Origins of Bohemian interior design

Bohemian interior design derives its name from the French word ‘bohèmian’, literally meaning “member of a race of wandering people”. It referred to gypsies or travellers from the region of Bohemia in the Czech Republic. The term was later broadened to refer to artists and creatives who led nomadic lifestyles.

Elements of these people and the kinds of lives they would have lived are the inspiration for this design style.

What is Bohemian interior design?

Bohemian interior design speaks of eclectic combinations, so almost anything goes and there are no rules to follow.

You almost want to create the look of traveller’s cabin, showing unique little trinkets or hand-crafted pieces collected from your (real or imagined!) travels.

Essentially, a bohemian space is a playful space that tells a story about its owner and has real personality. It is a space that is welcoming and cosy, with loads of layers, pattern and texture.

Although almost anything goes in this style, you still want to make the right choices to create a cohesive, beautiful space. If you follow our simple tips, you will be able to give your space that sought-after bohemian look effortlessly.

Wooden canopy bed strewn with fairly lights and dressed with faux-fur scatter cushions.
Image courtesy of: Tan Danh/Pexels.com

Furniture in boho design

First and foremost, the furniture in a bohemian space is comfortable, casual and cosy.

Look for furniture that is unique or conveys a hand-crafted look. Any pieces that remind one of nature or of being connected to nature will work beautifully.  Wood, cane, rattan or wicker are very popular choices.

You don’t have to go over the top – not all the pieces in your space need to have this look. But be sure to incorporate one or two furniture items that are true to the style.

Pro tip: Wooden furniture is a great choice for this design style, because of its connection to nature and the typical nomadic lifestyle. Think occasional chairs with wooden armrests, or a raw, unfinished wood coffee table.

Because texture is so important in bohemian design, another fabulous choice for your space is cane, rattan or wicker furniture. Not only does this add texture, but it also creates that cosy, hand-crafted look.

Hanging chairs and hammocks are favourites because they combine super-casual seating with woven texture.

Patio with red hammock, can love-seat and two wooden armchairs.
Image courtesy: Jonathan Borba/Pixels.com

Colour schemes

Any colour scheme can work in this design style, so you can have a muted or colourful scheme. However, because the atmosphere you are going for is warm and cosy, incorporating some warm colours into your colour palette works really well.

Don’t be afraid of using bold colours, even just as an accent colour. This style embraces the playful use of colours, so feel free to get creative. For inspiration on bohemian colour combinations that work well, checkout homelane.com.

If you need some help putting together a colour palette, check out our designer tips for creating your own colour scheme.

Pro tip: To inject some personality and warmth into your space, add some bold colour. Fiery red, burnt orange, caramel or chocolate brown and mustard yellow are all good options. Pick one or more of these as your main or accent colour.

White dressed bed with red patterned rug and wicker basket for firewood.
Image courtesy of: Tatiana Syrikova/Pexels.com

Rugs in bohemian design

Bohemian interior design incorporates loads of pattern, which is carefully layered for real depth. Think bold patterns and prints, and lots of them. Your rug is a great place to inject some pattern and colour into your space.

Comfort is one of the important considerations in this style. Long pile or shag rugs are therefore a particular favourite because of their comfort under foot, and also because they add texture to a space.

Pro tip: Think intricate Moroccan pattern, iKat, ornate persian-style or Navajo-inspired pattern for your rug. You will want to steer clear of abstract designs and really embrace “old-world” patterns in your rug.

Mr Price Home often has a selection of distressed chenille rugs that are affordable and would work well in your bohemian space.

Navy living room sofa with colourful scatter cushions and bohemian rug.
Image courtesy: Andrea Davis/Unsplash

Curtains, cushions and throws

Bohemian interior design promotes a connection with nature and between the indoors/outdoors.

This style also embraces colour and bold pattern, which should be layered to create an eclectic look. Think Moroccan-style pattern, tassels, fringes, beads and sequins – and have some fun!

