Avid DIYer Mila Moraga-Holz had design sense instilled in her from a young age. Despite growing up in a remote part of South America, she learned the importance of creating beautiful spaces with the tools you are given—a talent and passion she documents through her design-and-lifestyle blog, Jest Café, and in the intricate renovation projects she takes on with her Los Angeles home.
Where did you grow up, and what was your childhood like? I grew up in the south of Chile, far away from the rest of the world, but I still felt connected to it by my parents. I was surrounded by nature and love. Growing up, my mother and father filled our home with beautiful things. They designed our house from the ground up, and they decorated it with art, plants, and fun furniture—specifically rustic and vintage items. Our home was carefully curated, which is not an easy thing to do when you live so remotely.
Have you always had a passion for expressing yourself creatively through design? Was this something you discovered at an early age? My mom always asked my opinion when decorating my bedroom, and she supported my crazy ideas, like painting all the walls different colors. I was also very interested in DIY projects and loved doing needlework, but I didn’t know of anybody who did these things for a living, so I didn’t pursue them as a career. My parents were design aficionados, but in their daily lives my mom owned a very successful cordonería, or sewing goods store, and my dad was a lawyer; my world was very, very small.
When did you first start doing your own interior design work? I have tried to bring something special to every room and home I’ve ever lived in, but I started to actively pursue my passion for design in 2015 when I started my blog, where I was inspired by other bloggers to do what I love.
How did you choose a name for your blog? Is there any significance behind it? I wanted a name that wasn’t too serious but that embodied a place where people could gather, be entertained, talk, and have fun. I want my readers to laugh and feel connected to a community.
I took the word “jest” from the book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, which talks about the importance of entertainment in our lives and how the pleasures we choose define who we are. In the end, though, I just liked how the words looked together.
Where or what do you turn to for inspiration for your projects? I subscribe to a lot of design magazines. Architectural Digest Spain is my favorite, but Instagram is another important resource. I have saved many images from these sources that help me come up with new ideas.
What is the first step you take when embarking on a new project for your home? Do you look at each room as a separate element or try to renovate the space more holistically? I start with an object or an image that inspires me, and I move on from there. I definitely keep all the rooms in mind when decorating a space, especially in my home because it is very small—nine hundred square feet—so the flow between rooms is particularly important. I like the door frames to act as windows to the next space, which means that the color palettes have to work together.
It’s easy to see your appreciation of color in your spaces. How do you go about selecting a color scheme? I get inspiration from nature, among other places. Any colors that work well together in nature will work well together in your home. I also pay attention to the shade of colors that I see throughout the day, and I try to use the ones that inspire me in my house. To narrow them down, I take a photo of a palette I like (a flower, for example) and I find matches in Photoshop or the Pantone app to come up with a final color scheme. As much as I like color, I like to keep a room within a palette and I try not to go too crazy with it.
How do you balance the color transition from one room to another? I think the best decision is an informed one. I take my time when choosing a color. First, I look at the possibilities in Photoshop, and then I go to the paint store to get a lot of sample patches that I stick to the wall. I live with them on the wall for days until I can narrow down the choices to three. I buy paint samples of those choices to paint large patches on the wall, and, again, I live with them for a few days. I pay attention to how the colors change throughout the day until I am sure which one is the right one.
How do you decide what furniture to incorporate into each room? My first thought when looking for furniture is the price. I have a budget, and the furniture I choose has to be within that budget. My next considerations are color and shape. I like statement furniture that is different, but my husband cares more about comfort, so I need to keep that in mind, too.
Tell us a bit about your most recent home project and your thought processes behind it: My most recent renovation was my kitchen, which I did when I was eight months pregnant. That room started with a color: berry. I knew I wanted the kitchen cabinets to be painted in a fun hue, and I ended up using a color inspired by Farrow & Ball’s Radicchio. After that, everything else followed. Creating a room—deciding on shapes, textures, colors, lighting, and tiles—is a wonderful process that I love. Seeing it all come together is so exciting! It gives me life. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.
What is most challenging about embarking on a new DIY or renovation project? The most challenging aspect is envisioning the end product. I am good at seeing the big picture, but mistakes happen, and sometimes I need to take detours. A good quality I have is that I make fast decisions and don’t dwell in self-doubt too much. Plus, when you have a small budget, there is not much room for different options or for making mistakes.
Why are plants and flowers important to you, and how do you feel they contribute to the look of a space? Plants were a major decoration item in my home when I was growing up, so I naturally incorporate them into my home as an adult. They warm up a room and make it come alive.
Did you conceptualize and paint the murals, like the ones in your kitchen and living room, yourself? How did you create them? The mural in my living room was inspired by a textile by Roberto Burle Marx, and I created the mural in the kitchen with Adobe Sketch.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up? I am working on an affordable and colorful home goods line. It’s taking a while to get it off the ground because I have three boys and designing is not my full-time job, but it will happen soon.