What is “Boho Chic”? Defining the Decor Super-Trend

What is boho chic title image

Boho Chic- even if you haven’t heard that term everywhere, you sure have seen it everywhere. It’s a trend that just won’t end, and we’re pretty happy about it! So, what is it? What does “boho-chic” mean?

We dove deep into the definition of boho chic, the history of the trend, and what comprises the modern expressions of bohemian décor. It’s a fascinating, creative décor style that we really can’t get enough of! Read on to learn about the boho-chic trend, bohemian style decor, and see tons of examples of boho style!

Bohemian style room with lots of plants
A light, eclectic bohemian patio. Photo from House&Home.

Overview: What is Boho Chic?

The Boho Chic décor style is a modern way of decorating one’s home in the bohemian tradition. Common items/trends include natural textures and earthy colors, eclectic accents, and the mixture of different patterns- as well as incorporating different cultural influences.

Boho-Chic: Background

Bohemian History

So who or what is a bohemian? How should we define the bohemian soul? Originally, the french word “bohemien”, referring to the nomadic Romani people who traveled Europe, also called gypsies. From there, the term evolved and came describe artists, journalists, and other counter-cultural intellectuals. They would gather together and embrace the things they loved- poetry, music, art, and philosophy.

As history went on, bohemianism changed in slight ways, evolving into the beatnik movement in the 1950s. In the ’50s, New York’s Greenwich Village was the home of the Bohemians (and folk music). Bohemianism was a major influence on the hippie lifestyle that is familiar to us from the ’60s. Bohemian style, no matter what time period we’re talking about, has always reflected similar values. More on that below!

What About the “ho” in Boho Style Decor?

We got the “bo” part, but what is boho? It’s a shortened “homeless”- bohemian homeless, to be exact. It originally described the style of dress- many bohemians appeared homeless (and many, in fact, were). The homeless, slightly disheveled bohemian style look came as a result of bohemian’s rejection of wealth and general disinterest in fashion and tradition.

Traits of Classic Bohemian Living

Poets, Romantics, and Writers

NYC Bohemian people, historical image
Bohemians in NYC, c. 1920- photo found on Monovisions.

Classic bohemians (the ones for whom the term was coined in the 19th century) shared a lot of values and traits. First, bohemians were lovers of the arts. Many of them were poets, painters, musicians and novelists. They had wide-ranging tastes and interests, but they all agreed that artistic beauty was worth pursuing, rather than money or power. Being rich was something you could take or leave, but it definitely isn’t worth pursuing. No, the things in life worth pursuing are life, love, truth, and freedom, say the bohemians. That sentiment has kept bohemians traveling, learning, and singing going on 150 years now!

Counter-Cultural Mindsets

Second, the bohemians lived apart from society, and were totally cool with the thought of not being accepted. They embraced their eccentricity, and focused on their passions, not their haters. Bohemians had an interesting relationship with society. They were at odds one moment, but the object of public admiration another. Politically and socially, the bohemians were largely liberal, paving the way for liberal and progressive moments even today. In fact, Karl Marx himself was described as an “intellectual Bohemian”!

Simple/Impoverished Living

Bohemians were almost always poor- sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstance. Wealth did not hold a high place on the priority list of many bohemians, but if they had it, they usually didn’t seek to get rid of it. Some bohemians, however, did voluntarily choose their poverty, viewing wealth as antithetical to the boho lifestyle. The general lack of financial prosperity was a huge contributor to the lifestyle, fashion, and living; small budgets dictate a lot about your vibe!

Wandering Hearts

Finally, the boho lifestyle has always been one that’s on the move- or at least one that doesn’t settle down for long. After all, the term evolved from describing the nomadic gyspy lifestyle. Bohemians were wanderers more than travelers- freely moving here and there, willing to end up anywhere. That wandering nature was and still is a large part of the allure of boho living.

Big on Gathering and Sharing

Bohemian people, maybe more than anything, were about gathering. They romanticized the discussions, debates, and discourses that come with putting different people under one roof. The presentation of new ideas, new art, new poetry, new anything- that was a big part of the lifestyle. Late nights, gathered in coffee shops, bars, and apartments- that was the bohemian scene! I’d bet that no true Bohemian avoided the get-togethers that birthed new ideas and new art.

