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Boho Style Then & Now

It's no secret bohemian style is trending—but did you know the style has been in the making for quite some time? Follow the evolution of this eclectic home decor style throughout the decades, from the 1920s to today.

Inspired by free spirits and global adventures, bohemian style—known for its bold, worldly patterns and vibrant jewel tones—has been in the making for quite some time. While the style certainly took off in 1971, our earliest sightings of what has inspired bohemian style dates all the way back to the May 1923 issue of Better Homes & Gardens. Boho style has since evolved on multiple fronts, including bringing oudoors-only wicker chairs inside and adorning light fixtures and walls with macrame.

It's easy to get swept up in the carefree glamour of the bohemian lifestyle. One Better Homes & Gardens writer put it this way: "The romance of a gypsy caravan will not likely lure you into forsaking your job, yet you can embrace 'bohemian style' by accenting your home with special touches that sing of poetry readings and global adventures" ("La Vie Bohème," December 2002). See how to capture the essence of boho design by incorporating these signature bohemian elements.

See More from the May 1923 Issue

The Evolution of Wicker

In the 1920s, wicker furniture was all the rage, and the May 1923 issue of Better Homes & Gardens (above left) taught readers how to furnish their porches with wicker furniture. It was a popular choice for sun porches because it felt light, cool, and airy while simultaneously spelling comfort and ease during the hottest summer months. Now, wicker furniture is no longer limited to your sun porch or patio. The classic material has been popping up in living rooms far and wide as accent chairs for decades.

We see this style evolve through the years in the Better Homes & Gardens archives. For example, this wicker desk chair from the October 1990 issue (above right) is stately yet comfortable. And on the cover of our July 2017 issue, a set of two wicker chairs (and a wicker lamp) complement a modern sofa.

Bohemian Stylings of the '70s

The '70s were filled with avocado green and chocolate brown, shag rugs, disco, and psychedelic color palettes. While those things don't exactly scream boho style, these throwback photos from the archives show that bohemian decor was definitely present during that decade. In the August 1978 issue feature story "Live It Up in a Loft," we see tons of boho elements: indoor plants take center stage; a blend of rich, saturated colors mix well with neutral tones; basket-weave style art hangs on the walls; bold, patterned rugs stand out; and for the first time we see an eclectic mix of furniture styles create a cohesive look—a technique that really took off in the '70s.

As mixing eclectic styles became more common, our editors even devoted a story to how to mix pieces successfully. One piece of advice shared in the February 1978 issue still rings true today: "Once you learn to be a good mixer, you'll see potential in furniture pieces you may have banished to the attic or back porch—and that's when the fun begins!" ("How to Mix Without Messing Up," February 1978)

The Art of Macrame

Macrame, the ancient art of knotting, has been around for centuries. Sailors used to do knotting projects while at sea to pass the time, and the art spread around the world with their travels. But macrame perhaps reached an apex in America in the '70s with hippie culture, and Better Homes & Gardens featured it in the February 1971 issue (above), when editors taught readers how to create their own beautiful macrame designs.

Since 1971, we've seen macrame make an even greater transformation in home decor. Featured in the January 2017 issue of Better Homes & Gardens, macrame comes back in "Ready or Knot," where the ancient craft is revolutionized as a covering for pendant light fixtures (below).

Bohemian Stylings of the '80s

Even more boho decor filled the pages of the 1980s Better Homes & Gardens magazines. One story in the September 1982 issue, "Signature Decorating," taught readers how to blend the old and new by combining unlike pieces to create something special and unique. This story channeled bohemian vibes with the mixing of styles, unique vintage pieces, and bold, vibrant-hued rugs.

More boho inspiration can be seen in the November 1986 issue that focused on the refresh of an attic space ("Light and Lofty Attic Redo!" top right). From this story, we can see boho elements in the rug choice, eclectic mix of furniture, and use of wicker. "Personality Decorating," in the October 1989 issue, brought even more boho influence. From the indoor plants to the rugs and mixed-and-matched furniture, this story showed readers that the "Tex-Mex Mix" could also be used for bohemian inspiration.

Timeless Tapestries

Tapestries, with their intricate designs, subtle textures, and bold colors, have secured their place in modern bohemian design, thanks in large part to their old-world charm. The unique character these beautiful textiles bring to a room isn't surprising, however, considering their rich history. As one editor writes in the May 1988 issue, "For centuries, homeowners have been dressing up their dwellings with artful textiles woven of richly hued threads. Once a sure sign of wealth, tapestries flourished in Victorian times, when mechanizations and popular taste introduced the pictorial fabrics to the masses ("Tapestry's Comeback").

Now, tapestries aren't reserved just for the wealthy. They've been making their way into homes, apartments, and even college dorm rooms to be used as floor coverings, wall coverings, and lovely accent pieces. Given their jewel tones, fringed edges, and global inspiration, it's no wonder tapestries have become a staple of boho style.

A Modern Take on Boho Style

Despite its evolution from the 1920s to now, bohemian style has remained a timeless tradition. Draw inspiration from the past and current styles to bring a little boho into your home.

What's your favorite feature of this look? Is it global-inspired textiles? Punchy colors? Mismatched furniture? The beauty of boho is that it's about celebrating harmony and individuality; there is no one right way to do it. Now that you know the staples of bohemian design, you can have fun creating a boho-inspired space that's truly your own.


Be sure to check out more decades of timeless home decor in our archive, too, including stories on mixing and matching patterns like a pro and incorporating wicker.