What is Boho Design? Here's What to Know About This Naturalistic Style

Warm boho living room with burnt orange sofa.

Modernly You

Boho design has been around for decades—but lately, elements of this style are popping up everywhere. A design aesthetic that truly embraces the idea of a laidback, casual vibe, boho comes from the word "bohemian," which is loosely refers to an unconventional lifestyle and association with artistic or musical pursuits.

According to Reena Sotropa of Reena Sotropa In House Design Group, boho style is creeping back into mainstream interior design because it's easily accessible and approachable. "The most endearing aspect of the boho style is that it is about creating a very personalized and comfortable atmosphere that you enjoy," she says.

Meet the Expert

Reena Sotropa is the principal designer of Reena Sotropa In House Design Group, an interior design firm that specializes in high-end residential homes and hand-tailors each residence to its client’s needs.

Boho décor is a style that is totally individual and personalized, though there are some common features. Read on for a download on boho design style and Sotropa's tips for embracing this look in your own home.

What Is Boho Design?

Derived from the word "bohemian," boho design embraces all that is laidback, casual, and artsy. Boho design features a mix of patterns and colors and is sometimes also referred to as "eclectic," though there are differences between the two styles.

Mix and Match Patterns

Large open loft area

Blanco Bungalow

One of the key principles of boho design is that it embraces imperfection. While more contemporary or traditional design styles focus on matching patterns and color schemes, boho design has a much more laidback philosophy. While you can opt to pick a few key colors or patterns to center your design scheme around, you don't have to match everything to get the boho look right.

"This style can be very forgiving and can be achieved at all price points," Sotropa says. "A boho look can be achieved simply by layering richly colored or textured pillows to your existing sofa–or alternatively, if you are on a tight budget you can start from scratch with low-slung floor cushions, perfectly capturing a global-inspired, laidback vibe."

Layering textures is also key here. Look for pieces that make you want to reach out and touch them. Boho design should be comfortable and inviting in every way.

Personalize It

Warm boho living room with burnt orange sofa.

Modernly You

The best examples of boho design are those that really feel individualized and personal. While you can head to Target and pick out boho-inspired pieces, try your best to also bring in sentimental or personal elements into the space, Sotropa says.

"Boho is comprised of objects that are displayed because of their personal meaning and the memories, beliefs or values they represent," she says. "This is the perfect environment to display personal photographs, family heirlooms, objects of religious significance, or treasures collected whilst traveling the world."

If you're someone who loves to travel, make it a point to pick out a memento from every vacation to display in your home. Because boho design is so forgiving, you don't need to be hung up on finding pieces that match any specific design style exactly.

 Mix With Other Design Styles

Living room with gallery wall behind the couch

Reena Sotropa

Boho is one of those design styles that easily pulls in elements of many other aesthetics. For example, some boho homes feel like the perfect blend of Scandinavian and eclectic, while others embrace midcentury modern themes. "A boho aesthetic integrates as well into modern environments as it does with more traditional or rustic styles," Sotropa says.

Still, Sotropa is quick to acknowledge that mixing design styles still takes a little finesse and attention to detail. "It is important to create unity in a space when you are mixing styles," she explains. "The addition of 'patina' to an otherwise pristine and clean-lined space must be done with restraint and respect to the bones of the space."

Struggling to bring in boho style to your modern or classic home? One way to ensure the look feels fluid is to maintain a consistent color palette throughout the space.

Embrace Nature

Plant in a wicker basket

Afro Bohemian Living

One key thread within most boho-inspired homes is a focus on natural materials. On the furniture side, rattan and wicker are hugely popular boho materials and work well next to natural wood or leather pieces. Beyond the furniture, no boho home is complete without a handful of houseplants sprinkled throughout the space.

"Large floor plants can add instant energy and a pop of refreshing color to your space," Sotropa says. 

Lacking a green thumb? Sotropa suggests incorporating air plants or succulents in rooms where you know you can give them the (very little) attention they need.

Make Old New Again

Boho bedroom with dream catcher and pampas grass.

Home by Polly

The best thing about boho design is it doesn't have to cost a lot to revamp your space with this aesthetic in mind. While you can hit up the big box stores for boho-inspired décor, Sotropa says you should think more locally, too.

"With its very genesis inspired by artists, the boho style celebrates and embraces handmade and vintage finds such as macramé, ceramics, candles, paintings, tapestries, quilts, and rugs," she explains.

The best place to find handmade pieces? Flea markets, thrift stores, and local boutiques. Boho design is a great aesthetic to incorporate those vintage pieces your grandma held onto and finally passed down to you.

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