Bohemian Interiors: 10 Tips & Ideas

I once heard someone refer to the Bohemian interior style as “curated chaos” – what a fitting description! A true eclectic style, it is definitely not for the faint of heart or the minimalist!

The spirit of this style is about individual, artistic expression. If it is weird or bright it belongs in a Bohemian interior. The style is also informal and laid-back – a space to slouch and lounge. Nothing stiff, nothing symmetrical – and of course not a bare spot in sight.

If I had to encapsulate the Bohemian Style in only three words it would be: colour, pattern, layers.

I am quite in love with the more simplified “New Bohemian” style that we are seeing so much of lately. A fusion between Bohemian and Scandinavian interior styles, it is slightly less tatty, worn and cluttered. The best of both styles, it comprises out of a fresh, minimal Scandi backdrop with colourful and interesting pops of Bohemian aesthetic.

1The Global Influence:
As I mentioned in my previous post, A Bohemian History, the Romani “gypsies” are said to have originated somewhere in India before travelling to Europe in the 13th century. It is therefore not surprising that today’s Bohemian Style contains some Indian influences especially if you look at the use of colour and pattern.

The Hippie era provided a fresh injection of borrowed global culture and style. Marrakesh was seen as an exotic utopia. Moroccan influences soon found its way into the Bohemian style. Can you imagine a Bohemian interior without some Moroccan textiles, tiles or those metal hanging lanterns we so love?

The truth is many cultures and countries have contributed to today’s Bohemian Style. We often see elements of Victorian England, the Far East, the Native Americas, African Tribal design and Scandinavian and Slavic folk-art, to mention but a few.

Other than texture and textile, one of the most important (not to mention one of my favourite) aspects of a good Bohemian interior is colour.

When I think of a Bohemian space I think of a foundation consisting of warm, rich, earthy colour. Use jewel tones like deep purple, fuchsia pink, ruby red, flaming orange, emerald green and sapphire blue to liven up your space. Bright colour – heaps of it – and don’t be afraid to use different colours together.

If you are interested in creating a Bohemian interior with a clean and minimal Scandinavian undertone keep the backdrop of your room neutral or crisp white. Use your accessories and soft furnishings to incorporated colour and depth.

3Pattern & Texture:
Do you know what is better than having pattern in your Bohemian space? That’s easy! Having MORE pattern – pattern on top of pattern!

A mixture of paisley, suzani, ikat, folk prints, tribal designs even Victorian florals or eastern-inspired Chinoiserie patterns all work well together in a Bohemian interior.

Textural contrast adds another distinctive layer to a successful Bohemian-style room. Rough and worn, smooth and silky, woven and plush – it all contributes to the depth of the interior.

Try to incorporate loom-woven textiles and tapestries, velvet, chenille and silk, embroidered fabrics, crochet or macramé, worn leather, plush weaves or furs, and of course delicate sheers and voiles.

Floor? What floor? You’re not supposed to see any floor! Bohemian Style is all about the rugs. You can layer rugs of different designs and sizes over each other – think of a scene straight out of Arabian Nights.

Rugs that work well in a Bohemian interior are those of an ethnic persuasion – Kilim, Persian, Boucherouite, and even Native American designs like that of the Navajo are popular choices. You can also opt for a faded floral number or the trendy “reloaded” patchwork rugs.

Beni Ourain rugs are the ideal lighter option to compliment a more Scandinavian Bohemian interior and the plush pile adds loads of texture.

And why stick to the floor when you can hang them on your wall?

5Cushions, cushions, and more cushions:
As we mentioned above, several cultures have left their stamp on the Bohemian Style of today, many of them floor-lounging cultures. It is not surprising then that a large portion of a good Bohemian interior should consist of cushions. Piles of cushions!

Beds and lounge sofas should be scattered generously with cushions of every shape. Mix up the colour, pattern and texture of the cushions – no plains here. Cushions made from tapestry textile, like kilims, are an excellent choice. Use a combination of striped, small patterned and big, bold patterned cushions. Add a fluffy or tasselled cushion as contrast.

