A Step-By-Step Guide to Nailing the Bohemian Style in Your Home

Express your individuality with Bohemian decorating

Bath of the Emperor, Bath I, Karlsbad, Czech Republic
Bernd Mueller / LOOK-foto / Getty Images

Bohemian, or "Boho," decorating is for those who want their homes full of life, culture, and interesting items for all the world to see. It flies in the face of modern sensibilities and embraces the carefree, the relaxed, and the unusual. And while Boho rooms tend to have certain similarities—they’re always eclectic and share some of the same features—no two are completely alike.

Boho is inspired by people who choose to lead an unconventional life: travelers, actors, writers. So its style incorporates those ideals, combining objects, colors, and patterns from many walks of life and many areas of the world. If you're looking for a style that you can truly make your own, Boho might be for you.

Bohemian Colors

While there are no rules when it comes to Bohemian decorating, warm earthy colors are common, as are metallics and jewel tones. You'll want to think deep browns, greens, and grays for base colors, then accessorize with saturated purple, fiery orange, and electric blue. Combining and layering colors is what makes this style unique.

Feel free to mix patterns and textures, and don't be afraid to use styles that wouldn't necessarily go together in a conventional way. Use dyed textiles and patterns from around the world, like Ikat from Cambodia or Suzani from Central Asia, to give the space a sense of fun and exoticism. Layer throws on top of furniture and try hanging tapestries and area rugs on the walls alongside your photos and art. If this all seems a bit much, keep in mind that while saturated color is key to Bohemian style, white ​can have a place as a backdrop for richer tones; use it strategically to bring a little visual space into the equation.

Decorative Materials

As the opposite of minimal, modern, and sleek, Boho embraces a "more is more" philosophy. The key to using decorative materials in a Boho room is to mix and match. Natural, basic materials like burlap and sisal can be combined with silk and chenille. The materials should have a slightly worn look—not damaged, but not shiny and new either. Fringe, crochet, and macramé abound—pillows, curtains, and throw-rugs combine to make a cozy, globally inspired hangout. Canopies over beds and living areas are signature Boho embellishments.

Bohemian Furniture

Bohemian furniture usually isn't found in a store. These rooms tend to be filled with furniture collected over time, so second-hand and vintage items are right at home here. Each piece of furniture should be special and tell a story. Have fun exploring your local vintage shops, and choose each piece individually; if you love it, it will fit right in.

Both you and your guests will feel the Boho vibe with plush chairs and couches in saturated colors. Throw rugs or overstuffed floor pillows will create a welcoming floor-seating atmosphere. And since a Boho room should have a “sit and stay awhile” feel, streamlined or straight-backed furniture won’t be right here. Choose comfortable, relaxed pieces like chaises longues, daybeds, or butterfly chairs.

Lighting and Accessories

Ambient, understated lighting will unify your Boho room and complete the calm and welcoming feel. Rather than overhead fixtures, decorate with multiple lanterns, candles, and floor and table lamps. Today’s global design markets make it easy to find a variety of shapes and styles—perfect for the mix-and-match look.

Embracing the natural world is central to this style, so bring your room to life with ferns and hanging plants. Not only do they lend vibrancy to a room, plants also improve air quality, so the more the merrier. Philodendron and peace lilies are very forgiving and withstand a variety of light and temperature levels. Or consider succulents—now widely available in a range of colors and textures—which are great for people with a less-than-green thumb. These eye-catching plants need little more than a sunny spot and occasional watering.

Finally, pull together your Boho room with family heirlooms, handmade items, and objects from your travels. Accessories should tell your story, so feature what you love: tapestries, vintage bottles, maps, or mismatched china—you name it. And keep in mind that while Bohemian style tends to be eclectic, it can still be chic and glamorous, so don't be afraid to try out an ornate chandelier or a chunky gold-framed mirror. The only rule is that every item in the room should tell a story.