what's in your toolbox

What’s In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney

by Annie Werbler

What's In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney, on Design*Sponge

We’ve been thirstily poring over the organic, chic interiors of The New Bohemians, Cool and Collected Homes since its release earlier this year (even before it hit The New York Times best seller list). Its author Justina Blakeney, also a designer, artist, and the blogger behind The Jungalow, shares her tools for seeking inspiration in Los Angeles and achieving growth over perfection — in both work and relationships. She strongly believes that creativity, not wealth, is what makes an amazing home. Justina currently lives in a lush Los Angeles “jungalow” with her husband and young daughter, and is working on the first Justina Blakeney Home collections of everything interiors, from wallpaper to furniture. —Annie

Photography by Justina Blakeney

What’s in your toolbox?

Sharpies and Pigma Micron pens, watercolors and watercolor paper, my computer, iPhone, scanner and printer, scissors, graph paper, sticky notes, and an inordinate amount of kilim pillows and other beautiful tchotchkes for styling.

What's In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney, on Design*Sponge

Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”

Full, engaged, grateful, energetic, like a boss, lucky, passionate, excited, gangster, creative.

What's In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney, on Design*Sponge

What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

Textiles and Ornaments of India by The Museum of Modern Art (1965), a back-issue of The World of Interiors magazine, my book The New Bohemians, Cool and Collected Homes, The Book of Palms (Taschen), and The Women Painters of of Mithila by Yves Vequaud.

What's In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney, on Design*Sponge

How do you keep yourself organized?

With a whole lotta help from my assistant, my husband, Google calendar, and sticky notes. I’m super messy. I go through moments of getting into it and organizing everything — like when I’m PMSing I tend to clean out my purse, desk drawers, and I may even vacuum — but otherwise I’m kind of a hot mess.

What's In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney, on Design*Sponge

If you could have one superhero or magical power, what would it be and why?

Do you remember that TV show Out of This World from the 80s? Evie could stop time by touching her two index fingers together. Yeah. That would be pretty legit.

What's In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney, on Design*Sponge

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?

The best advice I ever received was from my mother. She said to pick your partners (in friendship, marriage, work, etc.) by people that you can grow together with. I think about that every time I’m hiring someone new for the business, and I thought a lot about that before Jason and I got married. A healthy relationship is one that supports growth.

Advice I’d offer a young artist? Don’t strive for perfection, strive for growth. I see so many creatives being stifled by perfectionism, but the idea of perfection is so subjective and ephemeral. Don’t get stifled by thinking about things too much or by trying to make every last detail just so. Do good work, and then keep on making and doing… You’ll get better the more you create, not the more you think about it.

What's In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney, on Design*Sponge

How do you combat creative blocks?

I get outdoors, or go to museums, weekends away, or even a walk around the block can help to clear the air. If I’m feeling stifled on one project, I put it down and work on something else — then I come back to it later.

What's In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney, on Design*Sponge

Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?

Instagram is an obvious one since it’s always at my fingertips. I love traveling virtually through IG and checking out (through hashtags) how people live in different pockets of the world. The Strand in NYC is still one of my favorite bookstores. It’s so vast and I always find esoteric and really inspiring books there that I didn’t even know I was looking for. I was just talking to Jason (my husband) about how I wished someone would open a Strand here in L.A. I also love to visit both art and history museums. Flea markets provide a whole lotta inspiration, too — and if I can’t make time to get to a market, shopping on eBay and Etsy is fun and inspiring, too. As far as straight-up brick-and-mortars go, here in L.A. I love the selections at Lawson Fenning, Grain in Atwater Village, Shopclass in Highland Park, and Badia Design in NoHo.

What's In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney, on Design*Sponge

If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?

I’ve long since wanted to visit the home studio of Frida Kahlo. Everything about her — from her work to her home, the way she dressed, her sense of color, and her personal style — is magical and always inspiring.

What's In Your Toolbox: Justina Blakeney, on Design*Sponge

What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?

I have a soft spot for Stevie Wonder. I’ll add some Sade, Astrud Gilberto, Amy Winehouse, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and Hall & Oates to the mix, too.


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  • I LOVE what she says about perfection. Balancing your creative spirit with trying to present professional work can be such a tug of war sometimes. Not only can it drain your creative juices, but it can drain your pocketbook too. I try to do what I can with where I am at today. So glad to find Justina has those same values.

  • Aw, thanks boo, the fotos are themselves inspirational, and a walk past botanicals is all ways good for the juices. I’m also working on perfection being the enemy of the good. I love that: you don’t get better thinking about it, you get better by doing it…üben üben, üben.

  • “You get better the more you create, not the more you think about it.” Best advice I’ve heard in a long time!

  • I once heard Ringo Starr interviewed, he said he is a drummer that is what he does, he just keeps on drumming, not about being famous, just about drumming, heard the same from Woody Allen, whether you like him or not, he said he makes movies, some good some bad, but he just keeps making movies, that is what he does, I love that you said the same thing, just keep creating, if you truly want to do something don’t worry about being perfect, just keep following your passion, I totally agree, great advice!

  • it makes me happy to see justina and peeks of her studio! j – much appreciation for the advice you share here. keeping those words close <3

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