Textiles, Plants and Fringe: How to Go Full-on Bohemian in Your Home

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It seems like every other magazine and catalog I’ve received is touting “new bohemian” style; I haven’t seen those words used so much since Edie Brickell & New Bohemians topped the charts with “What I Am” in 1988. Even the most buttoned-up brands like Great Britain’s Burberry and usually all-American Ralph Lauren celebrated boho-spirit throwbacks in new ways.

Some hear “bohemian” and recoil in fear of dust and clutter and being trapped beneath a Stevie Nicks collection–sized pile of scarves; I know this because I’ve seen your comments on Houzz. But this is a misconception. The truth is, there is only one hard and fast rule for bohemian style, which is to express your own unique creativity however the heck you want to. New bohemians know that a quirky but curated collection isn’t clutter and that unplugging and lounging a bit can fuel creative fires. If you’re having trouble letting your new-bohemian flag fly, here are a few elements and loose guidelines. Put on a kaftan, fire up some tea and get inspired by these modern-day looks.

Related: Get the Look: Shabby-Chic Style

1. Fearlessly celebrate textiles

In the great trials of mixing and matching, there are no rules. Kuba cloth, suzanis, ikats, paisleys, crochet, geometrics, even tie-dye trimmed in pompoms — they’re all fair game. In fact, the more you mix in, the better they’ll all work together.

More: Have Fun With Fabric

Jen Going Interiors, Holiday House Hamptons 2014
Photo by Rikki Snyder

2. Be artful in new ways

One big watercolor-esque wall in this bedroom is unique and soothing. While one might think this wall was painted during a creative spurt involving tossing paint on the wall straight from the can late one night, this bohemian look was created in a modern way. It is a digital image taken from a small watercolor image, printed on canvas.

3. Enjoy alfresco meals

Forget the melamine plates and plastic silverware. New bohemians deck out their outdoor tablescapes like something you’d find in an elegant desert caravan tent. Intricate metal placemats, chargers, candleholders and ornaments, layers of luxe fabrics, stunning china and plenty of candlelight create extravagant settings for outdoor meals.

Related: All the Best Patio Furniture to Wine and Dine Outside

4. Bring the indoors out

When I think of bohemians, I think of that iconic photo of Yves Saint Laurent and Marian McEvoy lounging on a rug and large pillows laid atop the grass outside his home in Morocco.

New bohemians take advantage of warm climates and all of the new sun- and fade-resistant textiles available.

The Jungalow
Photo by Justina Blakeney

5. Conversely, bring plant life indoors

Full of global textiles, like kilims and a suzanis, along with plants, African masks and most important, sunlight, design consultant Justina Blakeney’s home, dubbed The Jungalow, has become a well-known example of modern-day bohemianism. She incorporates plants into every room.

Brookline Restoration
Photo by DiSipio Building Group, Inc.

6. Embrace botanicals

In addition to live plants and flowers, go for plants in your prints, artwork and fabrics. In this room embroidered botanical patterns on the pillows and a large-scale birch tree print on a screen bring the feeling of nature indoors.

Spanish Bohemian in South Pasadena
Photo by Charmean Neithart Interiors

7. Create focal points and curate

One thing people fear about a boho look is chaos. But many new-bohemian rooms are layered yet ordered and well curated. In this room a red paper lantern from Vietnam draws the eye, and the furniture and accessories are centered around a metal Moroccan table.

The room’s decorator, Charmean Neithart, also taught us a great trick for salvaging an antique rug too torn up to use on the floor: Have salvageable pieces sewn into beautiful pillow covers, such as the ones on this daybed.

Logan Circle Residence
Photo by Breeze Giannasio Interiors

8. Don’t resist the fade

The wear and fading on this floor’s antique rug only add to its appeal. Also, the striking suzani on the wall is full of deep colors; the faded rug allows this piece to be the focal point.

9. Find an artistic community

Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles is a hotbed of new bohemians. The community is full of artists, actors, designers, writers and musicians who eschew the usual trappings of the Hollywood lifestyle.

Part of the Laurel Canyon culture is Photo Day, when residents gather at Canyon Country Store to have their picture taken together.

10. Embrace a fringe element

Like the suede swaying on ’70s fashion icon Jane Birkin’s coat, fringe enhances new-bohemian rooms. It can appear in the form of macramé or at the bottom of a window treatment.

11. Practice the art of lounging

Throughout history bohemians have been known as being carefree, or sometimes looked down upon as being idle. New bohemians have no problem unplugging from all the distractions of modern society, shutting out the noise and taking time to get inspired. Channel your inner Talitha Getty while lounging on a Moroccan-style daybed. No Wi-Fi is allowed during recharge time.

New York City Loft
Photo by Deborah French Designs

12. Take the lounging to the floor

New bohemians know that floor pillows and poufs serve as comfortable seats and lolling spots. This designer used kilims from Morocco. Also, the coffee table was crafted from a Moroccan window topped with glass, and the screen on the right was crafted from an Indian gate. This designer had the sofa pillows made from textiles from Uzbekistan.

The magic of Morocco’s textiles and style continues to influence today’s bohemians, whether they ever spent a Hideous Kinky–esque year or two traveling the country or not.

Wizards Mountain, Byron Bay
Photo by Alida And Miller

13. Add layers in the bathroom

While soaking, new bohemians like to have textures and artwork around them, as well as a place to set a cup of steaming cup of Darjeerling tea. Woven rugs, wicker tables, interesting patterns, artwork and flowers all enhance this room with bohemian style.

14. Catch your dreams

I was amazed when I saw how many dreamcatchers showed up when I was searching for new-bohemian-style rooms. But it makes sense; new bohemians are dreamers. These webbed pieces, made of sticks, feathers and often a gem, were originally created by Native Americans. The most popular lore is that they catch bad dreams while letting the good ones filter through, while some clans believe they promote natural wisdom.

15. Let your beads hang out

Whether replacing a door with hanging beads, using crystals to harness good energy or simply showing off a favorite turquoise necklace, new bohemians know the power of beads.

My Houzz: Ellie Sawits
Photo by Rikki Snyder

16. Know that architectural style doesn’t matter — boho can go with anything

Whether they live in a strictly traditional or an ultramodern home, new bohemians can cozy it up. In this deconstructed saltbox, the owners did it with textiles, Asian vases turned into lamps, lots of textures and a photograph collection casually displayed on a big beam.

Published on March 23rd, 2017
Updated on July 15th, 2019

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