By Design: Combining bohemian and classic styles

Lauren Edith Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
Aboriginal art from Australia hangs above an intricately carved dowry chest from Rajasthan, India.

As I wandered through a client’s home in Redwood City for the first time, I couldn’t help but notice unique objects all over the house – among them, an intricately carved chest, an elegant wood dining table and gorgeous pottery. I learned that the husband and wife had amassed a collection of one-of-a-kind, handmade items from all over the world through years of traveling for work.

We knew immediately that we wanted to incorporate these items into the design of the home. The challenge for me as the designer was figuring out how to collect and highlight all of these beautiful and diverse pieces while maintaining a clean and fresh feel. The couple’s style leaned bohemian, but we also wanted the home to feel classic and timeless.

Bohemian-chic style done well is an art form. It requires taking an eclectic collection of objects and elements and pulling them together in a way that feels effortless. It’s all about mixing and matching colors, patterns and textures, but making sure not to overdo it.

The dining room and living room flow into one another, so we opted to pair their wooden dining table from Italy with oversized gray velvet chairs. We grounded the space with a modern, textured gray rug in rich, soft wool to make it cozy. We placed aboriginal art from Australia above an intricately carved dowry chest from Rajasthan, India. Hand-painted zigzag draperies from the couple’s favorite London-based designer, Kit Kemp, add whimsy and a personal touch to the living room.

The couple has three young children, so we wanted to ensure that the home felt livable and fun. Their 8-year-old daughter had created a blue ombre painting on canvas in their garage using just paint, water and a paper plate. We added a classic brass frame to give her piece the modern art treatment, and the painting now hangs at the head of the dining room table.

Creative design

I recently picked up a copy of designer Justina Blakeney’s “The New Bohemians: Cool and Collected Homes.” I paged through images of interiors filled with beautifully diffused light, lush plants and colorful prints filling the homes of young creatives. Blakeney has hit on something that people are craving right now: homes that are personal without feeling kitschy, and collected rather than cluttered.

Blakeney, who grew up in Berkeley, developed her bohemian aesthetic through her multicultural upbringing. Her childhood home stylishly blended her cultural roots (Blakeney is half-Black, half-Eastern European Jewish) and later led her to pursue a degree in world arts and cultures at UCLA, followed by extensive international travels.

After living and designing in Italy for seven years, she brought her eclectic style back to the U.S. and started a design blog that quickly became wildly popular. At the core of her design philosophy is the belief that the key to an amazing home isn’t wealth, but creativity.

Now based in Los Angeles, many of Blakeney’s clients are what she refers to as “New Bohemians” – creative individuals who range from boutique owners and artists to urban farmers, and who apply their free-spirited mindset to their home design. The new boho home often blends work and leisure, and can include an office, a gallery, a showroom and even a restaurant. The book focuses on the do-it-yourself elements of bohemian design to make this type of aesthetic accessible to all.

When trying this style at home, select a few items that you love and build around those. Taking a DIY approach is a great place to start. If you find yourself looking for guidance in how to pair pieces or edit your home, that may be when you turn to a design professional for some guidance in combining your personal style and home with a bohemian look.

It’s possible to have a relaxed vibe and visual interest through a set of carefully edited and curated pieces that reflect your life, values and style. In your home, you can build on a neutral palette and inject bold colors, handmade objects and layers of texture to tie everything together.

Above all, boho style should feel personal. It tells the story of you, your family and your home through pieces that carry meaning.

Celeste Randolph is an interior designer in Los Altos. For more information, visit

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