What Is The Bohemian Design Style?

How to get 'boho chic' vibes in your new home

Boho chic interior. Photo courtesy of Unsplash/dallinhassard.

Individuality is key to the bohemian style. Photo courtesy of Unsplash/dallinhassard.

When you hear the word “bohemian” do you think of hippies, counter-culturalists, the beat generation, or something else altogether? Well known for its impact in fashion and decor, bohemian style has long been representative of free-spirited, unconventional and artistic types.

The idea behind bohemian decor is a home full of life, culture and inspiration. Simon Bennett, owner of Land of Rugs in Derby, England, says the bohemian vibe is “inviting” with a “come-on-in-and-make-yourself-comfortable feel.” For Bennett, a bohemian home is a place where you can “walk in and immediately join a friendly conversation.”

Overall, bohemian (or boho or bohéme) interiors are casual and anything but minimal. People love bohemian decor because it’s free-wheeling, comfortable and easy on the pocketbook. Boho chic is simply a more put-together bohemian look. Many elements of boho chic became trends in the 1960s, while others date much further back.

Evolution of an Iconic Style

The style’s name comes from the French word bohémien for nomadic person, typically referring to the Romani.

The original bohemians starting appearing not long after the French Revolution and consisted mainly of artistic types who found themselves leading a more nomadic lifestyle to earn a living. Likened to the Romani who were at the time believed to come from the Eastern European region of Bohemia, these wandering artists were dubbed “bohemians” as was their individualistic lifestyle and dress.

How to Give Your Home a Bohemian or Boho Chic Look

“No boho space is the same, and that is part of its charm. It should uniquely reflect the person living in the space,” says Rebecca West, a Seattle-based interior designer and author of the blog and book of the same name, Happy Starts at Home. There are, of course, some broad areas of overlap when it comes to boho spaces.

Choose Lots of Rich Colors

Any color of the rainbow is possible in a Bohemian room, but rich colors and earth tones are especially common. Try saffron, olive green, deep blue or magenta. Boho allows for plenty of color layering and lets you mix warm and cool colors. For longevity, stick to neutrals for large furniture. Then surround with bright or jewel tones.

Layer Textures and Patterns

Natural textures are key and include plenty of woven materials like hemp, sisal, knits and rattan. In boho spaces, walls are often covered with handmade tapestries like batiks, macrame weaves and more. Worn fabrics are welcome. Kilim rugs and fringed rugs look great in a boho chic interior. Patterns can also be mixed and matched. Floral, paisley, stripes or ethnic prints — anything goes.

Mix Old and New Furniture

Boho furnishings typically include a few second-hand or vintage pieces. Whether old or new, your pieces must be plush, fluffy and inviting. The overall vibe should be casual and unassuming — think floor cushions, footstools and poufs; an old weathered curio cabinet; and a pile of oversized pillows in the corner as a reading nook.

Keep it Cozy

Bohemian lighting is ambient and understated, like you would see in a downstairs speakeasy or a funky little coffee shop. West says lighting should be “warm, cozy and layered.” Floor lamps, table lamps or string lights let you vary and layer your lighting options.

Express Yourself with Accessories

Family heirlooms, handmade pieces, unique art and accessories from your travels are quintessential to any boho living space. Cultural accents may have a regional theme, or not. Here, your book or music collection may serve as both decor and conversation piece.

Include Boho Twists

The style has seen plenty of twists throughout its ebbs and flows of popularity, and these are two favorites:

Make it modern. Use more white and reduce the “verging-on-clutter” aspect of traditional boho decor. Keep rich prints, patterns and natural elements, but make furniture sleeker and less worn looking.

Glam it up. To pump up the “chic” in boho chic, add metallic elements like a cool art deco or mid-century modern lamp. Keep furnishings sleek and streamlined, then add in a few textiles for flair.

Rebecca Rosenberg is an international digital media consultant and freelance writer.

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