What is Bohemian style?
Bohemian style isn’t about rules. In fact, it’s the opposite. Bohemian ─ also known as boho ─ is about being who you are, displaying what you love, creating a relaxing and comfortable space. It is colorful, eclectic, multi-cultural, creative, easygoing, and natural. At the same time, there are definitely things bohemian style is not. Bohemian style is not conventional, pre-matched, monochromatic, perfect, or faux.
And it is not restrained. In fact, it could be considered the opposite of the minimalist style, which dictates including only what is absolutely essential. Bohemian style, on the other hand, says, life is short and you can’t take it with you, so be sure to include lots of things you love and that make you feel good too!
Long favored by artists – particularly those that eschewed material wealth — bohemian style is a great way to express yourself while creating a space that’s comfortable to be in.
Key elements include:
- Unexpected color combinations
- An emphasis on handcrafted items from around the world, reflecting different cultures
- Natural materials like rattan, wicker, and wood
- Nods to nature
- Well-worn goods – nothing too new-looking
- Drapey fabrics in a variety of textures
- Art – lots of art
The original bohemians, as well as those who emulated them, believed it wasn’t necessary to spend a lot of money to express yourself artistically. As a result, the bohemian style is determined by the individual. What you have, what you like, and what you can afford are arranged in a way that pleases you.
Interior style features
There aren’t any hard and fast rules for creating a bohemian-style home. It should be an expression of your personality. Still, there are some common elements found in many boho interiors:
- Multiple vibrant colors. Color is one of the most fun elements to play with when decorating your bohemian-style home. There are no rules and more is better, so let your own taste dictate which colors you use, and feel free to mix colors in unexpected ways.
- Global arts and crafts. A hallmark of bohemian style is the homage it pays to art, and artists around the world. Most bohemian interiors include the handiwork of artists from multiple cultures.
- Comfortable seating and lots of cushions. The bohemian-style home is beyond comfortable. Low-to-the-ground couches and chairs, with plush throws and rugs, and pillows and cushions in a variety of sizes and touchable textures are signatures of the style.
- Lots of fabric. One of the keys to bohemian style is to use a wide variety of fabrics extensively throughout your home. Possible pieces include embroidered satin couch cushions, throws woven of different textured yarns, mosquito nets canopies over beds, and lamps covered in feathers or fur.
- Plants and natural materials. Nature is an intrinsic part of the bohemian style. This can come in the form of hanging or potted plants (try macramé plant hangers and handmade pottery containers), seashells, driftwood, or furniture made of bamboo – to name just a few ideas.
- Well-worn and vintage objects. The bohemian aesthetic is one that cannot be purchased ready-made from the mall. It is something you create by assembling things that are distinctly you. This implies the objects in your home will have some history, real or imagined.
- Glimmers of light and shine. Mirrors, shiny metal accent pieces, candles, and string lights coordinate well with eclectic bohemian furnishings and lend a touch of glamour and mystery to your space.
Exterior style features
The outside of your bohemian home should reflect the creative, carefree, earthy vibe inside. Flowers and plants – the more wild-looking the better (don’t over-manicure your lawn) ─ are a perfect way to make that happen. If you’re interested in and game for going even bigger and bolder with your bohemian exterior, try painting your front door your favorite bright color (or colors).
Decorate your porch, stairs, or doorway with seemingly random arrangements of whimsical art objects, or hand-crafted items from your favorite far-flung countries. Like the elements of your interior décor, those on the exterior should also look natural, well-loved, and not too new or “perfect.” The ultimate expression of the bohemian style is the bohemian garden.
If you’re fortunate enough to have space, you can create an outdoor haven that’s an extension of your interior but with a larger dose of nature and all the additional atmosphere that brings.
- Flowers and plants. There are really no rules when it comes to the blooms and foliage you choose to adorn the exterior of your home. Choose absolutely anything that makes your heart sing, and mix and match. The more variety the better, the greater the quantity the better, and the more untamed-looking the better. Be careful not to neglect to tend your garden. The ideal look is wildish, yet loved.
- Bohemian front door. There is no better way to add personality to your home’s exterior than with a front door that makes a statement. Bohemian front doors tend to be brightly colored, carved, accented with whimsical artistic details, or all of the above. Collections of art objects like statues and carvings make fun and personal finishing touches to doorways.
- Bohemian garden. If you saw the HBO series Big Little Lies, recall Bonnie Carlson’s Monterey backyard. The deck made of weathered natural wood, the dining table laid with handmade pottery, the hanging egg chair, and, of course, plants crawling over everything. That was Bonnie’s take on the bohemian garden. Make yours your own. Cushions, throws, fairy lights, art objects, vintage furniture, and plant life gone wild can all help create an outdoor space that’s as welcoming and inspiring as your interior.
