, and no tchotchkes, which I usually have — it's a respite from the chaos of daily life.
But wait, where did all of your stuff go?
I took a deep breath and let it go. We sold a few things and stored the rest in the garage, where each item is waiting for its turn to be swapped into the house. Like our family, our home is continually changing. If you come back here in a month, it's going to look different.
This story originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Natipernavigare.