Boho Design Style 101: A Complete Guide to the Laid-Back Look

published Apr 28, 2024
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If you love eclectic, collected decor with natural touches and pattern mixing, then boho design may be perfect for you. Boho style — also known as Bohemian style — is a carefree, colorful, and maximalist aesthetic. This look has gone in and out of favor over the years (it practically defined the 1970s!), but now it’s back and more popular than ever. Here’s everything you need to know about boho-inspired design, including expert tips on how to nail the look in your home.

Quick Overview

What Is Boho Style?

In interior design, boho (short for Bohemian) style is an eclectic, casual look, often inspired by various cultures and creative influences. It’s defined by layered textures, colors, and plenty of natural elements.

Credit: Erin Derby

Characteristics of Boho Style

Boho style can be interpreted in a number of different ways. “For me, the bohemian design style is freeing!” says Brittny Button, founder and principal designer of Button Atelier. “There are no rules; it’s more about how all the pieces are curated together.” Personal expression and creativity are key, but this free-spirited aesthetic does have a few defining characteristics.

Texture, Pattern, and Color

Texture, pattern, and color abound in boho style, so don’t be afraid to mix these three liberally. If you prefer a more neutral look, though, aim to add in plenty of tactile decor elements and a few vibrant pops of color to help differentiate this aesthetic from a Scandinavian or minimalist space

Global-Inspired Accents

Boho style has a worldly, lived-in feel that’s accomplished by incorporating artwork and decor from various places. “Moroccan rugs, Indian tapestries, or African cloths and sculptures contribute to the eclectic and well-traveled feel,” say Tavia Forbes and Monet Masters, founders and principal designers of Forbes+Masters. Consider this an opportunity to incorporate mementos from personal travels, souvenirs, or family heirlooms into your space. 

Natural Touches

A connection with nature is important to the boho look. “Natural elements such as wood, rattan, jute, and bamboo add warmth and texture to boho spaces, while greenery plays a significant role in bringing life and vibrancy — often seen through hanging plants, potted succulents, and oversized leafy plants, branches, or plumes,” say Forbes and Masters. 

That said, designer Adriana Crisp cautions against going overboard with popular natural finishes like rattan. Too much of the same material can leave a space feeling monotonous and one-note. Instead, try styling a mix of other handmade items in different materials (like woven baskets and rugs) to help you achieve a more dimensional look.

An Overall Relaxed Feel

Boho style is the antithesis of sleek and modern design — it’s casual, laid-back, warm, and unconventional. You’ll find plenty of mismatched furniture and artwork, decor used in unexpected ways, and spaces created with comfort in mind. However you channel the look, don’t be afraid to make it your own!

Credit: Apartment Therapy

Is Boho Design in Style Right Now?

Bohemian style has been around for decades and remains relatively timeless, thanks to its flexibility and room for interpretation. While its exact origins are unknown, it’s thought to date back to late 18th- to early 19th-century France, when the word “bohémien” was used to describe individuals living a nomadic, unconventional lifestyle. 

While boho design never really went out of style, it’s arguably hit the mainstream again over the past few years. As people seek to create more unique, personalized interiors, boho design continues to rise in popularity.

Credit: Button Atelier

Types of Boho Design Styles

According to Crisp, there are two main styles under the boho umbrella: classic and modern. Classic boho is characterized by fun, vibrant colors and plenty of textures. It’s layered and eclectic with a free-spirited, borderline hippie edge. Alternatively, modern boho leans more towards neutral colors and earthy tones, with a slightly more minimalist approach, Crisp says. Both are popular, but the modern boho design style has been especially trendy in recent years.

Tips for Decorating Your Home in Boho Style

Looking to channel boho style in your own home? Here are a few quick tips to help you nail the look. 

Credit: Mackenzie Schieck

Mix Colors and Patterns

Don’t be afraid to pair different colors and patterns in your boho-inspired space. That said, Button recommends limiting the look to just a few hues that work well together — like terracotta, navy, and gray — as demonstrated in this bohemian-style houseboat. “Stick to a color palette that reads as timeless, calm, and having longevity,” she advises. 

Credit: Genevieve Wood

Embrace Thrifted and Collected Pieces

Considering boho style? Skip the matching furniture sets and collect different unique pieces over time. This Minnesota rental apartment is a great example — nearly all the furniture and decor have been sourced secondhand. “The most holistic expressions of this style feature vintage furniture and handmade or artisanal items that are commonly found, adding character and individuality to the space,” say Forbes and Masters.

Credit: Button Atelier

Add Plenty of Texture

Bring in texture through textiles, plants, and decor — especially to add more flair to boho spaces with a neutral-heavy color palette. It’s a quick way to make any room feel warm and inviting.

Credit: Jason Rampe

Lean into Natural Touches

From materials like jute, rattan, terracotta, and wood, to decor like houseplants, pampas grass, branches, and more, there are endless ways to incorporate nature into your boho design scheme. This 250-square-foot NYC studio apartment features wood furniture and plenty of houseplants that combine to create a casual, lived-in vibe.

Credit: Leela Cyd

Play Around with Different Styles

The beauty of boho design is you can easily mix and match various styles within the aesthetic. This Los Angeles-based studio, for example, includes cottage-inspired motifs. “I’ve built a space with design elements that speak to several design eras: [a] 1970s club chair mixed with a 19th-century brutalist wooden ottoman,” says Button. “Both pieces work, as the juxtaposition is a kind of conversation where they speak back and forth to one another.”

Credit: Mario Mineros Photography

Get Inspired by Your Travels

Look abroad for boho inspiration: Designer Ericka Mills took an Afro-centric approach to decorating the guest bedroom in her 1970s townhome, influenced by her travels and time living internationally.