A new trend has firmly established itself in the world of interior design. It shuns the mass-produced cookie-cutter interiors you might see in a glossy catalogue and instead embraces uniqueness, artistry and boldness. It’s a tendency, in short, toward all things bohemian.
But what exactly does that mean? In this article, we’ll explore the word and its origins, while attempting to figure out what impact it might have on your interior.
The origins of the word
Firstly, let’s examine exactly what the word ‘bohemian’ means. To do that we need a brief history lesson. Bohemia was a region in what is now the Czech Republic, which during the fifteenth century was the only protestant nation in Western Europe. It engaged in a series of (often violent) disagreements with their Catholic neighbours, the most famous of which being the thirty-years war.
It was around this time that a number of artists, poets, novelists and musicians had begun to gather in the poorer Parisian ghettos. In France, the precise details of these conflicts were not widely-known; the French public had only a vague notion of the religions of the involved parties and knew only enough to know that they didn’t much trust them. So these gathering artisans found themselves labelled ‘Bohemians’ by the French, who naturally assumed them to be filthy immigrants from Bohemia – the land of heretics and blasphemers. And so, the word owes its origins not to the land from which it draws its name, but to a sort of misguided racial slur.
The Bohemian ethos manifested itself in many forms, but a common theme was a rejection of personal wealth and privilege in favour of artistry. Like many ideas, these ideas came over time to travel upward through the economic and social strata of French society, until they were eventually adopted by some parts of the aristocracy – people called ‘high bohemians’.
Whatever its origins, Bohemianism undertook a variety of different forms as it evolved throughout the years. There were Bohemian movements in Europe and America in the 19th and 20th centuries, most notably with the hippy culture of the 1960s. The term came to be associated with all forms of radical thinking, fringe viewpoints, and a liberal approach to sex and personal hygiene, but over the years it has come to be associated with a heightened respect for the environment, for the need for goods to be manufactured ethically and for a love of all things quirky, unique and vintage.
You might now have formed an image of what bohemianism entails. Whatever preconceptions one might have about the style, it’s not necessary to be a radical leftist to appreciate these virtues; increasingly bohemianism design can be embraced by anyone!
Bohemianism in the home
So what, you might justly wonder, does all of this have to do with designs and furnishings? Well, the bohemian influence has found its way into the modern home. It can be seen in all manner of different decorative items, as well as clothes, curtains and functional items like tables and chairs. You too can equip your home in a manner, which embodies the ‘bohemian’ virtues of thrift, creativity and environmental consciousness. Let’s take a look at just some of the ways in which this can be done.
There are ways to accessorize one’s living space in a bohemian way with the addition of a few items like candle-holders, doorknobs and lanterns. Do you have a large, empty patch of wall in your living room? Paintings are more than worthwhile, especially when set within a uniquely-crafted frame.
When it comes to color schemes, it’s often best to take a maximalist approach – a room which is truly bohemian will be a rainbow mashup comprising a slew of different items, all reclaimed, repurposed and provided with a loving home. One can just as easily take a more moderate approach, however; pick out just a few handmade items which you find inspiring and construct a room around them. If you like the look of a hand-carved coffee table, then you can easily build a room around it.
Modern bohemians – like most of us – are increasingly enamored with all things green and pleasant. For this reason, plants can play a key role in the ideal bohemian interior. If you have an area of your home with abundant access to sunlight, then you can easily place a lot of flowers in there in order to give your interior that wild, overgrown look.
This might be especially worthwhile in the kitchen. A kitchen which boasts a collection of fresh herbs is superior to one which doesn’t. If you’re looking to improve your cooking habits – perhaps for entirely bohemian reasons – then there are few better boons than an abundant supply of fresh greens.
So cram as many pots as you like onto a spare windowsill and get the greenery going. This might seem at odds with other aesthetic styles, but if we’re going bohemian, you can let your miniature herb garden run wild. You’ll soon have an indoor garden to be proud of. Just make sure that you elect for a hand-crafted clay pots rather than ugly plastic ones. Speaking of which.
Increasingly, bohemianism goes hand-in-hand with environmental consciousness. You’ll therefore find that plastics and other harmful materials are shunned and that recycled – or, better yet, upcycled – materials are adored. Everything which can be reclaimed and repurposed is up for grabs – throwing things away is wasteful and to be avoided. This is to be expected; after all, the movement has always been an artistic one.
A bohemian home will therefore be one which elevates artistry over functionality. Mass-produced plastic items will be shunned in favour of one-off, unique ones. For this reason, many aspirant bohemians elect to raid their local charity shops in favor of the sorts of mismatched treasures which will go a long way toward completing a bohemian interior. Similarly, manufacturers which obtain their materials in an ethical, sustainable manner are to be venerated. This might include those which make use of recycled materials, but also those which make use of sustainable sources of timber.
It’s long since been established that human consumption of oils has a catastrophic effect on the planet – not only in terms of the global warming it effects, but also because of the more localized problems. Use no plastic whatsoever in your interior and you’ll be well on your way to achieving the Bohemian decor you’ve always aspired to.
Moreover, as well as taking into account the material itself, we should also consider the way in which it might be used. Plastic tends to be crafted in a way which elevates economies of scale over uniqueness. Where’s the creativity in that?
As well as being thrifty and environmentally friendly, bohemian items should also ideally be unique. After all, you want you and your guests to be able to inhabit a truly unique interior environment and it’s tricky to do that with the items which are produced in their thousands – if not hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, since bohemians are, almost by definition, artistic people with strong creative streaks and elements of solidarity with fellow artists is called for. We live in a world where creative energy is grossly undervalued; it follows that a bohemian interior should reserve center-stage for those hand-painted, hand-carved, hand-sewn items into which so much creative energy has been poured.
Moreover, when it comes to furniture, uniqueness often comes hand-in-hand with sustainability. Mass-produced items have a significant and well-documented impact on the environment. It’s therefore often best to err on the side of the unique, hand-crafted counterparts.
Making the whole thing fit together
We’ve almost concluded this examination. It should be at this point conceded that bohemianism isn’t for everyone. If all of this recycling, uniqueness and contrasting colours and patterns seems a recipe for something truly terrifying, then perhaps this approach isn’t for you.
That said, it is possible to introduce a little of the bohemian approach into your living room at a time, and in doing so test the waters a little before plunging oneself into them. With this goal in mind, a modern householder might want to tone down their bohemian inclinations a little and exercise some control over what goes into their living room, bedroom or kitchen.
Alternatively, one might wish to embrace bohemianism utterly and opt for something completely chaotic. This may seem risky, and it is – but that’s half the fun of bohemianism! The philosophy centers on a rejection of conventional thinking and it therefore follows that it also takes a rather relaxed view of the ‘rules’ of interior design. So if you have a living room in search of a new look, then why not try bohemianism on for size? You never know, it might be exactly the sort of look you’ve been craving.