Bohemian Gathering in the 1920s
Photo found on Monovisions.

Bohemian Decor: Influenced by Lifestyle

As you would expect, the decor style of the bohemian home reflected these traits in different ways. The simple/impoverished way of boho life meant that the luxurious, over-the-top ornamental style of the day was a non-starter. Art Nouveau was the vibe in the early 20th century, and boho decor rejected all that in favor of the simple. Furniture was more than likely older and cheaper, with a focus on comfort rather than form.

Comfort is King

Comfort, it seems, was probably at the forefront of bohemian décor philosophy. After all, the whole vibe was to get people together, and so the more comfy seating, the better! Nobody wants to spend 8 hours reading poetry and singing in a plastic chair! This made plush couches, ottomans, and floor pillows always a great bohemian décor choice!

Below: 70’s/Bohemian Living Room: super cozy with tons of colors!

Seventies vintage bohemian style couch

Well-Traveled Décor

The wandering nature of the bohemians also contributed to the décor style. These romantics and poets had traveled all over, meeting different people and exchanging ideas and values.

They had seen different cultures and participated in different conversations. They had a real exposure to daily life in many different contexts, and as such, they had exposure to different décor styles, traditions, and themes.

You could expect to find eclectic pieces of art, rugs and tapestries, and a general sense of collection rather than curation in bohemian decor.

eclectic wall gallery made of textiles
This wall gallery, made of textiles collected from far away places, is boho chic to the core. Image from Pinterest.

Collection versus Curation

By that I mean that the vibe was that of a gathering of different items, from different cultures and influences- a collection of different things. Most other decor styles involve heavy curation- the filtering out of items, colors, patterns and textures that don’t fit the overall vibe. Boho vibes, however, celebrate the coming together of different ideas. They shake off the idea that there has to be a unifying theme. That’s what is so fun about it- the rules, although pretty clearly defined, are set up for creativity and individuality.

The True Bohemian Home: It’s About You, not Them

A true boho chic home is eclectic, international, and expressive. The furniture, colors, textures, and adornments are a collage of your personality, experiences, and values. So, if you’re looking to define boho chic décor, you may want to define yourself, as well!

If you want to decorate your home in the boho style, make it about you- what you like, what makes you happy, and what expresses who you are! It’s not about what anybody else says or wants!

Boho chic decor style sitting room
A true boho chic style should feel like a collage of your favorite things. Photo from Kathy Kuo Home.

Boho Chic Décor Today

modern bohemian style decor with rattan furniture and jute rug
Modern Bohemian-Style Decor. Photo from Jordan Bigelow.

Boho Chic is a term that encompasses the modern bohemian-style home or dress. Since this is a blog that focuses on art and home decor, we’re going to leave fashion for another website and zero in on the decor.

How did we get from “bohemian” to “boho” to “boho chic”? The terms have progressed naturally with the culture- bohemianism isn’t so much of a movement or a lifestyle anymore. There are certainly countless people living the bohemian lifestyle, but we just don’t call them by that name.

While there aren’t many people who identify as bohemians these days, there are millions of us who love the décor style. The main difference between the concepts is that boheminaism is a lifestyle, while “boho chic” is a decorating style. The term “boho chic” arose as a way to describe a décor trend that is admired by many.

boho chic room with lots of plants
Example: Modern boho chic living room with tons of plants! Photo from Etsy.
relaxed living room with bohemian rug
A cozy mix of blue, white, and red textiles. Photo from Etsy.

So, what does boho chic decor look like today? Largely, it stays close to its roots, embracing the eclectic and comfy nature of the traditional bohemian aesthetic. Here are the Seven Major Characteristics of Boho Chic Decor:

Patterns

Patterns abound in this world- think rugs, throw pillows, and tapestries, each with their own something to say. These patterns are almost invariably mixed- the more the merrier! Patterns don’t have to be the same, because the bohemians collected things from different places and cultures- meaning that the Persian rug likely won’t match the Victorian curtains, etc. The mixing of patterns can give your home a real coffee house vibe, making it feel like a place where guests are welcome to be themselves and join the conversation.

Rugs from around the world
Colorful, patterned rugs always fit the boho style! Photo by Eric Prouzet.