Oh, and don’t forget the floor cushions and poufs! Every living room should have at least two. Round Moroccan leather poufs are a must – and they come in every colour under the sun. Match it with a woven or chunky cable-knit floor cushion or pouf for extra depth.

6Art & Treasures:
I recently read an article on Apartment Therapy that mentioned that a true Bohemian room should appear as though it as has been “furnished over decades of globetrotting and a lifetime of scavenging.”

A Bohemian interior should be one big museum or gallery of your most treasured objects and art. Even in a more contemporary or Scandi version of this style, Bohemian is all about filling the empty space. More is more.

Create vignettes or groupings of one of a kind pieces – figurines, decorative boxes, beautiful ceramics, mismatched china, vintage bottles and other collectables – everything should tell a story.

Walls should be filled with interesting, and sometimes bizarre, art. Build a wall gallery of artwork, prints, maps, ornate frames and mirrors and curious decorative items.

I am not quite sure how indoor plants became such an important part of this style, but if your house is not part-jungle you are doing Bohemian wrong. Live plants are the ultimate accessory in any Boho room. Opt for a variety interesting and beautiful planters and containers – the pot is as much a feature as the plant.

Hanging planters are an excellent choice – group them together and hang them at different heights. Select plants with long dangling foliage, an attractive succulent like Burro’s Tail (Sedum morganianum) would make quite the statement.

The brave Bohemian can also consider introducing creeping plants into their interior. Add an interesting trellis for plants to climb or forgo the latter and let them grow all willy-nilly directly up your wall and ceiling.

Pop down to your local nursery to get some ideas on what plants are well suited to indoor environments. Ferns are often a go-to choice. For those not blessed with green fingers, try low maintenance succulents or self-contained terrariums.

8Furniture – Vintage & Antique:
The Bohemians of old didn’t own much furniture. The Romani are travelling folk – lugging around big pieces of furniture is not really an option. The Parisian Bohemians were poor artists; most of the furniture they owned were salvaged or inherited. Nothing matched.

Troll second-hand shops or flea markets for interesting vintage or antique finds. Like with your decorative items, choose furniture that tell a story. Carved or ornate furniture pieces with distinct Eastern or Middle Eastern influences are a popular choice.

Don’t hesitate to include furniture from multiple style eras. In a Bohemian interior a Victorian chair can easily sit next to a mid-century modern server or a distressed shabby chic chest of drawers.

Man, don’t you just love the idea of a comfy English sofa in worn jewel blue velvet? I sure do!

Oh, and by the way – if you are going to do a Bohemian bedroom – it’s floor bed, canopy bed or nothing!

Another element often associated with Bohemian interiors is billowy tent-like drapery and hangings.

Interesting curtains can be both decorative and functional, use a well-placed curtain to create privacy or to separate various areas. For the hippie-chic look use curtains or hangings made out of crochet, macramé, rags or patchwork. Feathered or beaded curtains are an obvious choice, but use with discretion.

Shawls, scarves and pashminas make superb throws and canopies – anything with fringes, tassels or lace can and should be used.

Cicero once said: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.

Well, aren’t all Bohemians well-read artists at heart? In my opinion, books are a vital Bohemian accessory. Bohemian homes should be artistic, intellectual sanctuaries. Untidy bookcases or informal stacks of books are a must.

Fill them with your favourites – poetry, interesting biographies, and books on art and design. Be sure to include a few novels by great Bohemians like Virginia Wolff or Hemingway. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo or Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray are excellent Bohemian reads.

I love this great quote by William Styron: “A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.

…What is more Bohemian than that?

What do you think? Can you do a New Bohemian interior?

A Bohemian History

I have always been an admirer of the semi-chaotic, colourful and creative Bohemian Style, both in fashion and interiors.

