A Boho Classic Revisited: ‘Novel Interiors’

A Boho Classic Revisited: 'Novel Interiors' - book on table with pottery

It’s never too late to gush about a new-to-me book that does more to define boho style than the Bloomsbury Set. No, the book’s not by the famed Bloomsbury author Virginia Woolf, but it is by the author of the modern-day blog A Bloomsbury Life, Lisa Borgnes Giramonti.

Giramonti’s book, Novel Interiors debuted in 2014, the year before I started BoHo Home, so I’ll say now what I didn’t have the platform to share with then.

A Boho Classic Revisited: 'Novel Interiors' - living room 1
Ivan Terestchenko photo

Not only is Novel Interiors so very boho-rich, but it speaks to the reader (and to the writer) in me! Honestly, like a great novel, it hooked me with its first sentence:

“We don’t just read a great story, we inhabit it.”

Yes! From this auspicious start, Lisa (I feel like we’re pals already) goes on to explain that it’s all those “tiny little details” between plot points that draw us into the world of our favorite novel, and we can use them as inspiration to create enchanted rooms in our own homes.

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

The book is chock full of wonderful quotes from classic novels, too, as well as an appendix of complete citations (which appeals to the English teacher in me). Instead of offering straight description like many home interiors books, it steers the reader toward thinking about possibilities in decorating, such as what a room’s decor can mean if you try this and then do that (which also makes it FUN).

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

“To authors like Isak Dinesen, Virginia Woolf, and Dodie Smith, the real purpose of a home is to foster the flourishing of art, ideas, and people,” my pal Lisa writes.

“In their fictional bohemian worlds, characters live with a wild sense of poetry, and their personal spaces reflect it: they’re joyful, unorthodox, and fearlessly layered with color, textiles, and stories. Yes, these homes may challenge the rules of convention, but that’s exactly why they’re so welcoming. Here, personal style isn’t about cash; it’s about attitude, wit, and making do with what you have.”

That’s the kind of home I want. How ’bout you?

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

I often think life would be better with more of the cash part, but probably not. Not that we’re poor; I can afford new bedding when I want it, but I won’t be ripping out our kitchen anytime soon, if you get my drift. That limitation has encouraged creativity and eventually led to my interest in thrifting and reselling on ebay and Etsy, which I love.

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

“Bohemian rooms encompass all styles and all points of view,” Lisa explains. “They mix things together in ways other people would never dream of.”

Writer Katherine Mansfield, for instance, considered someone who liked to decorate with overlapping patterns as creative and someone who didn’t as bourgeois. (Kate and I would have been BFFs, if I do say so myself!)

A Boho Classic Revisited: 'Novel Interiors' - bedroom 1
Ivan Terestchenko photo

Consider this excerpt from Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson:

“Nothing matched anything else. Everything
was of an exotic brilliance that took away the breath.
‘Not the room of a lady,’ thought Miss Pettigrew.”

In those three short sentences is all you need to know about who Miss Pettigrew has been and who she’ll grow into. She’s clearly mesmerized by this “unladylike” way of decorating, as am I!

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

In fact, I’m right on point with another character from another novel Lisa cites:

“Properly managed, nothing need ever clash.”
Ronald Firbank, Vainglory

But just in case you want a little hand-holding, there’s a great tipsheet on pattern layering on page 189.

I like Lisa’s take on over-styling, too

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

“Here’s the wonderful charm about disorder,” she writes, “a little bit of it makes people feel as if they can exhale and be themselves.  Repeat after me: on the other side of perfection lies freedom.”

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

On the other side of perfection DOES lie freedom, and Lisa backs up her assertion with pictures AND some good old literary “proof”…

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“Picking up the cushions…that Mary had disposed so carefully,
she threw them back on to the chairs and couches.
That made all the difference; the room came alive at once.”
Katherine Mansfield, Bliss

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Ivan Terestchenko photo


“He liked Eugenie’s drawing room he thought,
as he stood there waiting. It was very untidy.”
Virginia Woolf, The Years

She’s also my new guru on collecting

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

“Rooms that are a repository of objects the owner has collected over the years offer an intoxicating glimpse into what makes a person tick,” she writes, “You always leave one knowing more than you did when you entered.”

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

I’ve had people tell me that about my own home, that there’s so much to look at. And I always see them wandering up to the shelves, tables and walls to examine items, then often ask about them. To me that’s the supreme compliment!

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

Loving pretty or interesting “things” is never something to apologize for. It indicates curiosity and a keen mind!

“[His] quest as an accomplished artist and aesthetic
[made it] only natural that he should derive a great part
of his delight from the world of external objects.” –
Gabriele D’Annunzio, The Child of Pleasure

Not to mention what she says about global boho…

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

Okay, I’ll mention it: That rooms, like the people who create and live in them, can have a “seeker mentality” by inspiring us “to grow, to wander, and to never stop exploring.”

A Boho Classic Revisited: 'Novel Interiors' - bedroom 3
Ivan Terestchenko photo

A room with global elements is, after all, a “departure gate for dreams.” What a beautiful way to put that!

Much to my disappointment, I haven’t traveled outside the US, beyond a few cities in Canada. Having exotic textiles, objects and furniture in my home is one way I travel without leaving home because, after all…

“Your life is all wandering, changes and adventure.”
Lesley Blanch, The Wilder Shores of Love

I’ve always felt this. I love the title of that Blanch book as well. I’m not familiar with his work, but think, perhaps, I have traveled there. Heck, isn’t that where we all want to live?

And don’t overlook the quirk factor

A Boho Classic Revisited: 'Novel Interiors' - limbed chair
Ivan Terestchenko photo

This might be an area you feel a tad insecure venturing into. Not to worry, Lisa’s tips on page 239 explain how to get started with wings, graffiti and, of all things, limbs where least expected.

Just remember what Lawrence Durrell wrote in The Alexandria Quartet–“Great stylists are those who are least certain of their effects.”–and sally forth like a knight on a crusade!

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Ivan Terestchenko photo

Just take it from Sir Cecil B., iconographer of royalty:

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be
anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”
Cecil Beaton, Self-Portrait with Friends

After all…

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Ivan Terestchenko

“[The aim of life] was to teach man
to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life
that is itself but a moment.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

If you want more…

  • Use this (affiliate) link to order Lisa’s book:

  • Take the Apartment Therapy tour of the California home Lisa shares with her husband and son.
  • Check out Lisa’s blog, A Bloomsbury Life, (after you’ve read everything on BoHo Home AND subscribed, of course).
  • Give me a follow on your favorite social media sites for additional content and notice of new posts. The social link buttons at the top of the sidebar will take you everywhere you need to go!
  • Shop with me on Etsy and ebay. Links to my “Boho Home by Susan” stores are in the sidebar as well.

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