4 ways to break the decor rules and rock a boho vibe at home

Decor Styles

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If you love breaking the decor rules and flying free with your style, then ‘boho’ is surely the way to go.

There’s no bigger fan of this creative, expressive approach than glamorous international stylist, Fifi O’Neill. The author and decor expert lives the look in her own homes – and has travelled the world seeking out the best examples of boho interiors for her new book, Global Bohemian: How To Satisfy Your Wanderlust At Home.

It’s packed with ideas and tips, and a brilliant starting point for anyone curious about going boho.

Fifi O'Neill (Global Bohemian/Cico Books/PA
Fifi O’Neill (Mark Lohman/Global Bohemian/Cico Books/PA)

O’Neill is clearly delighted that this layered, vibrant and organic style, long associated with artists, musicians and writers, is now making an impact on the more mainstream decor scene.

“If you revel in freedom from conventions and rules, love a space that reflects individuality and spontaneity and have a fondness for a fusion of global goods, bohemian style is pure catnip!” she enthuses.

The joy in this way of home styling, O’Neill promises, is that you can tailor it exactly to your taste and embrace variety. Whether exuberant or subtle, eclectic or sophisticated, bohemian style welcomes a free-thinking approach to decorating.

“After all, why settle for one style when you can indulge a love of several?” she declares. “There are so many beguiling options and they’re so easily attainable. Its flexibility and affordability are what makes bohemian decor so appealing to me.”

Her recipe for the look features jewel-toned items, metallic touches, alluring prints, a fusion of global influences and layers of textures. Finally, add a dash of mismatched pieces from various origins and eras, delicious colours, exquisite textiles and imaginative displays. Then simply mix into a beguiling blend, display with flair, and sit back and drink in the pleasure of a space that’s truly unique to you.

Feeling the call to go boho? Here are four ways to rock a boho look, which you can easily personalise and make your own…

Romance the room

Fifi's own home using a palette of cream, blush pink and aqua creates a soft, feminine feel (Mark Lohman/Global Bohemain/Cico Books/PA).
In O’Neill’s own home, a palette of cream, blush pink and aqua creates a soft, feminine feel (Mark Lohman/Global Bohemain/Cico Books/PA)

“While I love vivid and cheerful hues in other people’s homes, I prefer a softer palette for my own. I find that after travelling around the world for my work, I need a soothing, peaceful romantic environment, where I can reflect on everything I have seen and regroup,” says O’Neill.

“I wanted to conjure an uncomplicated, dreamy mood and beautiful blues always have that effect on me. In addition, a soft palette makes a beautiful backdrop to layer with personal items. I like rooms to tell a story, but also feel playful yet restful.”

(L-R) Large Wooden Beads Artisan Chandelier, £370, The French Bedroom Company; Faux Teal Potted Plant, £29.95, Audenza (available end July); Analisa Cushion White Sands, £47.75, The Taylor (The French Bedroom Company/Audenza/The Taylor/PA)
(L-R) Large Wooden Beads Artisan Chandelier, £370, The French Bedroom Company; Faux Teal Potted Plant, £29.95, Audenza (available end July); Anelisa Cushion White Sands, £47.75, The Taylor (The French Bedroom Company/Audenza/The Taylor/PA)

She often experiments with colours, furniture arrangement and accessories, and says: “The look of my home is ever changing but it shows my true spirit. I am a romantic and hearts are my greatest weakness. I love elements that have a human connection to them. They bring a unique dimension and an artful addition to any space.”

Get in the spirit

global boho (Cico Books/PA)
O’Neill has worked boho magic on a guest cottage next to her home, giving it a vacation feel with pared-back decor and a curated collection of treasured objects (Mark Lohman/Global Bohemian/Cico Books/PA)

A monochrome scheme, tropical plants and Eastern artefacts like Buddah heads give this setting a far-away feel that’s both zen and chic.

“When I first saw this cottage that came with my house, it was love at first sight. The sun-bleached tin roof and the exposed rafters had an irresistibly seductive bohemian feel. However, it needed a major decorating facelift,” explains O’Neill.

