As far as trends go, bohemian style has legs. In fact, long before Instagram made boho chic a phenomenon, Victorians were practitioners of a concept known as Turkish corners. Peaking in popularity around the 1890s, Turkish corners were lavishly decorated enclaves in Victorians’ homes, designed to pay tribute to Middle Eastern imports that had begun to infiltrate the U.S. thanks to the newly-opened Panama Canal. Unapologetically theatrical, these Turkish annexes were festooned with curtained walls and quilted with imported rugs. They were punctuated with tabourets, hassocks, and other pillowy thrones.
Happening upon an archival black-and-white photo of one of these Turkish corners, one is likely to wonder if it’s only the absence of photographic color that separates them from today’s modern bohemian living rooms. Of course, today’s iteration of bohemian style is influenced by an additional century of culture and trends—including, of course, the 1960s counterculture movement. Since then, bohemian style has assumed new ringleaders—consider Yves Saint Laurent in his Marrakech villas in the 1970s, and more recently, tastemakers like Rebecca de Ravenel whose whimsically rakish take on the style is one for books—and new sources for decor (Chairish!). Yet despite it all, bohemian style’s wayfaring soul remains essentially unchanged.
Given its melting pot of influences, what exactly does the bohemian room aesthetic look like today? And how can you get the look? To help, we’ve collected eight gorgeous rooms rife with bohemian allure and pulled out their most pertinent takeaways.
Whether it be a passel of books displayed atop a coffee table or a sprawling assemblage of flea market art, organized abundance is a mainstay of bohemian room decor. Remember that not every collectible needs to be a treasured talisman plucked straight from the souk. Virtually any item when displayed in plentitude will translate to hyper luxe. That said, for dispartiate collections that you still feel need a good come-together moment, try painting the interior of a display cabinet a dark hue. It’ll lend instant cohesion.
Bohemian connoisseurs know that true verve is the byproduct of unexpected pairings. While Chinoiserie may not have been on the radar of Victorians, (or the daisy-crowned hippies of the 1960s), it’s gained traction with a legion of modern designers when channeling a boho aesthetic. An Asian import by way of France, chinoiserie is undeniably global, though it does require a certain dressing-down to feel outright boho. Pass on the pastel iterations and opt for Chinoiserie in earthy hues that will pair easily with other ethnic textiles like batiks, suzanis, or African block prints.
Heaps of pattern are a hallmark of any bohemian style house. But procuring a mix that can co-mingle without erupting into visual chaos can be a challenge. Designers who excel at artfully combining clashing patterns are likely to advise you to identify a unifying thread between patterns, be it like-colors or a subtle echoing of shapes. While globally-sourced textiles are always welcome, feel free to work in traditional patterns garnered state-side. A word to the wise: botanics are nearly always fool-proof in bohemian rooms.
An element of tumble-down elegance is key to bohemian living spaces. If your home lacks artfully peeling frescoes and antiquated arches, don’t fret. It’s possible to achieve a similar mood by tossing a riotous textile over a sofa. Piled with pillows, a textile-draped sofa extols richness and an air of laissez-faire. For a look that bears a bit more aristocratic appeal, try a textile draped over a side table. Extra credit for taking the time to sew in darting or pleats.
By nature, bohemianism evokes a sense of leisure. The surest way to guarantee that your interiors invite restful repose? Luxurious, lounge-forward pieces with generous proportions. Be it a daybed, an armless sofa, or an amply-sized ottoman, consider pieces that are easy to slip into—and out of. Forgiving fabrics, such as velvets, and even flatweave rugs recast as upholstery, encourage lolling without inhibition. Use a mix to promote cat-in-window-style napping whenever the whim strikes.
A High-Low Mix
Amid Bohemian bibles like Miguel Flores-Vianna’s Haute Bohemians, it can be easy to forget bohemianism’s humble roots. In 19th century France, the movement was spurred by artists, who, seeking alternatives to bourgeois expectations, decamped from Paris proper to the city’s lower-rent Romani areas. With that in mind, a high-low mix is aboriginal to bohemian style. How can you score a similar aggregation in your own space? Start with a high-end base piece, such as a sectional sofa in a sumptuous fabric. Next, fill in with antiques of varying provenance. Repurposed items such as steamer chests and tree trunks (whether real or made to look that way), add to the improvisational feel.
From the neon zig-zags found in Moroccan Azilal rugs to the rich jewel tones that populate South Eastern Asian ikat prints, most global textiles showcase intense color. Take that as permission to get a bit adventurous with color elsewhere in a bohemian living room or bedroom. Take inspiration from the global archives and spring for a color redolent of destinations on any good bohemian’s bucket list: Majorca, Jaipur, Santorini. Since hedonist colors like turquoise and fuchsia can be a bit tricky to pull off on walls, try painting the entire wall, including the baseboard and crown molding the same hue to up the chic factor.
Roll out a Rug
A rug is among the most transformative ingredients you can add to a bohemian room. (It also ranks high on the list of best bohemian bedroom ideas on a budget, too.) Instantly shift the aura of a room by unfurling an intricately woven carpet. While Moroccan and Turkish rugs often steal the spotlight, you might also consider tracking down alternative specimens. Think: dhurries from India as well as more traditional-leaning, but still boho-swaying carpets, from Mongolia, or even Iran.
Lead image design by Katie Leede and Company / Photo by Lisa Romerein Photography