a bohemian old pile

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Senior Member
The Chateau Marmont was a bohemian old pile on Sunset near the foot of Laurel Canyon. All kinds of movie stars and rock stars had stayed there. There were plenty of photographs on the walls. Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, James Dean, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison.
Source: Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child
Context: Reacher and his old mates are checking in at the Chateau Marmont.

I understand that a pile means a large impressive building.

What does bohemian mean? The standard definition - living in a very informal way without following accepted rules of behaviour, and often involved in the arts - does not seem to apply. Would bohemian in this context refer to a specific architecture of the Bohemia region?

Thank you.
  • Retired-teacher

    Senior Member
    British English
    The writer seems to be using the word to mean a place where several people have lived a Bohemian lifestyle or that it is a place good for such a lifestyle. It is a dubious use of the word.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    Bohemian originally referred to gypsies, who were perceived as not being members of the main group of society.

    It later became, and currently refers to someone who either cuts himself off from society or, because his behaviour is unconventional, is cut off from the main group of society.

    The word is used mainly (but not always) of artists, writers, etc., who have an unconventional lifestyle, and who are not fully accepted by the society around them.

    A Bohemian house, to me is, as retired-teacher says, somewhat inappropriate but probably means "the sort of house that someone who was unconventional lived in."
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