Oh Joy

career day / a prop stylist...
6 Jan 2016

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

Ruby recently starting paying a lot of attention to this one little corner of her room and set it up with a little chair, some pillows, and some of her favorite toys. I heard her saying that she was "styling" it and asked Coco to please not mess it up. I had no idea that she even knew the word "styling" but must have heard me say it from work. So, for our newest Career Day, I decided to take her to visit my friend—Justina Blakeney—a self-taught designer, prop stylist, author, interior designer, and all around ambassador of bohemian style, to get a lesson on what styling really is and to learn from one of the best around...

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

What’s your background and when/why did you start The Jungalow?

I started my design studio and blog back in 2009, only it wasn't yet called The Jungalow.  My business and blog have both gone through many names and an even longer (and ever morphing) list of services. My professional background is also quite multifaceted. I graduated from UCLA with a degree in World Arts and Cultures and then I moved to Italy and went to fashion design school. I worked for various companies as an assistant, as a designer and even as a translator before starting my first business with my sister which was a small design boutique in Florence, Italy, where we lived. We had the boutique for three years and I learned a ton about merchandising, styling and buying. It was really fun but not very lucrative.

We closed the boutique after having success with a book we had written about how to cut up a T-shirt. Originally we self-published the book, but it ended up getting get picked up by Random House and turned into four more books. I then moved to NYC and started working as a freelancer. To make ends meet I did graphic design and styling on the side (self-taught in both arenas) and was the DIY editor for a magazine called Venus Zine. I moved back to L.A. in 2008 and that's when I decided to launch my company for real. I got a studio space, started my blog and got more and more passionate about home decor. From there I started getting requests to design homes, so I said yes (even though I had zero experience designing homes!) Little by little I was able to build up my design portfolio and my blog, which brought me to where I am today. Now The Jungalow has two branches -- the blog/social media branch where we share daily design ideas with a boho bend, and the product branch of the business Justina Blakeney Home.  

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

When did you know you had something good? I think I only really really knew I was on to something when my latest book, The New Bohemians, Cool and Collected Homes, made it to the New York Times bestseller list. I was like. Holy sh*t, this is legit. 

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

You do so many things (from styling to designing to writing), how do you decide what to focus on? I prioritize everything by deadline, but if I'm in the mood to paint, write, or if I have a new idea, I stop what I'm doing and indulge myself--it's when I'm feeling most inspired to do something that it comes out the best. 

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

Also, you’re self-taught in a lot of these areas. What would you recommend to those who want to do something that they didn’t go to school for? Honestly, I just tell people to start doing it! Sure you can get an internship, or you could assist with someone, but if you want to, say, be a prop stylist, just start shooting pretty vignettes. I started getting requests to design homes because people saw the way I designed my own home and loved it. Plus, you get better by doing not by watching. Practice practice practice. Once you get good, add those hashtags. People will find you.  

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

You teach people how to style (even little ones like Ruby!), what are your key tips for what you look for/do when prop styling?

1. PlacementSpacing and placement is the difference between something looking collected or cluttered. Repetition of items allows the eye to rest. Place items in groupings to create mini collections and don’t forget about the power of THREEs--things grouped together in odd numbers tend to look more balanced. Diversity is good. When placing items together, also think of diversity of shape and size. If you have a lot of square shapes and harsh angles, add something round or amorphous to create balance. Create visual interest with contrasting shapes and use repetition to give the eye a break.

2. Color / When styling with multiple colors it’s important to stick to a color palate. Define your palette in advance and choose items according to that palette. Include analogous colors, but also contrasting colors for interesting pops.

3. Pattern mixing / Mixing pattern is not as hard as people think. In my book, mix pattern as much as you like so long as the colors work well together and the patterns are different enough from each other. Also, mix in some solids for balance.

4. BlingAdd something shiny to a vignette, it draws in the eye and looks chic! It’s like jewelry for a room.

5. Botanicals / The best and easiest way to breath life into a space is with the addition of plants and flowers. 

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

How many hours do you work each day/week? Do you take off on the weekends? Too many! I work from about 8AM until about 5:30PM and then again after my daughter goes to bed from about 8PM to about 11PM. I try and take weekends off for the most part. 

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

What is your dream for your brand? I look at designers like Jonathan Adler, Kelly Wearstler, (and YOU, Joy!!) and aspire to build something similar for myself -- a brand that provides both services and beautiful, well made products to the masses. My hope is to help people bring more color, pattern, plants and creativity into their lives and make their lives better (even in my small way) in the process. I also look towards brands like Tom's Shoes and Warby Parker, who have amazing 'social good' components to their businesses and I aspire to that paradigm as well. 

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

Best part about your job? Freedom to follow my heart.

Worst part about your job? I never know when the next paycheck is coming. It's stressful. 

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

One thing that has happened in your career that you never expected? Gosh. All of it. I've always been very ambitious and passionate but I feel so blessed to have come as far as I have. This job takes me to so many amazing places and to such incredible, creative people. With each new project, I learn something new and something happens that I would have never imagined possible. 

One thing that has happened in your career that you completely expected and had hoped for? I hope for all of it, I work towards all of it -- really hard, but I don't expect any of it. 

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

Career Day with Justina Blakeney

Thank you, Justina for having us! Here's the final "face-themed" scene that Ruby styled thanks to her lesson from Justina. She might need to work more on her maximalist style but it's a great start ;)

{Photos by Casey Brodley}



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