Evelyn NesbitRose and I recently had an interesting discussion on the origins of today’s Bohemian Style. We both wondered why, in contemporary usage, the term “Bohemian” pertains to people who live unconventional, usually artistic or intellectual, lives.

Bohémien was a common (yet inaccurate) term for the Romani or “Gypsy” population of France. They were mistakenly thought to have reached France via Bohemia when in fact they are said to have originated in India, arriving in Europe roundabout the 13th century. Perhaps this explains the Indian flavour in Bohemian design?

Historically persecuted, the travelling Romani people are often associated with poverty, crime and perceived antisocial or inappropriate behaviour. Even today they are the victims of unwarranted discrimination and are made to feel unwelcome.

Which begs the question – if they were so unwanted and disliked, why are we so fascinated with them and why do we emulate their fashion and style? And how on earth did this word come to describe the poor artists of Paris in the nineteenth century?

The term Bohemianism first emerged in the early nineteenth century during a time when financially struggling artists, writers and musicians began to populate the lower-rent, lower class, Romani neighbourhoods of France.

Many artists were frustrated by the confines of the stodgy and small-minded bourgeois middle-class life which focused largely on propriety and conformation.

The care-free vagabond lifestyle and merry poverty of Romani people captured the imagination of these discontented artists. Many writers and artists of the time romanticised the concept of living below the breadline and suffering for ones art.

Rebelling against social and cultural norms, the artist now found freedom in living eccentric, flamboyant and, sometimes, sexual promiscuous lives. New emphasis was placed on creativity and individual expression not only in their work but also in the way they dressed and lived – often unfashionable, threadbare and bright.

People likened the new artistic types to wandering Gypsies and so the Bohemian counter-culture was born – indicative of a lifestyle rather than a nationality.

Over the last century or so the spirit of this style has seen a few revivals and reincarnations. There have been several Bohemian movements, from the Beatniks of the 1950s to the free-love Hippies of the 1960s & 70s.

Fazio's Mistress painted by Pre-Rapaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1863.

Fazio’s Mistress painted by Pre-Rapaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1863.

What about the Bohemian “style”?

While the non-conformist spirit of the movement stayed much the same, many contributed to outward appearance of the Bohemian Style we know today. Throughout the 20th century many adopted Bohemianism in some way or form and each left his or her unique stamp on the Bohemian aesthetic.

The Pre-Raphaelite movement for instance, transferred a measure of their fascination with medieval folklore to the Bohemian Style. Their work was often dreamy, romantic and mystical, filled with yearning. In fact Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, came to be seen as the “grand prince” of English bohemianism.

Another famous Bohemian, William Morris father of the Arts and Craft Movement, had a profound influence on interior decoration throughout the Victorian period, designing tapestries, wallpaper, fabrics and furniture.

Then there were bohemian sirens like Dorelia McNeill, muse and model for the Welsh artist Augustus John, who further popularised the Bohemian lifestyle and fashion.

Dorelia’s step-granddaughter, 1960s bohemian fashion icon, Talitha Getty was famously enamoured with Marrakesh. I wonder if Talitha’s love for all things Moroccan is the reason why Bohemian interiors have such a strong Moroccan flavour today?

Then came the swinging sixties – a true re-embodiment of the French Bohemian movement of old. Just as Bohemians used art and writing, hippies used their distinct music to rebel against authority and define a whole generation.

Hippies borrowed many of their fashion ideas from the Parisian Bohemians and gypsies of the Czech Republic. The hippies of course put their own spin on the Bohemian style often incorporating non-Western elements. Native American, Asian, Indian, African and Latin American motifs were very popular.

Amazing to think all these various people, movements and elements contributed to the eccentric and colourful Bohemian Style we know today.

Next week we will share some tips and tricks on creating the perfect Bohemian interior – so stay tuned…

D.I.Braai This Heritage Day

Tomorrow South Africa celebrates National Heritage Day (oh and yay public holiday)!

