All About the Bohemian Decorating Style

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Dark Boho Style – Photos by Vagabond_Betty Getty Images via Canva Pro and Monica Valls on Unsplash

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The term “bohemian” is one that’s fraught with confusion, and sometimes, even controversy.


This post aims to make some sense of the confusion and see what factors make the Bohemian / Boho Decorating Style what it is today.


Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Definition of terms

Before anything else, let’s see how the words bohemianism and bohemian are defined.



The Free Dictionary has the following to say:



  • unconventional behavior or appearance, especially of an artist
  • the practice of individualistic, unconventional, and relaxed conduct, of ten in an artistic context, expressing disregard for or opposition to ordinary conventions.


  • a person with artistic or literary interests who disregards conventional standards of behavior.
  • a native or inhabitant of Bohemia – which is a region in Czech Republic.
  • a Romani person
  • an itinerant person, meaning someone who travels from place to place.   

About the confusion

The confusion about the term came in the early 19th century in France, where artists of all kinds convened.  And understandably so, as Paris at that time was the prime art center of the world.


These “struggling artists” were writers, novelists, poets, actors, painters, musicians, among others.  They did not have much economic means and lived in low-cost tenement areas, where the Romani people also were. 


The Artists

As artists, what was common among them were:

  • they put more importance to their art over the prospect of earning money 
  • their minds were filled with ideas, they didn’t like being boxed in
  • they were in constant need of finding inspiration and opportunities
  • they sought to be with like-minded people for social acceptance.

That’s why they were seen as:

  • “struggling” or “starving”
  • people who could not stand living by the norms
  • people who seemed to move around all the time, as if in search of something.

The Romani people and the mistake that was the term "gypies"

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The Romani people were of ethnic Indian origin, who travelled and migrated worldwide, especially to Europe.  


They lived simple lives in their colorful, roving caravans.  And some still do, to this present day; while some have since lived settled lives.


Romanis held portable occupations that did not require them to settle in one place.  They were tinkerers, animal traders and trainers, performers, dancers and musicians, metal smiths and jewelry makers.


The Romanis were erroneously given the name “gypsies,” by some who thought they came from Egypt.   A name that stuck over the centuries and much to the Romani peoples’ disapproval.


Another mistake

Seeing some similarities in their lifestyles, the French likened the artists with the Romani people / gypsies and mistakenly labeled them as “Bohemians,” thinking they came from Bohemia.


They both:

  • did not have plenty of money 
  • lived simple, unconventional, and artistic lives
  • did not stay put in a place for long periods of time. 

The above accounts are how the term bohemian came to be connected to the Romani people or the gypsies.

Conventionalism versus Bohemianism in the 1960s

The Hippies of the 1960s to 1970s practised bohemianism.


They consciously led a lifestyle that was the complete opposite of what was usual, that was having jobs in the corporate world.


And the way they dressed bore similarities with how the Romani people dressed.


While some of them had inclinations to the arts, it dd not mean that all Hippies were artists.


Below are the examples of how the Hippies went against the grain.


Conventional lifestyle in the 1960s

  • held “regular” and “normal” jobs
  • lived regimented lives
  • subscribed to conformity
  • strived to move up the socio-economic ladder
  • aimed for material things
  • dressed in what was on trend – prim and proper attire – suits for men, full skirt or mini skirl for the ladies
  • clean-cut, well-groomed


The Hippie Lifestyle

  • no regular jobs, lived in suitcases
  • lived simple, laid-back, carefree lives
  • didn’t mind having no money at all
  • dressed in unconventional ways – loose and casual clothings, in floral fabrics – both for men and women
  • men grew long hair and unkempt beards, women wore fresh flowers on their hair
  • lived communal lives
  • congregated with like-minded people, either for partying or for staging protests
  • used recreational drugs
  • practised love for nature and environmentalism 
  • embraced different kinds of spiritualism   

The 3 factors that contribute to the Bohemian Decorating Style:

  • The Romani People’s way of life – responsible for the style’s maximalist and artistic traits
  • Bohemianism in the 19th century – for the style’s reference to artists
  • Hippie Movement of the 1960s – for the style’s retro, carefree and spiritual vibes, plus its concern for the environment. 
All three for the the style’s reference to a nomadic and frugal lifestyle, plus inclination to be different. 

