Bohemian interiors are back with a vengeance, and it looks like they’re not going anywhere any time soon. But if the word “bohemian” inspires a twinge of fear, don’t write the aesthetic off yet. New bohemian design is not synonymous with the haphazard, shabby décor choices of yesteryear. Instead, it’s equal parts modern, cozy, and global, and it can still hold charm for those who seek structure and tradition in home design.
Perhaps better described as “organic modern décor,” this style is ultimately about a well-edited mix of natural materials, interesting textures, and clean lines. The simple, structured pieces commonly associated with mid-century modernism are paired with woven rugs, plush throws, and splashes of color to form an eclectic but cohesive design. When asked about her style, Irina Ruvinsky, a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago who has mastered this new bohemian look, says that her approach to her home is the same as her approach to cooking. “I love food that is simple, casual, and unpretentious, and where each ingredient is chosen for its quality, flavor, and versatility. I think that modern organic pieces follow those rules and make living effortless, comfortable, and aesthetically appealing.”
Comfort is one of the key descriptors of this design style, and it drives a good deal of the aesthetic. Organic modern décor can be as neutral or color-infused as you like, and the proper mix is much less centered on having particular articles than on creating a cozy “feel.” Claire Tibbs, the owner of the vintage home goods store Humboldt House, admits that the style is hard to describe because it’s so eclectic, but at its core, it’s about creating a warm, welcoming environment that pairs some of the clean, streamlined elements of modern design with the handmade, bespoke aspects of the decorative arts.
Decorating based on the desired “feel” of a room can be liberating since it allows you to create a room uniquely tailored to your tastes. But an effortless look can be notoriously difficult to achieve, and with so much open interpretation, it could feel a bit daunting to know where to begin. For those new to the style, there are four main considerations that will help keep things balanced. The first is to try to approach your design choices with an appreciation for a wide variety of decorative traditions. Turkish, Moroccan, Scandinavian, and French elements can mingle in the same room, serving as visual complements for one another. Mixing items from multiple cultures will help the room look layered and eclectic rather than overly “theme-y.” Local antique stores are wonderful sources for rugs, lighting, and case goods, and textiles are an easy way to add a multi-cultural touch to a room.
The second tip is to infuse the room with a number of natural materials. Wood, leather, minerals, baskets, wool, pottery, and greenery–the combination of all of these materials will add the “organic” aspect to the design, making your space feel warmer and more alive. Local art galleries, fair trade shops, and nature museums are great places to find artisanal goods and curious artifacts. And be sure to visit your local greenhouse. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, succulents are a hardy choice, and they instantly add character to a room.
Thirdly, while you’re looking to create an eclectic mix, don’t feel like you have to go overboard. Carefully editing your accessories and choosing items that truly speak to you will keep the look streamlined, modern, and uncluttered. Think of the room as a rotating collection of cherished objects; it should offer a comfortable yet considered mix.
The final suggestion is arguably the most important. The heart of the new bohemian style is a sense of depth, created primarily through the mix of patterns and textures. By blending hard and soft, plush and woven, and slick and rough, a room will have more visual and tactile interest. It will feel like a rich, intriguing space rather than a flat collection of objects. By inviting a deeper connection with all the senses, you will feel compelled to linger and explore the beautiful elements you’ve collected.
• Humboldt House, 1045 N. California Ave., Chicago, IL (humboldthouseco.com)
• Black Tree Studio Pottery, 111 E. Michigan St., New Carlisle, IN (blacktreestudio.com)
• Lubeznik Center for the Arts, 101 W. Second St., Michigan City, IN (lubeznikcenter.org)
• The Welcome Mat, 309 E. Lincolnway, Valparaiso, IN (thewelcomemat.org)
• Antique Junction Mall, 711 Lincolnway, LaPorte, IN (malldog.com)