My Favorite Room: Justina Blakeney brings the world into her kitchen

Minimalist hues of gray and white might be the trend these days, but for designer Justina Blakeney, brighter and bolder is always better.


Minimalist hues of gray and white might be the trend these days, but for designer Justina Blakeney, brighter and bolder is always better.

Step inside the kitchen of her 1,200-square-foot Frogtown home and you’re surrounded by a backsplash wall of teal Moroccan glazed terra cotta tiles, epitomizing the lush vibe that she espouses on her popular lifestyle blog, the Jungalow.

“The green, the shininess, the handmade quality and earthiness embodies who I am as a designer,” said the author of “The New Bohemians,” whose colorful products can be found at Anthropologie, Target and Living Spaces.


The kitchen is where Blakeney, 38, and her family — husband Jason, 5-year-old daughter Ida and cat Luda — spend most of their time. It also serves a playful purpose.

“Pretty much every evening, me and my daughter have a dance party in the kitchen, getting down to Paul Simon or Bob Marley,” Blakeney said. “That’s going to be the memory for me of this house.”

What makes the kitchen so special?

This is the first room in the house that we completely gutted and remodeled from the ground up; it’s the first space I’ve actually ever done that to. And the experience of seeing a dream realized. Now it’s the hub of our home.

What was the aesthetic inspiration?


I love to take influences from lots of different cultures and kind of layer them on top of each other. The floor tile is cement, which they use in Mexico a lot, and there’s a handmade, rustic vibe to a lot of other parts of our kitchen like the floating shelves.

What did the kitchen used to look like?

When we first moved into this house, it was a railroad kitchen. There was a big laundry room in the center, and the kitchen was off to the side. We opened up the whole thing.

How long did the kitchen renovation take?

It took about two months to do the whole thing from the ground up. We had to redo the electricity and the water because we moved everything.

Any decorative advice on brightening and opening up small spaces?

Don’t just think about how big your windows are or where they’re placed, but also how they’re covered. It can make such an enormous difference if you keep sheer covers on your windows to give the illusion of making a space feel bigger and actually airier.

Another tried-and-true trick is to add mirrors to create the feeling of an expansion. Light colors and reflective things, like adding metallics, can also help.

What gives this room the warm, free-spirited vibe?

Color. And any time you introduce anything handmade into your home, you’re going to add a feeling of warmth. If everything in your house is from a big-box store, it doesn’t have that soul. We’ve got things from Ikea, but mix the old and new and handmade, and a couple favorite designer pieces.

What is it about nature and plants that inspires you so much?

There is nothing that can breathe life into a home the way plants do. They’re living sculptures.

What is your design process when approaching a new space?

Each room has its own journey, depending on both practical or functional matters. Instead of thinking about what exactly you want it to look like, think about the activities that you want to do in the space and the feelings you want to have and design from there. You can change the way you live and act to fit a home. Or you can fit your home to the way you live and act. I believe in the latter.


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