Vintage Furniture

You probably won’t catch a true bohemian shopping at West Elm for their home furnishings. Rather, they can be found at thrift stores, consignment shops, and the like, searching for the comfiest, most eclectic pieces. If you want to add a boho chic vibe to your home, it’s not always as simple as just heading to a thrift store. You should focus your search on pieces that will provide a lot of comfort- your living spaces should be able to provide hours of comfort and entertainment to your enlightened friends.

Example: Antique wicker chair with modern boho throw pillows.

Rattan furniture in a chic living room
Vintage wicker chair + rustic-looking pillows. Photo and pillows from Aztec House.

Deep, Strong Colors

Don’t be afraid of color, plain and simple. You can tweak it to your liking, but I say let the colors flow! Some classic boho colors are earth tones, and natural greens, blues and reds. Just like the patterns, you want to feel a little freedom to include whatever colors you want. However, the earth tones will help to provide some nice continuity between varied textures and patterns.

Deep red rug hung in a chic boho living room
The deep colors of the wall tapestry, combined with the texture of the rug, make for a cozy boho reading spot! Photo and textiles from Semikah Textiles.

Naturalistic

Just like the hippie movement they inspired, bohemians loved (and still love) nature. Get as many house plants as your heart desires. Find accents and furniture that feel earthy as well- wood, cotton fiber, etc. It’s hard to go wrong with macrame, and wicker/cane furniture might feel right in place! If you can find the right stuff, even outdoor furniture can be a great addition.

Examples: House Plants and Macrame make everything feel natural and earthy!

Office filled with house plants and a chic retro desk
Photo from Vintagetopia.
Woven wall hanging bohemian style decoration
Photo from WallflowerAndWyatt.Com

Eclectic Accents

Bohemians, no matter where, were well-read, well-traveled and cultured. This meant that they collected art and accents that you can place on a wide spectrum of influences. When you travel, pick up interesting objects and bring them into your home. Use your walls as a way to represent your experiences and the lessons you learned. Most of all, don’t have too many rules about what belongs and doesn’t, which brings us to the next characteristic: a carefree approach to decor.

boho bathroom decor
Fun, eclectic bathroom decor; photo from formaplural.

Carefree Attitude

Bohemians were known for their love of freedom and relaxed attitude toward style and presentation. So, if you’re looking to add a boho chic aesthetic to your home, don’t feel like there are too many rules. There are rules, yes, but mostly they are about avoiding strictness. If you like something, toss it in there! The only wrong answer with boho chic decor is to say “no” to something based on whether or not it matches. Remember, collect, don’t curate!

rugs and textile chairs, sitting room
Cool boho sitting room! From Etsy.

Expressive Freedom

Related to that, a boho vibe really means that you can make it yours. While there are some accepted tropes of the style, bohemianism is inclusive overall. Your favorite chair or coffee table might not show up in a search of “boho aesthetic” on Pinterest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t include it. You can be your individual self- include whatever rugs, couches, and lampshades you feel like including! It’s your home, and the boho vibe is supposed to reflect that!

coxy boho style decorated living room
Cozy rugs, cozy room. From Etsy.

Wrapping Up: What is Boho Chic?

If I could give you one phrase to encompass a boho chic decor aesthetic- it would be this: collect, don’t curate. Obviously, there will be some items that don’t fit in, but that should be up to you personally. It shouldn’t come from a style guide that tells you not to clash colors. Bohemian lifestyle is about the coming together of ideas and the embrace of diversity of thought and culture. Boho chic decor means the same thing translated to your home. It’s a wide world, one for you to explore and integrate into your home. Earthy tones, mixing patterns, eclectic accents and art, it’s all meant to showcase your mind and heart!

I hope you enjoyed the read, and feel assured in your wandering, bohemian soul. Let your experience and style flow around your home, and the boho chic vibe will emerge and speak for itself!

Cozy sun room with plants and chairs
Photo from Pinterest.

There you have it! Oh! And a little bit about us: we’re Mary and Jared Wilder. Mary has been an artist for just about as long as she’s been alive, and after our wedding, we decided to give this website a go! Mary’s work is available on Society6, and this inspiration blog is a little collection of some of our favorite work from artists around the web, and ideas on how to integrate art with your everyday. Follow Mary on IG @marywilderart and, above all else, be nice to people!

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