The Bohemian Decorating Style - its characteristics and elements

#1 Maximalist - More is more principle.

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The Romani culture, being Indian in origin, is literally colorful and filled with embellishments.

Their caravans and their interiors, also the Romani clothings, have vivid details and decorations.

 Bold, striking and whimsical.  

These traits are translated into interior design by having a space with:

– lots of colors and patterns

– lots of textures, for coziness, needed for the European weather

– plenty of furniture pieces and decorations.

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– layers of colorful, patterned and textured area rugs

– use of fabrics as swags or curtains, etc.

– use of bead curtains

– use of plenty of pillows, on the floor or just about everywhere

– almost everything can be embellished with fringes, tassels and pompoms


#2 Art-filled

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A Bohemian styled space is filled with décor that’s related to any creative endeavor in the arts.


– books to represent creative writing of novels, short stories, poems, etc

– framed artworks such as paintings and photographs

– musical instruments of any kind

– handmade furniture pieces

– handicrafts such as pottery, sculpture, glassworks, macrame, bead works

– hand-woven items such as textiles, carpet and the likes

– needleworks like knitted blankets and quilts

– metal works producing jewelries, metal lanterns, etc.

#3 Has reference to travel

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The Romanis traveled the world in their caravans.


The Hippies hitch-hiked or went around in their VW vans, that were as colorful and interesting as the caravans.


Bohemian artists packed their wares and tools of their trade, whenever they needed to move.


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Vintage luggages, globes and maps.

These are used to reference Bohemian Style’s connection to the nomadic lifestyles mentioned above.

#4 Eclectic and Global in look

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The nomadic nature of the artists, Romani people and the Hippies,

 naturally caused them to pick things up along the way, 

either for their everyday need or 

they just simply embraced some of the cultures of the countries they stayed in.

The Romanis’ route from India to Europe took them through Turkey, Africa, Spain and France.

Maybe that is why Moroccan furniture pieces, African tribal artworks and Spanish peacock chairs 

are staples in Bohemian decorating style.

 Almost anything goes for this style, so long as they are appropriate for a simple lifestyle.

This eclectic trait of the style gives it other qualities, such as

having a “collected over time” and mismatched look.

#5 Love and respect for nature

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The eco-friendly trait of the Bohemian / Boho Style is contributed by the Hippies’ cause for the environment.


It is so common to see the style being used in outdoor celebrations, 

especially in places that’s close to nature.

Be it on the beach, lakeside, or just even in backyard gardens.


This love for nature is translated into interior design by using 

natural materials such as wood, cotton, linen, wicker,  etc.


Plants of any kind, whether hung or in clay pots, are used in abundance.

They are hung using beaded or macrame hangers.

Or in wooden crates, like the one in the above photo.


Paper lanterns, driftwoods as examples of using more of simple, natural materials.


Use of string fairy lights to simulate the stars, or as reference to astrology, see below.

#6 Spiritual

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Another of the Hippies’ contribution to the style is its practice of spirituality.


As another way of refusing to conform, the hippies believed in religions other than Christianity,

which was what’s mainstream in the US.


They resorted to Buddhism, astrology and mysticism.


We see this in interior design by using such elements in decoration, like

string lights, Buddha figurines and mandala patterns,

dream catcher and feathers of the Native Americans and natural crystals.   

#7 Carefree

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The free-spirited, nonchalant outlook on life by the Hippies is also evident

in Bohemian / Boho Style.


Rejecting to hold 9 to 5 jobs or some others that required them to follow rules,

the Hippies lived a relaxed, worry-free lifestyle.


They celebrated life by partying and communing with other like-minded people.


These are conveyed in interior design by having:


– inviting, comfortable interiors, to foster gathering

– casual, asymmetrical, haphazard furniture layouts

– low-profile furniture pieces

– on-the floor-seating


– buntings and swags to reference celebrations

– mismatched furniture pieces for more of the casual vibe.

