If you think Boho means a bright ethnic blanket and macrame wall hanging, well, you’d be right. But those elements are just the tip of the proverbial boho-iceberg. Boho is much more than just bright colors, mixed styles, and macrame, and this week on the site we are breaking it all down and showing you how to get the look in your own home.
As part of our ongoing series breaking down all Interior Design Styles, today we’re sharing our insight on Boho style and its roots. (Trust us, they go deeper than what you are seeing all over your instagram feed and in stores).
Boho (short for Bohemian) design as we know it today is all about mixing together elements from lots of different styles, locations and cultures. From tropical to exotic to desert, it’s about creating a layered and eclectic space that doesn’t play by any design rules. It’s the most unconventional and freeform design style, and therefore boho spaces are as diverse as the elements that inspire them.
We’ll start by giving you the low down on the history of the “Boho Style” (don’t worry it’s brief!) and the visual elements that define it. It’s going to be a big design filled week for us here on the site, so be sure to check back every day this week for more info and our picks for Boho furniture, lighting, accessories and textiles.
A BRIEF BOHO HISTORY
Boho began not as a style at all, but as a way to describe people. “Bohemian” was originally a term given to the Roma community from central Europe. The name took on a new connotation in 19th Century France, where Bohemians were a class of artists and writers who lead free, unconventional lives and dressed in loose-fitting and threadbare clothing. Creativity and beauty were the most important ideals for Bohemians. Sounds like quite the lifestyle choice, right?
The design style as we know it today really developed in the 1960s and 70s, when interior designers started embracing laid back and worldly elements, incorporating natural materials, fiber art, bright colors and tapestries in their designs. And just like that, Boho design took off everywhere from Los Angeles to London, Marrakech to Paris.
Boho is all about a confluence of lots of different styles. From Moroccan and Middle Eastern elements, like brass lanterns, ceramics and low slung furniture to tribal and ethnic textiles and pillows in a multitude of prints and patterns. Nature also plays a major part, with woven baskets, carved wood furniture and lighting made from natural fibers. Colors can range from earthy tones like beige, rust and brown to jewel tones and bright, saturated reds, greens and yellows. It’s really all about a collected mix with LOTS of layers and items coming together to form a relaxed, bright, and inviting design style. It’s playful, it’s vibrant and it’s always fun.
When creating a boho interior, it’s important to keep in mind the people and stories behind the objects you use. Acknowledging and crediting the creators and cultural traditions behind the art and textiles you love shows your appreciation and respect for others, without appropriating their work.
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
Well, this week we are breaking down every single aspect of Boho. So come back tomorrow for an introduction to boho furniture and our favorite pieces to get the look in your own home. And in the meantime, here are a few of our favorite books that are filled with Boho inspiration.
Let us know if you have any questions and we will see you back here tomorrow to dive into furniture.
Hey there Bobby,
I know this post is not related directly (though very interesting since I have a terrasse to design and I was thinking going in the boho direction with it ) BUT I just wanted to drop a word of admiration. I am a big fan of the Queer Eye series and I honestly love how you guys don’t focus on just one aspect of the participant’s life but the full package.
I honestly think your eye for detail and ESPECIALLY the skill to work with the smallest of space (thinking of the japan homes you transformed into amazing little places ) is incredible.
I think deep down I wish I could do the same for people as a profession. Coming from graphic design I sometimes miss working with materials and textures. Anyways… you’re doing a fantastic job and you are an inspiration. I haven’t seen a space designed by you that I didn’t love. Can’t wait to see more :)!
Best greetings and lots of love,
Thanks so much for the kind words!
Love all the plants!!!
Hey there! I was wondering your take of more unconventional seating ideas, my husband and I don’t use couched but we use floor pillows and I’ve never really been able to get a good article on this style and interior design ideas except when they write about how different it is. What is your take on it? We take a lot of inspiration from your work but seeing as it’s just me and my husband we don’t see it as realistic to purchase a couch or anything, we have stools, chairs, lounge chairs and Ottawa I’d that all have storage and multi uses on them but we’re planing on going smaller in living and would love your input on any tips❤️
This is gorgeous!
Some Romani people find the word “gypsy” offensive. I understand that it wasn’t meant in a pejorative way. But “Roma people” or “Romani people” and a description of the itinerant/nomadic lifestyle might be a better fit. (“Gypsy” comes from the incorrect assumption that the Roma came from Egypt; their roots are closer to India.)
Thank you for letting me know. I have changed that description in the post and will be sure to refer to Roma people instead. xx -B
I’d love to know more about how to hang or group eclectic wall art and still have it look stylish and purposeful (as opposed to messy and chaotic). I love bohemian style but struggle to find the balance between relaxed and eclectic yet still stylish and considered.
We’ll keep that in mind for a future post! Thanks for reading.
Bobby, Love these articles! What is your vision for a boho-industrial mix?
A boho industrial mix could really be anything, since boho is so ecclectic. But I picture a very industrial space that brings in some fun colors, patterns and lots of plants. Thanks for reading! -B
Excited to learn more!
However, I’m disappointed with the use of the word g*psy, which is widely regarded as a racial slur toward the Roma people. I appreciate that you mentioned the name of this ethnic minority, but unfortunately the word itself has been used to demean and oppress Romani people for centuries.
The Bohemian aesthetic and lifestyle are often conflated with the romanticized idea of the g*psy. I would like to see a rejection of this word not just from you all but from the design world as a whole. Change starts somewhere!
Much love and gratitude.
Love your work on Queer Eye! I’m also a big fan of the boho aesthetic but sometimes feel like it can verge into the realm of cultural appropriation such as “ethnic” prints and “worldly” artifacts. While I appreciate the history of the term you included in this post it could also be helpful to share tips or guidelines on how to walk the fine line between appreciation and appropriation. This is something I often think about and I want to be sensitive to as I design my new apartment. Keep up the great work 🙂
Thank you for this comment. You bring up an excellent point that we should all be thinking about when working with design objects from other cultures that are not our own. I have added information into the post about appropriation and how to be conscious of acknowledging and crediting the work of others. xx -B