Thanks to Jan Braai‘s National Braai Day initiative it has now become semi-traditional to celebrate our rich individual AND shared heritage with a braai!

“The National Braai Day initiative aims to position National Heritage Day as South Africa’s annual day of celebration. We call on all South Africans to unite around fires, share our heritage and wave our flag on 24 September every year.”

No matter our race, language or religion, we as South Africans share one common custom – to celebrate around a cooking fire. It is known by many names: Shisa Nyama, Braai and Ukosa to name but a few. When we want to celebrate, relax or make merry we light a fire and start grilling – this is what we, as a nation, share.

Looking for some unique braai ideas? Check out the clips below:

Want to try and braai something a little different this Heritage Day? In this clip SuzelleDIY will show you how to make “Boerewors Bagel Dogs“. It may sound kind of weird but it looks delicious – think bread-on-a-stick meets boerewors roll. Furthermore, she is absolutely hilarious in this video – as the Afrikaans folk would say: “sy is op haar stukke“! The “I’m the Wolverine!” and “…now I’m Edward Scissor(s)hands” comments had me in stitches!

Who said the braai is just for chops, steak and wors? Why not try a dessert on the braai?! In this clip SuzelleDIY and Bush Cook Guru, Justin Bonello, illustrates how to make “Braaied Brandy Banana Splits“. Looks yummy! Shame poor Justin – remember jealousy makes you nasty Suzelle!

D.I.Braai – “becauseanybodycanmakecreativedessertsonthebraai

Hope you all have a happy Heritage Day tomorrow!


Currently Working On…

logoIf you have been wondering why we here at Design Monarchy have been so quiet as of late, it is because we are hard at work on a rather large interior design project…

Our studio is currently working on an upmarket retirement complex in Kenilworth, Cape Town called “Summerley Court”. Those of you who follow us on Facebook have no doubt noticed all the recent image uploads of the work in process.

There is nothing more rewarding than to see months of designing, planning, sourcing and problem-solving finally come to life on site.

We often prefer to have our furniture custom made instead of buying something off the floor. This way we can customize the furniture piece to perfectly fit with the look and feel of our designed space. It also affords us the opportunity to use our own sourced fabrics, an element that ensures an entirely unique item and interior.

Early on in the project we set about finding an appropriate fabric scheme – our client wanted something bright, colourful and friendly. We then started playing around with furniture concepts – finding items that we liked, adapting them and then finally applying our chosen fabrics to the design.

Our furniture concepts for the Summerley Court dining room chairs (on the left) and the bar dining chairs (on the right).

It is very important to find a reliable and proactive team that can work with us to bring our ideas and concepts to fruition within the allotted time and budget.

One of the custom furniture manufacturers we had the pleasure of working with on the Summerley Court project was ASCOT Upholstery. Rose and I do not dole out compliments lightly, but working with Michelle and her ASCOT team was such a joy we thought they deserve special mention.

ASCOT made the majority of our dining room chairs as well as some comfy seats for the bar area and the meeting room chairs. An aspect that really impressed us was that they were in constant communication with us throughout the manufacturing process. If there was any problem, question or suggestion Michelle didn’t hesitate to give us a quick call to hash out solutions. They delivered on time and in budget. AND of course, the chairs were beautiful made. We have received numerous complements from those who have seen the chairs on site.

Thank you very much to ASCOT Upholstery for delivering such quality work!

In the weeks to come we will be sharing more juicy details and pics of our Summerley Court project. Keep your eyes firmly fixed on this spot!

Design Monarchy - Cape Town Interior Design (4)A quick snap taken at the ASCOT workshop. Here the ASCOT team is hard at work making the chairs that will find a home in the Summerley Court meeting room.

Design Monarchy - Cape Town Interior Design (3)Signed, sealed, delivered! The Summerley Court dining chairs standing in proud little rows on site ready to be unwrapped and positioned.

The finished product – from concept to completion – our beautiful chairs made by ASCOT Upholstery.


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