Early Bohemian-Style Bedroom Decor

Written by katherine harder
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Early Bohemian-Style Bedroom Decor
Use bedroom pieces that are actually old instead of faux-aged. (Martin Poole/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Modern bohemian styles draw on the foundation built by early bohemian culture. Adherents of that lifestyle decorated haphazardly, artistically and with available items. More recent "boho," "bourgeois bohemian" or "bohemian chic" styles use high-end, carefully selected and often hyper-feminine, faux-aged furnishings to create looks like shabby chic and hippie chic. Use inexpensive, thrift finds, your own artwork and artistic tools as well as objects that communicate an eccentric, somewhat dark mood to create an early bohemian-style bedroom. Avoid 1960s kitsch like plastic butterflies and shag rugs to keep your bohemian room from reading as too staged and modern.

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Bedroom Floors and Walls

Paint the bedroom walls in deep jewel tones or a muted, dusky grey; don't treat the walls' imperfections beforehand to keep the paint job from looking too "perfect" or new. You could also cover the walls with a fabric treatment. Favour faded Moorish patterned fabrics, velvet or silk, or inexpensive cheesecloth or burlap. Hang art on the walls in clusters, using ornate, moulded frames, old wooden frames and picture boxes. When possible, use your own art or the artwork of people you know. Leave some wall decor unframed for a more authentic look. Find images of early bohemian figures, such as Augustus John's portraits of his muse Dorelia McNeill. Warm up the floor with threadbare, flat-weave Turkish kilim rugs, mismatched Oriental rugs or a combination of similar styles. Use multiple overlapping rugs to hide wall-to-wall carpeting.

Early Bohemian-Style Bedroom Furniture

Bring in a weathered, vintage-style, metal four-poster or canopy bed or eschew a bed frame altogether and leave your mattress and box springs on the floor. If you are on a truly bohemian budget, you can fake a canopy bed by hanging strips of fabric from the ceiling in a shape that mimics your bed's dimensions. Cover the bed with a faded, jewel-toned, silk or woven duvet and a large number of mismatched vintage pillows and shams. Strew an old blanket across the foot of the bed. Flank your bohemian bed with two different side tables or stack old suitcases or large books next to the bed to serve as bedside tables. Place a large steamer trunk at the foot of the bed. Add as much furniture as the room will accommodate reasonably. A threadbare, upholstered wingback or dilapidated dining chair and an accompanying side table provide a place away from the bed to linger over conversation or poetry.

Bringing in Early Bohemian-Style Lighting and Accessories

Layer different accessories onto the same surface. Instead of just neatly placing a hurricane lamp and a vintage ashtray onto the side table near your seating area, add an tarnished silver tea service full of lighters, a couple of vintage pens, a weathered, leather-bound writing notebook and a dog-eared copy of Victor Hugo's classic bohemian work, "Romantic Army," or William Thackeray's "Vanity Fair." Use your artistic tools as decorations. If you write, make your vintage typewriter a focal point; an artist can leave out clusters of brushes in cracked vases; an actor or dancer should artfully drape her worn costumes across the furniture. Add bare bulbs hanging from ceiling hooks over the areas that need them most, such as writing, drawing or reading areas. If you're looking for a lusher, colourful early 20th-century bohemian style over the barer mid-19th-century version, add a basket shade or paper globe over the bulbs. Install wrought-iron hooks around the room so you can easily drape clothing, empty packs or bags and personal accessories, such as necklaces or scarves.


A note on early bohemians: In the mid-19th century, "The Westminster Review" described the "ideal" bohemian as someone completely devoted to artistic pursuits and equally opposed to convention. The bohemian persona the article described was resourceful, defiant, idiosyncratic, philosophical and free from status ambitions. Keep this characterisation in mind as you conceive your early bohemian bedroom and be open to experimentation. Use only the most beautiful objects or objects you love and keep the emphasis on integrating your artistic works with your exterior surroundings.

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