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.
The 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.
Pattern & 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!
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?
Cushions, 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.
Art & 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.
Furniture – 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?