(L-R) Medium Carved Stone Buddha Head, £59, Shimu; Sahara Armchair, upholstered in textured cotton in Berber Print, £599, Atkin and Thyme; Pineapple Pouffe – Black & White, £95, Sweetpea & Willow (Shimu/Atkin & Thyme/Sweetpea & Willow/PA)
(L-R) Medium Carved Stone Buddha Head, £59, Shimu; Sahara Armchair upholstered in textured cotton in Berber Print, £599, Atkin and Thyme; Pineapple Pouffe – Black & White, £95, Sweetpea & Willow (Shimu/Atkin & Thyme/Sweetpea & Willow/PA)

She aimed for a “fresh, young, hip look” with white painted walls, ceiling and exposed rafters”, which she contrasted with a black painted floor. It adds a masculine touch, which balances the more feminine aspects of the décor and provides continuity between the sleeping and living areas.

Whip up a style sandstorm

A gold embellished faux cow skull, woven hangings and succulents work together to create an ethnic atmosphere. Pillows covered in fabrics of varied patterns and texture add interest to the sofa (Mark Lohman/Global Bohemian/Cico Books/PA)

There’s an out-on-the prairie, nomadic feel to this boho look, and its desert palette of browns, sand and cream are easy-on-the-eye.

“I love incorporating things from everywhere, from Morocco to vintage American farmhouse,” says owner Kari Payne, who shares the space with her husband John, and has embraced influences from the early simplicity of Native American and the South West, to elaborate Spanish and Mediterranean styles.

“I think the connecting factor to all these cultures is their rustic, artisanal and hand-made quality,” she explains.

“My dad was an interior designer in the 1970s and gave me the confidence to mix styles and eras. I love warm, cosy interiors with a mixture of rustic and modern, and a collected, eclectic vibe. To me, it’s relaxing and inspiring all at once.”

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(L-R) Carved Faux Skull, £75, Cox & Cox; Alovia Baked Clay Cushion, £47.75, The Taylor; Artificial Flora Cactus, £21.75, The Taylor (Cox & Cox/The Taylor/PA)

Take your time and combine a mix of pieces you truly love, advises Payne, who also researches Instagram and Pinterest for ideas and inspiration. “Designing a home to be unique and personal to you and a reflection of your life, is what makes a house a home,” she adds.

Bask in a beach hut vibe

White painted floorboards and pale yellow walls and ceiling create a sunny, shore side room, while a fish shaped vase and a duvet cover decorated with hummingbirds and flowers are the perfect finishing touches in Kandice Ridley's home ( Mark Lohman/Global Bohemian/Cico Books/PA)
White painted floorboards and pale yellow walls and ceiling create a sunny, shoreside room, while a fish-shaped vase and a duvet cover decorated with hummingbirds and flowers are the perfect finishing touches in Kandice Ridley’s home ( Mark Lohman/Global Bohemian/Cico Books/PA)

A tropical cocktail of colours has been used to give punch to a laid-back, kick-off-your-shoes seashore-inspired setting.

“For both the exterior and the interior, my true inspiration was nature,” says Kandice Ridley, who’s embraced a tropical boho style at her home on an island off the coast of Florida.

“All the colours are drawn from ocean sea glass, the skies at different times of day, rainbows, foliage and the amazing plumage of island birds. I ended up using 38 different colours.”

(L-R) Bolga Fans, Set of Three, Oasis, £59, Lola & Mawu; Hand Painted Indian Bagot Table, Green/Aqua, £39, Boutique Camping; Tino Toucan Jungle House Cushion, Beaumonde (Lola & Mawu; Boutique Camping; Beaumonde/PA)
(L-R) Bolga Fans – Set of Three – Oasis, £59, Lola & Mawu; Hand Painted Indian Bajot Table – Green/Aqua, £39, Boutique Camping; Tino Toucan Jungle House Cushion, £40, Beaumonde (Lola & Mawu; Boutique Camping; Beaumonde/PA)

Spirited fabrics, fanciful accessories, exotic furnishings and nature-inspired shades set the tone, and in her living area there are lovely touches such as a Hawaiian Hula-style raffia shade, collections of shells and beachcomber finds.

“For an informal room that looks well planned out, mixing a variety of colours, fabrics and textures does the trick, as long as you always include the same shades of one colour to pull it all together,” she adds.

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Written by Loknath Das