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 a freelance copywriter, digital media strategist and world traveler. After working in marketing for some of Austin’s most beloved brands, Rebecca started her own business and left Texas behind to travel the world. You can find her currently bumming around Europe. Often flying solo, she has visited over 35 countries and lived abroad in four. In addition to being a digital nomad, Rebecca is an avid hiker, design enthusiast and certified plant nerd. She speaks English, Spanish, German and Korean.