Bohemian rhapsody

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 February, 2010, 12:00am

The term 'bohemian', referring to an untraditional lifestyle, emerged in France in the early 1800s, when creative types began moving into low-rent 'gypsy' neighbourhoods in Paris, including Montmartre and Le Marais. With the arrival of artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, apartments in these neighbourhoods took on a boho aesthetic, characterised by an eclectic mixture of furnishings, textures and colour.

The Parisian-boho look has endured, although those 1850s bargains are now expensive antiques.

To create the aesthetic, watch Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge and revel in Catherine Martin's gorgeous set design; the rich emerald greens and crimsons, the silks and velvets and furniture in black lacquer and gold leaf.

Next, scour antique shops for quality chairs and tables, preferably French. For Parisian-boho wrought-iron outdoor furniture, visit Le Forge (, which ships to Hong Kong). A boho apartment also needs a suitably worn chaise longue, on which to enjoy a gin and soda. Flooring should be stained hardwood, over which are casually thrown oriental rugs. The Catherine Martin collection at Designer Rugs (below left;, which includes motifs of cockatoos, lyrebird feathers and lace, is pure boho whimsy.

An ornate wall sconce fits the aesthetic. So, too, does a crystal chandelier - but only if it's an antique.

The walls should be dark and moody. Wallpaper can add a level of texture but it must have an unconventional pattern. Anything by Florence Broadhurst will fit the bill: we love the Exotic Birds motif (above).

As a finishing touch, adorn your walls with original vintage posters depicting Paris. A classic example is the Bourin Quinquina poster by Jacques and Pierre Bellenger, available for US$1,350 from Paris Posters (