- Low-level seating. Whether it’s a low-slung couch or a pile of pillows on the floor, seating that’s close to the ground is popular in bohemian-style homes.
- Global goods. Anything from a far-off land looks right at home in a boho-style space.
Mango Wood Coffee Table, Made in India
Woven Banana Leaf Headboard
Rattan Headboard that looks like a piece of art
Handmade Balinese Carved Headboard Made of Reclaimed Wood
Mosquito net canopy
- Artistic details and bright color – Furniture can be both functional and beautiful. Intricately decorated pieces can help give a boho flavor to any room.
- Unexpected and unique. If a piece of furniture feels like “you,” it belongs. The more unique the better.
5-tier wall mount corner shelves
- Jewel tones and lush fabric. The most important element of bohemian style is probably color. Brights and jewel tones, especially. Drapey fabrics and inviting textures are also essential.
- Poufs. These interesting ottomans are often found in bohemian dwellings. They serve so many purposes, including providing close-to-the-floor seating.
Braided Cotton Pouf
There are almost no limits to the materials that can be used to create a bohemian style. Natural materials are a must: wood, macramé, wicker, bamboo. And unnatural materials like plastic don’t fit in. Other than that, there really aren’t any rules.
- Throws. Throws are a bohemian decorating essential, adding warmth, texture, and color.
- Pillows and cushions. Pillows and cushions are a great way to add, color, texture and a relaxed vibe to a boho room. Try mixing and matching (but especially mixing!) throw pillows of various sizes, patterns, and hues.
- Fairy Lights. Fairy lights are just one example of an accent that can be added to your space to give it a bit more boho style.
- Area rugs. Floor coverings made of natural materials add texture and enhance the bohemian effect. They’re also nicely neutral, so they don’t fight with your other decorations,
- Macrame. A classic boho decoration is macramé. Plant hangers, wall hangings, magazine holders, and more can be made of the stuff.
- Treasures from around the world. This Moroccan-style candle lantern is a good example of an accent piece that brings international flair as well as beautiful color.
- Mirrors and shiny metals. Little touches of glitter and shine are part of the bohemian look.
Styles that mix well with bohemian
Because bohemian style is eclectic, many other styles can be incorporated into it. Try adding a bohemian flair to what you already have. If a piece simply doesn’t fit or detracts from the bohemian effect, you can always ditch it, but chances are many of your things ─ especially those you really love ─ will blend well.
One of today’s hottest style trends is bohemian modern, and it’s easy to see why. To create this style, take a modern space, with its clean lines, spare neutral colors, and abundance of light; and add bohemian details such as patterned throw rugs and pillows, and shiny metal handicrafts and mirrors. It’s a great way to warm up and add personality to a space that might otherwise be a bit cold and severe or to enjoy bohemian style without running the risk of over-decorating.
Brief historic overview
Like bohemian style itself, the history of the term “bohemian” is labyrinthine and intriguing. One definition of bohemian offered by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is “a person (such as a writer or an artist) living an unconventional life usually in a colony with others.” It seems the word, as defined this way, originated in France in the 1800s. At the time, a particular group of people who had settled there was known as bohemians.
They were also known, throughout Europe, as “gypsies,” a word that derived from “Egyptian.” They were generally poor and lived outside the restrictions of social norms. These people were not originally from Bohemia at all. Rather, they were a nomadic people known as the Romani, who hailed from India.
As they wandered from country to country, they were generally treated badly and denied basic rights. However, when they happened upon a place called Bohemia, located in the western part of what is now the Czech Republic, they were received with friendliness. The king of Bohemia even gave the Romani travelers a letter of reference telling other nations to accept them with open arms.
Upon their arrival in France, they presented the document. This may be why the French called them “bohemians.”
In any case, the term bohemian, as we use it today, was born when a Paris subculture made up of artists and others who aspired to live an unconventional life was inspired to adopt the moniker applied to the Romani people. Over time, first in France and eventually the world over, “bohemian” began to mean anyone who lived a lifestyle free of the usual societal obligations, and which often involved travel, creative pursuits, and a lack of material wealth. The term has also become synonymous with the traditional Romani dress, which, for women, includes headscarves, long skirts, shiny jewelry, and lots of colors.
It is easy to see the influence of both the Romani and the creative, unconventional people who admired their lifestyle in the bohemian style aesthetic.
Why Bohemian style looks great
The bohemian or boho home is full of color and texture. It’s lush, wild, and sensory. It expresses the personality and indulges the whims of the individual who designs it, breaking rules and defying expectations as it goes.
The principle behind the bohemian style is to celebrate all that is beautiful and pleasurable in life and to firmly reject the idea that these can be defined by anyone other than the individual. As such, a bohemian-style space is a perfect retreat from a busy, conventional world.