Pro tip: Use light and airy curtains to create that connection between the indoors and outdoors. Pair those with patterned scatter cushions, or scatters that have tassels or intricate beading. This will give you that eclectic bohemian look.

Because layering is such a trademark of this style, be sure to casually lay some throws over your sofa, armchairs or bed.

Living room vignette of white sofa with multi-coloured scatter cushions in a bohemian style.
Image courtesy of Rawpixel.com

Artwork in bohemian interior design

In bohemian design, anything goes when it comes to artwork. Be sure to incorporate artwork, and lots of it.

Think quirky or personalised artwork. Think unique artwork that you gathered from your trips to exotic countries. Even if you aren’t well-travelled, you can still showcase pieces that look like the kind of pieces you picked up in faraway lands. Again, anything that looks hand-made will work perfectly.

Pro tip: Find and display quirky artwork that tells a story. Create a gallery wall to showcase your eclectic pieces and make a design statement.

You can also make or buy wall-hangings and tapestries; a particular favourite in bohemian design.

Macrame or crocheted wall-hangings are a unique way to add some texture to your space. Hello Indigo Halo have a selection of fabulous tapestries and wall-hangings to select from.

Artwork and decor on wooden shelves in bohemian design style.
Image courtesy: Manja Vitolic/Unsplash

Decor and accessories

With decor and accessories, your collection can be eclectic and mismatched. Your accessories can be quirky or personalised pieces that tell a story. Hand-crafted accessories also work very well.

You can also incorporate a touch of casual elegance by adding some gold, brass or bronze pieces to your space.

As always, little details like crocheting, beading, fringes, tassels and sequins can be used to add extra texture and pattern.

Pro tip: Shop at flea markets or yard-sales for unique pieces that tell a story. Opt for handcrafted statues or figurines, or beaded/sequinned décor accessories for that gypsy-meets-traveller look.

Pair old and new pieces for an eclectic look. There really are no rules here!

Interior design decor showing old suitacses, white throw and macrame wall hanging, for bohemian look.
Image courtesy of: Angela Roma/Pixels

Plants in bohemian interior design

Because bohemian interior design encourages a dissolution of the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors, you will want to incorporate loads of indoor plants in your space.

Aside from their connection to nature, plants also purify the air and contribute to a positive energy in your space.

Pro tip: Pay attention to your plant-pots, because they present another opportunity to add some sought-after texture or pattern to your space. Think woven or cane planters, clay pots, or planters embellished with pattern.

Cane chair in bohemian sitting room with indoor plants
Image courtesy of: Rayi Estriyani / Unsplash

Lighting

Good lighting is critical to any well-design space. However, in bohemian interior design, it’s also an opportunity to convey your eclectic style. Think light fixtures that are highly detailed and personalised, or that have that hand-crafted look. Woven or rattan light-shades are a firm bohemian favourite.

Pro tip: Beaded chandeliers are especially popular for ambient lighting in bohemian design. For your task lighting, opt for tassled table or floor-lamps.

Alternatively, go the texture route and select woven lamp-shades. Pilgrimage Spaces has a gorgeous collection of rattan pendant lights that have a decided bohemian flair.

Bohemian-style bedroom in white and pink colour scheme, showing rattan pendant lighting
Image courtesy of: Collov Home Design/Unsplash
Bohemian interior design is all about pushing the design rules to the limit, in the sense that you should not be trying to hard to fit into a mould. You are creating an eclectic look that does not look intentional, but rather casual and comfortable.

Remember not to go over the top, because less is always more. If you follow our simple design tips, you will be able to effortlessly create a bohemian space that is cohesive and balanced.

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Founder and interior designer of Home in a Box, Taryn De Nysschen

Written by Taryn De Nysschen

Taryn practised as an attorney for 12 years before pursuing her passion for interior design. She is the lead interior designer and founder of Home in a Box.

Home in a Box specialises in on-site and virtual interior design concepts in South Africa, and is passionate about re-decorating homes conveniently, simply and affordably.