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Honouring Black History Month by featuring Black makers and designers — especially local
For the record, this column features Justina Blakeney as a way to recognize Black History Month, which exists to educate people about the historical oppression of Black people, and to celebrate Black thinkers, creators, workers, and activists.
Also for the record, I’d be delighted to share the work of this internationally-known, immensely talented woman any month, week, or day of the year.
In the world of contemporary decor, Justina Blakeney is a quadruple threat — an artist, designer, best-selling author, and brand founder. As the latter, she began Jungalow in 2008 as a home-based blog.
Less than 20 years later, Jungalow’s range encompasses hand-woven wool rugs, indoor/outdoor textiles, bath and bed lines, art, wallpaper, tableware, planters, and lots of fun accessories.
Now also a sought-after partner by big brands, Ms. Blakeney recently collaborated with luxury bath manufacturer Kohler to create a bathroom using a tub and sink in Peachblow, an original Kohler pastel from 1934.
To striking effect, she added dark green and black tiles, graceful Deco lines, and a mix of matte black and burnished metal fixtures.
Jungalow’s aesthetic is accessible; there have been collections for Target, while in Canada pieces can be found on Wayfair, Etsy, Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond , which carries its highly graphic shower curtains, bedding sets, throws, pillows, and tapestry — all of which carry Jungalow’s exuberant signature style.
Blakeney works from the premise that colour evokes and spreads joy, that pattern adds design spice, and that plants can perform magic on the mood of a room.
It’s a style often referred to as Bohemian, with deftly-layered harmonizing colours, assertive patterns, and organic details like living plants, feathers, stones, shells — all mixed with memorabilia and objects curated to tell a personal story.
These are spaces may seem just a touch wild at first glance, with so many attractive visual elements vying for attention. But it’s a testament to Ms. Blakeney’s skill how quickly the eye settles on her spaces, and a thoughtfully-composed design unfolds before it.
These are pleasant, layered rooms you won’t easily tire of—like a best friend, they continue to surprise and charm over time. They combine comfortable and function, and are designed to complement the people and pets who inhabit them.
To start where I began, I plan to further honour Black History Month by featuring other Black makers and designers — especially local — in other months of the year.
Most recently, I came across the work of Daej Hamilton, a Toronto-based custom woodworker named by HGTV last year as “Black Canadian designer who should be on the radar.”
Their deceptively simple pieces are painstakingly constructed, and woodworking nerds will have a wonderful time looking at perfect joints and other immaculate details.
But these exceptional pieces — from coffee and work/eat tables to cabinets to bookcases to media consoles — also has a lovely sculptural quality — especially noticeable in the leggy stools and tables. Also true of bowls and cutting boards with extra wide juice channels. Such a talent.
I also plan to follow more closely Toronto’s BAND (Black Artists Network in Dialogue) to expand my knowledge of established and emerging Black makers, artists, and designers.
Their website shares information and news about relevant events, including a pop up shop that runs at their temporary location at 401 Richmond West, Suite LL108 until February 27 — Wednesday to Fridays, 12 noon to 6 p.m. To tie things up nicely, one of the makers will be Daej Hamilton.
Vicky Sanderson is the editor of Around the House. Check her out on Instagram@athwithvicky, Twitter ATHwithVicky and Facebook.com/ATHVicky.ca.