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Designer and founder Justina Blakeney has lived a life: There was that time while living in Italy that she worked as a TV host for a local Tuscany-based show. There was also that time she and her sister, Faith, opened up a boutique in Florence selling handbags and vintage T-shirts—then a novel concept for Florentines (hey—it was the early 2000s!). And those were just the early years.
By the time Blakeney turned 30 she could speak five languages and had already spent time in Barcelona, Madrid, and Córdoba, Spain; Buenos Aires; Copenhagen; Marrakech, Morocco; Jerusalem; and Jakarta, Indonesia.
Though in 2009 it was the sunny, open-air lifestyle of the West Coast that lured the Berkeley native back home. After spending a decade amid cobblestone and concrete, she moved into a 1920s bungalow-style home in Los Angeles. Blakeney was relieved to be immersed in so much greenery outside her window.
It was also the first time she lived alone and could create a space that purely reflected her taste. So she filled her home with wild patterns, lush textures, and kaleidoscopic colors. And it was that winding path that ultimately inspired her to create her blog, Jungalow—a portmanteau fusing the words bungalow and jungle. Years later, the experience morphed from a blog into a full-on brand, an endeavor she bootstrapped herself.
Now a wife, mother, and New York Times best-selling author, Blakeney has recently released her third book. In Decorate Wild she offers readers a mix of memoir with a heavy helping of inspiration to DIY their own homes in an authentic way. “The last two books were really outward-focused, and this book is really inward-focused,” she says to Glamour.
Whatever your taste—modern, rustic, boho—there’s a global message to Blakeney’s design approach. Our homes should be “a place for creating and growing.” And speaking of growing, she also recommends we all go hard on the plants (the brand is named Jungalow, after all).
For Glamour’s Doing the Work column, entrepreneur and interiors maven Justina Blakeney gives us a glimpse into her career, how we can all be a bit happier at work, and the work essentials she just can't live without.
Glamour: What time do you get up?
Justina Blakeney: I sort of wake up with the sun. So that means around a quarter to six.
What’s your typical morning routine?
Each day looks a little different. When I get up early, I have an outdoor shower, so I'll just go rinse off. The sun is rising and I have a moment to myself. Then I'll go into the kitchen and make a coffee or tea and check my emails and see what's happening in the world. I check the news, my stocks, all that stuff. Then my family usually starts to wake up around 7:30 a.m., at which time we usually have breakfast together.
Are you a breakfast person?
I am! I'm an all-meals type of person. I am not one to skip a meal [laughs]. I enjoy breakfast; I love having eggs. We had eggs this morning with kale and mushrooms. I like having a hearty breakfast.
Your first childhood dream job?
I wanted to be a teacher when I was little. I had a first-grade teacher named Alison who incorporated a lot of music in her lessons. She had a guitar, and I just thought that was so cool. I remember feeling inspired by how she incorporated art and music into everything.
Your first actual job?
My first actual job, not counting working for my parents—they had a school for mentally disabled teenage girls, so I grew up in that environment and I worked there as a kid—was a retail job at Express. I felt so fancy in my blazer.
Can you tell me about a time you experienced rejection in your career?
Early in my career, I signed my first big licensing deal with a retailer that I was excited to work with and developed the entire line. After nine months of development, they decided to drop the line and it never came out. The worst part was that the contract was written in a way that made it so that they didn't have to pay me until the purchase orders were written. And because they never wrote any purchase orders. I didn't get paid…. I cried real big-girl tears.
What advice would you give to someone starting a business?
I bootstrapped Jungalow. I never took outside funding. I still own 100% of the business. I'm not shitting on anybody else's way of doing it—if you want to go get venture capital, I totally respect that! But for me, in bootstrapping my business, I worked out of my house until I just was at my wit's end and could not work from home anymore. It’s the same with how I've grown my team and the entire business: put everything into it until you can't go forward with the resources that you have. Then you take that leap. Growing steady and slow and allocating resources as they become necessary has worked well for me.
What’s a job people might be surprised you’ve had?
I lived in Italy for seven years, and in my first year of living there, I was singing a lot. There was an open mic at this club that I went to, and [one night] I was invited to come onstage. I started singing, and—long story short—a guy who was a producer was in the audience, who happened to be blind, asked the woman he was there with to set up an appointment to meet me. I didn't speak Italian, but I spoke Spanish, so I could kind of understand a little. He produced a local Tuscan TV series, showing in different clubs in the Tuscan area. I became the host of this Italian TV show and I did it for, like, six months.
If you weren’t in your current career, what would you be doing?
I’d be a writer. I guess that’s kind of cheating because I do write! I love storytelling; it’s such a powerful medium.
People would be happier at work if…
I'm working on this myself, but getting outside more. Just taking breaks where you get up from your desk and actually physically go outside and interact with nature, even if it's just for a few minutes. I think that is just so revitalizing and it can totally change your vibe.
Five work essentials you can’t live without:
Foot massager: This is a new essential, but I now have a foot massager. My foot massager is life. I'm one of those people who loves a good two-for-one, so getting a massage while I'm having a staff meeting...yes, please!
Pinboard: A Pinboard is one of my essentials because I just love having visual cues. Visual inspiration around me is so important.
A window: A window in my office is a major thing for me, and being able to open it and get fresh air and some sunlight on my face during the day. I love that. It's essential for my well-being.
Plants: Having plants either near my desk, on my desk, or outside my window is also important. It reminds me that we are part of nature and to go outside and take breaks.
$180.00, West Elm
A Moroccan basket: I'm a messy person! So I have a Moroccan-style basket on my desk, which is so needed to cull all the little knickknack things that end up piling up on my desk. I can just throw it all in there, cover it up with a beautiful lid, and all of a sudden, I'm one of those neat home decor people.
$75.00, West Elm
Marquita K. Harris is the interim culture director for Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @marquita_harris_.
Originally Appeared on Glamour