I think Bohemian interior design is often misunderstood, even polarizing. I see the style confused with fast fashion and festival culture, unsustainable and mass-produced. But when done well, the result is collected and worldly, reminiscent of exotic locales, and delightfully unconventional. This elusive style is achievable, and today, I’m sharing my thoughts on sophisticated Boho interior design.
The Bohemian or “Boho” style is perfect for those who want their homes to showcase life, culture, and interesting items from around the world. Going against the more modern aesthetic of clean lines and minimalist design, the Boho style is relaxed, textured, and layered with color. Social media is alight with different takes on this style. I much prefer the intentional, full-home approach. A wonderful example is this interior from Sara and Rich Combs, a married design duo based in Joshua Tree, California. Inspired by the natural surroundings of the desert and their stays in Morocco, their rentals are collected and comfortable. They seem authentic and relaxed. This is how I like to interpret the Bohemian style.
I’ve read that some designers feel there is a line between heritage-based design and boho. Moroccan interiors, for example, have a polished pattern to them that can be misappropriated for Bohemian. I don’t want to get that technical. I never set out to design a “Bohemian interior.” Instead, I design based upon my clients’ background and values. If they possess an undeniable wanderlust, love to collect artwork from their travels, and appreciate a worldly influence in their home, I refer to their style as “collected”. And I think it’s a great way to approach sophisticated Bohemian design!
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What Defines Bohemian Style?
Bohemianiasm originated as a derivative of Czech nomads, and evolved to what we think of today: people who prefer to live unconventional, nomadic lifestyles. Usually an artist, musician, or writer with a penchant for never settling down, the first Bohemians were associated with the French artist class of the late 19th Century. The Belle Époque, Toulouse-Lautrec, the Moulin Rouge, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso all adhere to this original interpretation.
In the US, we often think about the 1960s when referencing the Bohemian style. The Free Love movement, hippie fashion, anything Morrocan-inspired, the Indo-Asian look, and bold patterns all influenced the Boho style. Over the years, Boho style is unfortunately often reduced to paisley, infidelity, and immaturity. This vision could not be further from the truth!
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Achieving Bohemian Style at Home
I believe that interior design is deeply personal. If the Bohemian style is one that you want to emulate, it also has to be one that authentically reflects your lifestyle. This is where the style becomes misconstrued as a youthful trend. Its association with being carefree is easily absorbed by the 14-24 age demographic. If you feel drawn to the Bohemian style, but aren’t sure of how to imitate it with sophistication and grace, this section is for you.
A Bohemian color palette is all about combining and layering colors. Whether boldly vibrant or naturally occurring, the colors should come from a certain place or time. The traditional and bright blues and whites of Greece can look stunning. The rusty reds and burnt oranges of Turkey are intensely gorgeous and pair well with sleeker, more contemporary looks. The subdued and ambient hues of Eastern Asia also blend well in contemporary design. It’s the unexpected combination of tradition and origin with clean-lined and modern that speaks to the nomadic nature of today’s busy professional.
Earthy browns and other neutrals are frequently used as the base for brighter hues, metallics, and jewel tones to keep the look fresh and modern. In this entry way below, the bold graphic runner immediately catches your eye when you walk in. A subtle gray on the wall adds visual texture without taking attention away from the rug. The bright green leaves add life and a pop of color to the design. The contemporary glass staircase brings right back to the present day. It’s traveling through time periods that I find very unique!
Patterns and Textures
I love to incorporate a client’s heritage into their new home. Houston is so diverse, and I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with Moroccan, Indian, and Nigerian influences. The patterns and textures of these cultures are so distinctive and unique. When designing a Boho space, don’t be afraid to mix your patterns and textures. I like to use patterns in a similar color palette to prevent the design from feeling too overwhelming. A decorative ivory lattice pattern pairs very well with a clean-lined structure in linen or off-white. Layer your rugs and add a throw on top of your sectional.
In the study below, the classic black and white color palette gets a Bohemian twist. A wood sliding door and leather sectional add warmth and visual texture to the crisp white. A cozy graphic black and white rug layered over a larger patterned rug create a unique focal point. The bold decorative pillows on the couch are the perfect finishing touch to give the room a cohesive, polished feel.
The furniture in a sophisticated Boho interior design isn’t one style. It’s a collection of different pieces that all have a story. I like to mix casual pieces with more formal ones, particularly heirlooms and antiques with contemporary furnishings. The goal is to design a space that welcomes guests and encourages them to relax. So don’t be afraid to bring in a pouf, a plush bench, or a few floor pillows. The Bohemian style is all about that effortless feeling of genuine comfort.
In this Encino home, the blue and white entry with a touch of glam is warm and welcoming. A few casual floor pillows are paired with a traditional, turned-legged bench that we upholstered in a rich sapphire-colored velvet. An aged metallic Buddha sculpture adds an exotic feel to this worldly and collected entry.
The Bohemian style incorporates a range of materials. For a sophisticated take on the Boho style, pair luxe fabrics with natural ones. Earthy materials like sisal and wood provide a beautiful contrast to luxurious silk or velvet. Accents of fringe, wicker or rattan add a casual, cozy feel to the space. The textures should balance each other and not compete for attention.
In the entryway above, I love the slightly worn look of the traditional suzani rug with these casual floor pillows. It immediately invites guests to sit down and relax. And the collection of woven baskets with the modern metallic frames in this gallery wall uses collected pieces in a Classically Current way.
Soft, layered ambient light is essential for a Boho inspired room. Opt for table or floor lamps and wall sconces instead of overhead lighting. Bring in lanterns and candles to create a calm, welcoming feel.
A brushed metallic floor lamp easily pulls together the gold wall sconce above the bookshelves and the silver cabinet hardware in this meditation room. It looks beautiful against the white brick and brings a touch of unexpected glamour.
Whether it’s pottery, plants, a rug, or objects you picked up on your travels, accessories are what pull a Bohemian space together. Your home should be filled with the items you love. They add personality and tell your story. Showcase your beloved collections and favorite family heirlooms.
This gorgeous Kilim rug layered over a large cream rug gives the room an elevated Boho vibe. Contemporary acrylic side tables display the unique objects found on their travels in a way that makes it feel like you’re walking through a museum. Whimsical decorative pillows in neutral colors create a cozy, relaxed space without overwhelming the design.
Sophisticated Bohemian Style
The Boho style is relaxed and casual, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be sophisticated and polished. If you like this type of look, but want something more mature and timeless, transition to a worldly, collected design. A warm, neutral color palette accented with patterns and textures create a soothing and grounded backdrop for your home’s interior.
Layering your rugs, adding a luxe throw and fun decorative pillows on your sofa adds warmth and makes it feel cozy. Mix and match pieces from different periods and showcase your favorite accessories. Creating a sophisticated Bohemian interior design is about telling your story and sharing what your most passionate about.