WAY TO GO BOHO #2 / Frenchish Bedroom

The French have an expression, je ne sais quoi, which Americans translate to mean “a certain something.” Usually it’s another person who we say has je ne sais quoi because there’s something about them we can’t quite define that attracts us. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, to know the literal translation of je ne sais quoi is “I don’t know what.”

So what is the je ne sais quoi of boho style? I don’t really know what it is for sure, but I know it when I see it, and it pulls me in. There are all degrees of boho style—just read a book or two about it. I’d recommend  these to start:


You may find you like one sort of boho but not another. For instance, I love looking at gypsy caravan/hippie-type rooms, and I could explore them for hours. But I don’t want to live in one. I like my stuff, but I like it tidy and easy to clean.

After much deliberation I’ve figured out what I’m attracted to in Bohemian interior style:

  • Bright pops of color—lots of color
  • A mix of textiles, many ethnic
  • Global goods of all kinds, but particularly oriental
  • A “quirk” factor that goes along with the idea of flouting the rules

Not every bohemian room will have the traits I like, and plenty will have this and more. I’m now in the process of injecting my somewhat predictable home with these four elements to end up with something along the lines of boho modern chic, similar to the room I chose for today’s “Way to Go Boho.” This is a guest room I could mostly love. But before we get into how I’d change it, let’s talk about what works and how to get the look.

Micasa Revista (Woman’s Day/Spain)

This room is a little bit of many styles:

  • Traditional—the upholstered headboard with nailhead trim, flowered pillow
  • Global—Turkish kilim rug, map
  • Southwest—Native American design pillow
  • Industrial/rustic—night table, lamp, metal basket, cerused floor
  • French country—grain-sack pillows, striped coverlet, mattress topper
  • Scandinavian/minimalist—white walls and baseboards, white bedding, bare walls, off-white headboard, uncluttered overall

Did I miss anything? Let’s go to the other side and look back…

Micasa Revista (Woman’s Day/Spain) via Planete Deco

Add to our list…

  • Glam/elegant/romantic—tufted velvet chair, ornate gilt mirror, candles
  • Tropical—the choice of flowers as anthurium (something we called penis flower that made us giggle back in college)
  • Artisanal—blown glass vase, neat stacks of reading material
  • Casual—hat and mattress topper on chair, map framed but not hung, one throw pillow not “arranged”

That’s a lot of variety in so spare a room, but it all works together beautifully, doesn’t it? The room is bright but still so restful looking—serene and clean. And by “clean” I don’t mean “not dirty” (though it’s clean in that way too). I mean uncluttered, orderly.

Of course, we can’t see the rest of the room. We’re lucky to get two views. There may or may not be other furniture in here. If it were MY room, I’d probably add a desk and a chest of drawers to add to functionality. The dining chair could work at the desk, but I’d want a comfy club-type chair to lounge in.

I’d use the mirror somewhere else in my house where I could enjoy it every day (and every one would wonder how I could afford such a treasure). And while I’ve never seen a purple chair I didn’t like, or a velvet one, I’m not much for tufting—too fussy. Neither the chair nor the ornate mirror seem to go with the rest of the room, and perhaps that’s the “quirk factor” here.

If it were MY room, I envision the quirk factor as faux taxidermy, but funky in some way (beyond just that it’s taxidermy). I like this arrangement and think it would work outside the nursery…

..or even these bad steampunk boys…
Recycle Nation
Kind of fierce, huh?

Now let’s look at the bedside table…

  1. Pillar Candles, white, Pottery Barn, $4-$27
  2. Cork Board World Map, Corkboard.com, $225
  3. Shipyard Table Lamp, Dot & Bo, $123
  4. Stella Wire Mesh Rectangular Utility Basket with Side Handles, Lucky Clover Trading Company, $1.75
  5. Inspire Q Nelson Rectangle Industrial Modern Rustic End Table, Overstock, $219.99
  6. Nearly Natural Anthurium Silk Plant with Ceramic Vase, Target, $31.49
  7. Raindrop Glass Bottle, Dot & Bo, $36
  8. Handmade Turkish Wool Striped Kilim Rug, Hands On Hips/Etsy, approximately 4.5 by 5 feet, $79

I like the bright colors in the rug and the repeat of the red in the plant.

Micasa Revista (Woman’s Day/Spain) via Planete Deco

The lamp is so sculptural and stands out BECAUSE the rest of the room is kept simple. (Or simple for boho anyway.)

On to the bed itself…

  1. Region Upholstered Nailhead Headboard, Overstock, $99.99
  2. Nina Hendrick Design Red-Striped Grain Sack Inspired Pillow, Zazzle, $34.95
  3. Fabriano Decorative Feather-and-Down-Filled Throw Pillow, $37.79
  4. Handwoven Aztec Throw Pillow Cover, maroon and gray, Amazon, $23.99
  5. French Grain Sack Pillow Cover, Artesanias Rustica/Etsy, $24
  6. Nina Hendrick Design Red-Striped Grain-Sack-Inspired Lumbar Pillow, Zazzle, $39.95
  7. Ticking Stripe Quilt, Black, Ballard Designs, $179

I love upholstered headboards, and the mix of pillows and bedding have a natural, handmade, almost shabby chic sort of look. Stripes are always crisp and go with everything.

Micasa Revista (Woman’s Day/Spain)
Notice that the room repeats stripes in different colors and widths. The floral and geometric pillows break the stripes with just a touch of pattern.

Across the room and looking back…

  1. Bellamy Hand-Carved Leaner Mirror, 69 by 82 inches, Restoration Hardware, $2695
  2. Cerused Gray White Oak Floors, Patina Modern Floors
  3. Set of two Skyline Furniture Denise Tufted, Arched Dining Chairs in Aubergine Velvet, Bed Bath and Beyond, $480.99
  4. Wolf Serta Naturally Pure Wool Mattress Topper with Cotton Cover, Cymax, $184.98
  5. Gray Paper Straw Fedora Made in Italy, Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth, $27.99
  6. Bohemian Modern by Emily Henson
  7. The New Bohemians: Cool and Collected Homes by Justina Blakeney
  8. The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature by Ben Tarnoff
  9. Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden by Quentin Bell and Virginia Nicholson
  10. The Art of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant by Richard Shone

Obviously, I curated the selection of books on the bottom shelf of the nightstand. Who knows what’s really there?

Micasa Revista (Woman’s Day/Spain) via Planete Deco
I still don’t care for the mirror here, although the reflection makes for a cool photo. Perhaps it was pulled into the room just for that purpose. With the space already extremely bright with white walls, the reflection is overkill IMO. I think I’d like the mirror better if it were draped with some colorful beads and flowy scarves. It also looks too pristine. Something with a less fussy, more rustic frame might work, or a vintage mirror that’s losing its silvering.

Remember, your boho will likely look quite different than mine.

You can stick to a mostly black palette, or white, or black and white, and still achieve a boho look. You can layer it on (and on and on) or keep it spare like this room. It’s all in the mix, the story it tells about you, and how it makes you feel. The only rules that matter are yours.
No wait, even those don’t matter! Being bohemian is about freeing yourself from rules, particularly self-imposed ones. Maybe that’s what the mirror is for—to remind you to look inward, to “know thyself” well enough to bring the inward you into the outer world.
Way to go, boho!
If you have a photo of a room (yours or from a magazine or website) you’d like me to feature and source, email me at susan@bohohome.com, and follow my blog with Bloglovin.
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