"I like to encourage others to feel free and creative in their decor, to let loose and get wild."
For Justina Blakeney, the sea has an inherent creative energy. "It's an amazing source of inspiration for me," says the Southern California designer, who has become a force of nature all her own with her uninhibited style and penchant for palms, rich textiles, and vivid color. Her jungle-meets-boho brand began with a design studio and blog aptly named The Jungalow (which is also the name of her house), and morphed into the New York Times best-seller The New Bohemians, an A-list roster of clients ranging from Anthropologie to 1st Dibs, and mod collections of her own, including a line of shaggy rugs with Loloi and original wallpapers for Hygge & West.
What are your essential design elements?
JB: My approach is pretty simple: I'm all about color, pattern, and plants. I always make sure there's a healthy balance of those three things.
Which plants are big on inspiration for you?
JB: I love ponytail palms right now—they look like mini palms and have so much character. And lately I've been using agave pups in funky glass jars.
What does "bohemian" really mean in decorating?
JB: I think it's about storytelling using the pieces around you—for instance, collecting textiles made by interesting people for a Moroccan bazaar look. And I like to blend them with clean lines to make this idea more modern.
How has globe-trotting influenced your work?
JB: The places I've been inform so many of my ideas. I still have a clear memory of the colors and patterns of Otomi embroidery and encaustic tile in Mexico, where my family spent summers from the time I was very young. I think this comes through in my work.
Pictured: Blakeney's Nana wallpaper in Jungle
"I'm seeing palettes change from darker to more open, bright, and playful. People today are much more willing to add color and plenty of pattern." – Justina Blakeney
Pictured: Justina Blakeney's Vitamin C wallpaper goes big on graphic pattern and brilliant citrus hues.
"If you want to make something appear as if it's always been there, you have to know what the past looked and felt like."
From her start at the seminal design firm parish hadley to her hotel restoration projects in resort towns like Cape May and Sag Harbor, Colleen Bashaw's soulful northeastern sensibility puts guests right at ease. Yet as often as she draws upon history to inform her designs (she just finished a line of chintz for kravet to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the landmark congress hall hotel, which she designed), the result is a relaxed seaside sensibility that is very today.
How is designing for hotels different from designing a private home?
CB: In a hotel, it's easier to bring in lightness and fun because everyday, straight-laced needs aren't as critical. People just want to have a good time, and I want to make them come back. I think that creates a really happy design opportunity.
How do you infuse a strong sense of place?
CB: Before designing Baron's Cove in Sag Harbor, for example, I picked up local history books and read up on the town. I spent time at the local whaling museum, and I'd go on neighborhood walks to familiarize myself with the architecture.
What are some historic elements that will always have a place in seaside interiors?
CB: Classic pieces I love are Windsor chairs and vintage crackled delft tiles. They are so nautical, and the perfect way to add historical context.
Pictured: To add whimsy to a centuries-old hotel lobby, Bashaw hung an oversize anchor made of starfish above a mantel outfitted with vintage tiles.
"There's so much variety in paint right now, and you see more and more high-gloss applications. I love this finish on front doors!" – Colleen Bashaw
Pictured: At Baron's Cove, Sag Harbor, Bashaw used high-gloss paints on the ceiling and trim.
"Islands are leisurely places—I always make sure my rooms reflect that ideal."
She's the design queen of the Caribbean. Like the island culture that surrounds her, Amanda Lindroth's approach is rooted in accessibility and ingenuity, historic traditions and laid-back beauty. Over the years, her Nassau- and Palm Beach–based firm has reimagined grand island estates, transformed a Bahamian barn into a clever beach cottage, and restored The Dunmore, an iconic 1960s resort. And she recently brought that same air of accessibility and ingenuity to the States—the South Florida native has opened a Palm Beach boutique filled with her favorite things, from batik-printed textiles and painted rattan seating to vintage wildlife art.
How do you define island style?
AL: Island houses are all about romance. Beds are well-dressed and beautiful—they have a resort quality to them. Kitchens are more old-fashioned, and living rooms have a connection to the outdoors. Great island style reminds you where you are, rather than distracting you from it.
What are your go-to island essentials?
AL: I stick to simple, old, and organic. I like sea grass rugs on the floor, grasscloth on the walls, and beautiful Bahamian straw work throughout. Old four-poster beds with eyelet and batik throw pillows fit in so well, as do watercolors and local artwork, hurricane lamps and candles.