#8 Can include Hippie elements for a retro vibe

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Any reference to the Hippie Movement or 

anything popular in the 1960s to 1970s are also seen in Bohemian Style,

especially in its more modern version.

Though care must be taken not to include a lot of them,

so the look does not lean on the kitschy and 

does not become more Hippie than Bohemian.


– vintage items

– vintage VW vans

– vintage turntables

– old guitars, bongo drums, tambourine –> the older, the better

– Hippie slogans in artworks

– peace sign

– posters of artists of the time

– flowers on prints or fabrics, to reference Hippies’ practice of giving out flowers during protests

– cannabis and LSD

– psychedelic patterns to represent the feeling of drug use.

#9 Affordable or non-expensive looking

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The Romanis lived basic, frugal lives.

We got the “starving artists” phrase, because artists really struggled making a living, at least in the past.

The Hippies sought a simple life, away from shiny, material things.

From these come the modest look of the Bohemian decorating style.

Decor and elements have the weathered, distressed finish.

Patina on old items are favored.

Repurposing items like using pallets as bed head boards or bed platforms is a common element.

Using unfinished wood on fixed items or furniture pieces, for a very “affordable” vibe.

Using simple, “found” objects or like those from flea markets. 

Taken together, these characteristics make the Bohemian / Boho style, the ultimate eclectic style.  

In the spirit of non-conformity, the style demands a strong sense of individuality and uniqueness.  

It may be contradictory, but the style is meant to be relaxing despite of its busyness.

Examples of Bohemian spaces and its different versions

*** As you go through some of the descriptions, please note that this site considers browns wood colors as non-colors.

And colors as described may not be as you see them due to monitor differences.

Classic Bohemian Style

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The classic version is the one that stays true to most of the style’s characteristics.


It uses plenty of colors, with emphasis on earthy tones for more of the simple vibe.

It also uses less whites and bright colors, plus faded tones, for a retro and lived-in look.

They may include jewel tones, as main colors or as accents.


Plenty of patterns and textures.


Materials are distressed and weathered or unfinished.


No new items and metallic decor lean on the dull finishes 

to emphasize the non-materialistic nature of the style.


Furniture pieces look like they come from the world over. 

No furniture sets.  Low profile furniture for relaxed lounging.

Furniture layout is casual, asymmetrical and conversational.



More examples of Classic Bohemian / Boho spaces in Pinterest.



Bohemian Chic Style

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Bohemian Chic is the more elegant version.


It excludes the non-materialistic quality of the style and instead,

uses shiny metals, crystals and other upscale decor.


It’s also colorful, has plenty of pattern and textures.

Uses more of jewel tones and less of the earthy tones.


Furniture layout and overall look is more thought out and polished

versus the haphazard layout and distressed look of the classic version. 


It can also include classic elements like wall paneling

for a more cultured look.



Go to Pinterest for more examples of Bohemian / Boho Chic Style.


Modern Bohemian Style

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This is the more current and tamed version of the style.


It has plenty of whites and uses bright colors resulting to a fresher look.


Or it can also use rich colors,

with minimal furnishings – just like any other modern styles.


Key is using just enough elements to keep to the style’s spirit.



More of Modern Bohemian / Boho Style in Pinterest.


White Bohemian Style

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The all-white version of the style.


Leaves out the colorful quality of the style, and instead

focuses on textures and patterns.


From pure white to off-white plus woodsy colors.


Can swing from rustic to modern or a combination of both.



There’s more examples of White Bohemian / Boho interiors in Pinterest. 


Black and White Bohemian Style

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The Boho style can also have a black and white scheme, without other colors.


Can me maximalist or minimalist;

modern or rustic or in between.



Find more inspirations for Black and White Boho Style in Pinterest.


Dark Bohemian Style

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A version that has a dark, moody and mysterious overall ambience.


It can be simple and rustic,

or chic and glamorous,

depending on the elements included. 



Head to Pinterest for more of Dark Boho / Bohemian Style.

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