10 Ways to Create a Modern Bohemian Vibe

Infuse pared-down modern spaces with a bold new personality by layering in rich texture and a brilliant palette inspired by a globe-trotting spirit. Here’s how to pull these elements together for an effect that’s a perfect balance of laid-back and luxe.

By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Photo By: Jennifer Karady

Photo By: John Downs

©Samuel Design

Photo By: Christy Arakaki

Photo By: Miha Matei

Photo By: Julie Soefer

Photo By: Jenny Norris

Photo By: Sarah Stacey

Photo By: Martin Kobus Inc.

Balancing Act

To give the living room of a home in the hip Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles an energetic update, designer Breeze Giannasio focused her design around the spectacular textile hanging above the sofa. Working within the gold, fuschia, and gray color palette of the wall hanging she added layers of texture—the intricate carpet, the lush upholstery, the sleek coffee table—at every level. Balancing all this rich interest is the simplicity of the space and of all the furnishings: Their spare, modern lines keep the exotic patterns and colors from becoming overwhelming. Instead, the effect is fresh and fun.

Personal Space

Designer Ondine Karady’s own bedroom is a study in eclectic style and bold color choices. She designed the bed herself for director Spike Lee’s film, “25th Hour”, and the large painting above the bed was featured in Sex in the City, where it hung in the character Charlotte York’s apartment. The brightly hued Suzani bedspread came home with Karady from a trip to Israel. The vintage lamps add twin bright spots that work beautifully with the deep orange bed pillows.

Artistic Touches

“Light and airy” is how designer Sally Carson describes this living space in a newly renovated home in Australia, which features hardwood flooring, off-white walls, a brushed-chrome ceiling fan, and off-white upholstery. “Although quite a neutral palette, pops of color are introduced in the eclectic furnishings such asthe industrial style coffee table and the large artwork by indigenous Australian artist Betty Club-Mbitjana,” says Carson.

Old Santa Fe

Giving a 200-year-old home in historic Old Santa Fe, New Mexico a clean, contemporary look—without sacrificing its authentic character—is a challenge the designers at Samuel Design don’t take lightly. To strike just the right note, they worked with a light touch, allowing the lines of the architecture to guide them, and keeping the color palette quiet—introducing a few high spots of warm color and rich texture through accessories and artwork.

Pattern Play

Unexpected combinations of color and pattern are one of the hallmarks of bohemian style. Here, designer Christy Arakaki used this approach to give the guest room in a young family’s home an energetic, modern vibe. “I mixed bold color and pattern in order to create a cheery environment that reflects my clients’ vibrant personalities,” she says. “When mixing patterns, it is important to remember two things: the colors should work well together, and geometrics (like the chevron pattern in the mirror) mix well when paired with equally bold florals. The subtle chevron pattern in the drapes complements the other patterns in the space because it reads more like texture than pattern.”

Neutrality Compact

In a smaller space, keeping the color palette simple can give the impression of a more expansive footprint. Case in point: this sophisticated, gray and white apartment living room. “Our goal for this project and client was to create a living space that is modern with a touch of bohemian,” says designer Nina Jizhar. “We used mainly neutrals (grays with black and white) but layered them with texture. Natural elements such as wood and brass add so much warmth to the space.”

Full Morocco

“With this full redesign project, our talented team took a blank slate and turned it into our client’s vision of a Moroccan oasis,” says designer Laura Umansky. “The key to any Moroccan-inspired design is plenty of vibrant colors and a variety of impressive statement pieces.” Here, the designer set these bold colors and statement pieces against a quiet backdrop of a barely-pink walls and chose a bench with simple modern lines to show of the bright pink velvet upholstery at the foot of the bed.

Singing in Blues

If pinks, oranges, and yellows aren’t your favorite colors—but you still want that modern Bohemian look—take heart: blues and purples are just as effective, as shown in this restful bedroom. By upholstering the tailored headboard in a rich indigo, the designers at JJ Norris Interiors created a strong backdrop for bedding that shows off a mix of ethnic patterns in the same tone of blue. An inlaid side table and woven basket reinforce the exotic effect, while the simple wall-mounted light fixture and framed photographs offer a modern edge. Blue and white brings a clean and classic aesthetic to the bedroom. A few simple accessories – a hand-dyed bedspread, inlaid table and woven basket – inject the space with bohemian panache.

Floor Shows

To give an elegant living room an unexpected, Bohemian accent, designer Sarah Stacey offset the sleek lines of the sofa and metal-and-glass coffee table with a pair of eye-catching rugs. On the floor is a tufted black and white, Moroccan-style covering, and hanging on the wall, an irregularly shaped, brightly multicolored rug creates a vibrant focal point.

Inviting Atmosphere

In the sunroom of a California home, designer Martin Kobus created a relaxing retreat with luxurious softness worthy of a Sultan. Throw pillows covered in a variety of salmon-and-cream patterns layer their way across the oversized sectional while curtains block printed in a paler shade soften the windows. Touchable natural textures, from the wood coffee table base, to the woven furnishing, and blinds, add grounding warmth.