Where do you look for new ideas?
AL: I have such a nostalgic love for island life, so I look to the past and freshen it up a bit. For instance, I'm doing a midcentury house now, so I'm looking to the genre of 1950s resort life, but going slightly edgier with more modern woven forms.
Pictured: At this Harbour Island, Bahamas, hideaway, Lindroth envisioned a front porch that would be sylish and fun. She found architecturally interesting pieces, like this vintage pagoda and Ficks Reed chairs, then soften them with draperies and greenery.
"I love the less stark version of modernism I'm seeing. It's rooted in the work of designers like David Hicks and Billy Baldwin, and full of color and happiness." – Amanda Lindroth
Pictured: Painted metal palms flank an entryway at Lindroth's home in Lyford Cay, Bahamas.
"You can always be a little bit daring."
He's New Jersey born and bred with an easygoing California spirit. Designer Joe Lucas's interiors dot both coasts, and his West Hollywood emporium, Harbinger, is filled with a masterful blend of SoCal-meets-New England furniture and wares, including those from his own line.
How do your bicoastal design sensibilities influence your decorating approach?
JL: Mixing East and West is the best part. Growing up along the Jersey Shore, we had shingle-style homes, wore bow ties and seersucker, and liked traditional rooms. In California, the vibe is less serious, the houses are stucco, and the furniture leans modern. Blending them is fun.
How far do you like to push the boundaries with your clients?
JL: I like to take them a little out of their comfort zones. I'm not going to put a chrome coffee table in a Cape Cod house, but I am going to offer options that aren't expected, like a raffia-wrapped table or a lacquered piece with antique brass details.
What other regions influence your work?
JL: I recently fell in love with a tiny beach town in Uruguay called Jose Ignacio. Since then, I've had dreams of buying some crazy old beat-up cottage there and renovating it in a fun and interesting way—I was so inspired along that coast.
Pictured: Hermosa Beach, California, kitchen designed by Joe Lucas.
"I'm focusing on things that are handmade: wallpaper, woven furniture and accessories, local ceramics and pottery. One-of-a-kind pieces are so important; they tell a story." – Joe Lucas
Pictured: The hand-carved chain-link mirror, Block Island sofa, and acrylic side table are from Lucas's Harbinger collection.
"When I walk into a room for the first time, I think, "How can I make this more interesting?"
As adept at uptown formality as she is with breezy cottage comfort, Charleston-based Cortney Bishop weaves a common thread into all her designs: "I draw energy from my clients' families and their passions," she explains. Her approach is based in creativity, individuality, and "plenty of risk," says Bishop: "Over the years, I've just learned to trust my gut and listen to that voice that says, ‘Go for it.’”
You're brilliant at mixing pattern, texture and color. What's your secret?
CB: I think it's familial. My mother was a designer, and my grandmother made beautiful clothing as an embroiderer and beader. They both had an amazing eye. But my mother's taste was always refined, and she was careful about everything—I went the opposite direction. I'm drawn to bright colors, different wood finishes, mixing metals. I threw out all the rules.
What are some of the rules you break?
CB: Well, I've never been matchy-matchy. I'll likely go for 12 shades of blue rather than just two. And I love to play small patterns on top of one another—I think that keeps things exciting.
Do you have a starter piece?
CB: I have a huge passion for rugs. I view them like art, so I'll use them as my inspiration for the entire space, or even the whole house. I recently did a coastal home and began with an old Serapi—these are Middle Eastern rugs that have a looser tribal pattern to them, not as busy as their Persian counterparts. The relaxed feel allowed us to loosen up the formality of the house but still lend sophistication.
What makes a home truly coastal?
CB: A great coastal home should feel like it's part of your personality. So don't let existing architecture constrict you—work within the walls to make it reflective of the ease and vitality you feel at the beach.
Pictured: "In a small bungalow, an all-white home makes you happy and clear-headed without feeling monotonous," Bishop says about this Sullivan's Island beach bungalow, adding that it also provides a blank canvas for layering pattern, texture, and color.
"The organic modern look has real staying power—mixing different species of woods with textures, patterns, and vibrant colors. It feels layered, youthful, and truly livable." – Cortney Bishop
Pictured: In this Sullivan's Island kitchen, Bishop warmed up a Carrara marble wall and counters with an oak island and painted shiplap.