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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

Trend Watching 2012 – Part One

By Marica

Just like last year, Rose and I sat down earlier this week to discuss our favourite trends of the past year. We might not be good at predicting future trends (yet) but we love to observe the evolution of current and past trends – we call this little exercise “trend watching”.

As predicted many of the 2011 trends we wrote about last year continued on into 2012. Since most of these trends are still relevant and to refresh your memory you can read the 2011 trend reports here: Part 1 (Style), Part 2 (Colour), and Part 3 (Pattern).

Interesting to note that the primary style trends have not changed much over the past year. Trends like Industrial, Mid-century Modern, Scandi, and Vintage are now more popular than ever – especially since trend-related items have finally reached the retail market. More and more emphasis is also being place on designing green and buying homemade.

Rose and I also read a fascinating article on Freshome recently concerning the link between fashion and interior trends. In recent years the world of interiors has seen about a 2 year lag from runway to living room. Now that gap seems to be closing in at a much faster rate. The article also addresses Pantone’s Colour of the Year and its trend influence – it’s a very interesting read.

Now, today we’ll be looking at our favourite colour trends of 2012…

The most surprising colour trend of 2012 would have to be Neon! First hitting the runways as part of Spring/Summer 2012 fashion collections – my first instinct was to run for the hills. However, this current neon trend is not a rehashing of the horrible, unmentionable neon trends of the 80’s. It’s contemporary, it’s refined, it’s balanced – it’s interesting!

Within months (maybe even weeks) this bold trend made its transition into the world of interiors and décor. Vibrant and eye-catching, pops of fluorescents adds an unexpected element to any interior. I’m not saying you should go paint all your walls a shocking pink – just add one or two bright accent pieces. It’s cool, it’s brave, it’s not for everyone – I totally love it.pastel

Pastels are by no means a new trend – it has been around for yonks. However, we have noticed a pastel evolution over the last handful of years. No longer restricted to kid’s bedrooms or fluffy girly spaces, we have moved away from the predictable cotton-candy pastels. The current pastel palettes – including those of 2011 & 2012 –  have a lot more depth. We saw the introduction of “bright pastels” – think corals, salmons, mints and aquas. These spring-coloured pastels where much the rage last year.

A new addition, which I’m sure we are going to see a lot more in the year to come, is what I like to call “dusty pastels“. Not as saturated as “bright pastels“, it has an almost time faded appearance – think dusty lilac, faded rose, or powdery moss.

Another delicious current trend is to combine pastels with pops of neon – the result is absolutely stunning!


Various metal finishes have once again made a comeback. However, it is not the shiny, glam, and gaudy metallics of trends past. It is an aged, faded kind of metal trend – no blinding, polished golds and silvers. Old gold, antique silver, and especially brass and copper have seen a revival. There is just something about these rich, warm-hued metals that adds dimension and a sense of vintage luxe. I have seen some gorgeous brass and copper light-fittings and décor accents, and it works so well with our other colour trends!

Stick around for Part 2 of our 2012 Trend report where we discuss the past year’s pattern trends…

{So, what colour trends did you notice in 2012? We would love to hear about your favourites colour!}

Just Unwrapped…

We sat down with Mandi Garbman of Cape Town-based textile and surface design consultancy, Unwrapped. Mandi has been a busy busy bee this past year – broadening her range to include smashing geo patterns, awesome wallpaper designs, and even some terrific stationery! Even more exciting developments – Mandi has just launched a new lighting range. The light boxes, which feature a laser cut version of the Unwrapped ‘Mystic Forest’ design, are on display at The Fringe on Kloof…

Q: How did you get into the surface design industry? Do you have an art / design background?

A: My love and appreciation for art and design specifically the practical side of art has forever been a large part of my life from play school, all the way through my schooling and ending with AAA, where I studied Graphic Design. My pencil crayons, pencil, pen, paintbrush, glitter, whatever the medium/tool may have been, has been an extension of Mandi Garbman hand growing up.  I first learnt about surface design as early on as play school where I would play around with different textures, mediums quite freely.

Q: Tell us a little more about Unwrapped

A: Unwrapped  is a surface design and consultancy studio, producing soft furnishings for the home, designing and printing vibrant textiles and wallpapers, design and project managing  commercial and private spaces. Unwrapped was born just over a year ago out of a dying need to get back to my roots whereby I began drawing and painting.  Not knowing entirely what to do with all the illustrations, I applied them to different surfaces.

Q: And what about your product range… I see you have recently ventured into wallpaper?

A: Unwrapped’s range is expanding. Prototyping whenever I have the opportunity between jobs. I have used some existing designs in my new wallpaper range alongside new designs which I have brought out recently, floral motifs and angular designs, there is something for everyone, which can be used across a spectrum of mediums, wallpaper, upholstery,  tiles, textiles etc. And I am currently also working on a lighting range which I will be exhibiting in the window of the Fringe Art on Kloof Street in the month of November 2012. Just in time for Christmas.

Q: What inspires you and where do you draw your inspiration from when designing?

A: Mandi Garbman is forever conjuring up new stories to illustrate, new materials to print onto, prototyping new ideas for projects, my brain is forever unfolding and tick tick ticking away. It is no secret that I am a lover of all things organic, be it in a smile, the way a feather falls slowly to the ground, the sound of the ocean in the distance, this is what inspires my work. Striking a balance in my life and in my work is of the utmost importance. I think I poses quite a naïve childlike personality, I try show this vulnerable softer side through my illustrations, which are all based on warm hearted, beautiful childhood memories, and some which are present and some of which are still anticipating the future.

Q:  How would you define the Unwrapped style?

A: Unwrapped is at the end of the day an extension of the designer which governs the brand. Anyone who has known me longer than a few hours will say that there are many facets to Mandi, I live day to day with an open mind. Unwrapped is a controlled whirlwind of ideas and inspirations, pulling and grabbing from passed and present memories and those things around me. All of which mould the creative process to the finished result. My first range there is a huge sense of rustic farm land, the country side, flowers, animals, warmth, sun.

Q: Do you have a colour that you favour most and why?

A: My favourite colour would have to be the colour of the ocean on an overcast day. The light emerald /jade moving into a darker shade of blue.

Q: We love bucket lists.  Please tell us about yours!

A: Bucket list, I am already crossing off. Very exciting…

  1. To visit Japan, dress in traditional geisha garments and walk around Kyoto.
  2. Partake in a summer art course in Paris.
  3. To become a household brand locally and internationally.
  4. To have the most beautiful studio with every machine and tool at my disposal with which I could work with every day for the rest of my life.

Q: Can you share your future plans with us?

I do plan on expanding /growing my little company.  Taking on bigger interior jobs, expanding overseas.  There are a couple things I would like to achieve by this time next year.  In the mean time I am happy to create and roll out beautiful designs for myself, my customers and clients.

Check out the Unwrapped website: here.