Bohemian rhapsody: Cut out the technology and embrace the macramé and woven rattan revival
Anybody remember macramé? It's the craft of making decorative objects out of knotted rope or string and it was big in the 1970s. I remember a childhood macramé kit that resulted in a heavily fringed plant hanger, from which we dangled a spider plant. It was very much of its time.
Now, macramé is back in style and it's a key element of the new generation Bohemian look. First step, if you're interested, is to check out the American designer Emily Katz. Dubbed the macramé queen, she's revived the craft and made it look cool again. Her heavily fringed wall hangings, window dressings and plant hangers aren't very different to the ones we saw in the 1970s. They're just couched in 21st century language.
Then, as now, the craft was a reaction to the perceived dominance of technology in the home. Feeling overwhelmed by communications devices? Console yourself with a little hand-knotting. The great thing about macramé is that it's easy and fun to do. Other crafts are wholesome and spiritually reviving too, but most of them are a lot more difficult. Pottery, for example, takes years of practice. With macramé, you can just buy a kit and get on with it. Katz's Modern Macramé website has online tutorials and opportunities to buy macramé kits. A plant hanger kit costs $40 (€36).
If the DIY thing sounds like too much work, hand-knotted homeware is beginning to weave its way into the shops. The Dutch brand HK Living has come up with a hand-knotted macramé chandelier in black (€267). It's slightly saggy looking, but makes nice shadows on the wall. They've also got a hippy-dippy Bohemian hammock in natural cotton (€133) with macramé fringes. HK Living products are available online through the UK retailer, Cuckooland.
Closer to home, April And The Bear has a large (95cm x 50cm) wall hanging in jute and wool (€110). This one isn't exactly macramé, but it's singing from the same hymn sheet. It combines well with their woven BoHo cushion (€58), which comes in a neutral weave with a substantial fringe. If you fret about dust, macramé is not for you.
All this knotted rope combines with the trend for Moroccan tiles and fabrics, as well as woven rattan, to create the contemporary version of Bohemian style. "Personally it's a style that I adore," says Siobhan Lam of April And The Bear. "Mix and match is definitely the way to go. You can use lots of different influences and adapt them to your personality." Not for minimalists then? "No," says Lam. "And it's not a good look for people who need everything to be symmetrical. It's a laid-back style for people who enjoy their homes, and it can be done in a very affordable way."
If you fancy a touch of macramé without having to make it yourself, April And The Bear stocks a Hanging Rope Glass Bowl Holder. At €32, it's cheaper than Katz's DIY kit and includes a circular glass bowl which nestles in the rope cradle. "It's perfect for getting a 70s vibe," says Lam. "You can put a plant inside the bowl, or some dried flowers." Plants are essential to the Bohemian style and the more the merrier. The look works best when the plants seem to be coming at you from all directions, so intersperse standard plants with trailing ivies and lush ferns. The Bohemian style is relaxed and eclectic by nature, but Lam has a word of warning. "Sometimes you see BoHo interiors with lots of contrasting, clashing patterns and prints. It looks fantastic in magazines but it can be very difficult to achieve at home - you have to be so on-point with colour. You can definitely achieve this look in other ways so I'd err on the side of caution." Moroccan prints, for example, will sit comfortably together. Add a jungle print into the mix and you could be in trouble.
Until two months ago, April And The Bear was an online-only shop with occasional pop-ups, but Lam has recently opened a physical shop on Cow's Lane in Temple Bar, Dublin. "It's a great part of town for picking up bits and pieces for the home." Vintage pieces work nicely with the Bohemian style and you'll find plenty of these at Find, also on Cow's Lane.
Woven rattan furniture is available almost everywhere and fits in nicely with the Bohemian look, preferably if it hangs from the ceiling. The Irish online shop Home Lust has a Teardrop rattan hanging chair (€399) and an egg-shaped version for the same price. The hanging chain is included, but you'll need to organise the ceiling hook yourself. Home Lust was founded in 2015 by the former interiors journalist, Diana Valentine. "Our thing is BoHo minimalism," she says. "I believe that the two styles can complement each other quite well."
Working with a fairly lean Scandinavian base, Valentine adds the Bohemian touches in the detail. "I'm very keen on grey as a background neutral, although mint green can be lovely for summer. I would avoid ornate furniture - it can make the room look cluttered."
There is a strain of the Bohemian style that favours Victorian swooning couches, upholstered in rich velvet. Valentine would avoid these like the plague. "Keeping the larger pieces minimal creates a blank canvas for smaller eclectic touches." A matching set of four industrial-style rattan chairs (€630 for the set) bridges the gap between a plain dining table and a brass mirror. The mirrors are made by Gilded Hound, an Irish artisan company and range from €370 for a round mirror, 40cm in diameter, to €610 for an 80cm mirror. The reflective surface is ringed with a band of metal - copper or brass - that extends beyond it like the rim of a tray. "The glass is gold-tinted so it gives out a gold-tinted reflection and it goes with everything!" Valentine says.
You can then play around with the metallic theme by adding a set of brass candleholders in different styles (from €12 each) or soften the outline of the rattan furniture with sheepskin fleeces. "Bring in the BoHo touches in subtle ways, with cushions, textiles and artwork," Valentine recommends. "It's a romantic style of decoration."
See modernmacrame.com, cuckooland.com, home-lust.com, aprilandthebear.com, findonline.squarespace.com.