Q&A: Instagram-friendly Jungalow design guru says home decor should make you feel good


If you’re looking for tips on how to create the Jungalow look (think color, pattern, plants) in Justina Blakeney ’s “The New Bohemians Handbook: Come Home to Good Vibes,” ($27.50, Abrams) you’ll have to first look inside yourself. For the popular designer and blogger’s follow-up to her bestselling “The New Bohemians” is less about how things look and more about how things feel.

Blakeney, 38, describes her new book as a guide to creating a home that works for you. “The first book was about how creative people live,” says Blakeney. “In this book, I’m hoping to guide readers. It’s not about achieving perfection but how families operate and dream. I want readers to tap into their self, their history and their personality to help them decorate as a reflection of who they are.” We chatted with her about the new book, good “vibes” and, yes, her 52 houseplants.

Why did you want to write this book?

I wrote my first book to inspire people. My goal with this book is to empower people. It has a lot to do with what is going on in the world and with me personally. I want us to think about wellness as well as home decor. There is such an intimate connection between quality of life and how you live inside your home.

So it’s not about how to create the “Jungalow” look?

That’s my vibe and personal style. I am trying to encourage others to find what lights them up. That’s how people should be decorating.

In the introduction to the book, you describe a client who wanted to attract more love into her life. She was successful. How did you achieve that?

I figured out the colors that made her feel good and incorporated symbols that signified love to her. But what I really think happened was her confidence level changed. All of a sudden she had a place that matched who she was and she felt good bringing people to her apartment. She felt a different level of confidence. For whatever reason, I am confident in my style and who I am. It’s a huge part of why I have been successful.

Under all the color, the pattern and the plants is this hope that people really can tap into who they are and radiate joy.

— Justina Blakeney

How do you create good “vibes”?

Everyone has different experiences and memories. I spent two years living in Switzerland, which were two of the most magical years of my life. Some things bring me back to that time and give me joy. How do I bring that into my home? Certain colors and smells. In my master bathroom I am surrounded by incredible blue hues. When I’m showering in there it transports me to Lake Tahoe. That is something that people miss out on when they use a decorator — experiences that make them feel a certain way.

You believe in the healing power of plants.

It’s so reinvigorating to bring plants into the home. Plants are more than decorative. It goes back to our well-being. Plants purify the air and are good for the soul. And there is that caring aspect. For me it’s 100% therapy, as I think it connects us to nature. I spend so much time in front of a screen, devoting a couple of hours a week to the ritual of composting, weeding, making cuttings is good for me.

You stress that you don’t need a lot of money to create an amazing home.

I design home furnishings, but you don’t need to buy new things to create an amazing environment. You can do it working with the stuff you already have. I emphasize moving things around and painting before you go out and spend a ton of money. You also don’t have to follow mores about typical room assignment. The master bedroom does not have to be the master bedroom. It can be the difference between having a good night’s sleep.

What do you want readers to take away from the book?

Make choices that reflect who you are. So many books are aspirational. I want people to work with what they’ve got. They will live better and have a better quality of life. That’s what my blog is about: Create an environment that has good vibes and makes you happy. Once you have that, you can spread it around. When someone is happy, it radiates. Under all the [“Jungalow”] color, pattern and plants is this hope that people really can tap into who they are and radiate joy.

Twitter: @lisaboone19

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