Today, we’re shining a spotlight on a dark and moody aesthetic trend that’s seeping into the interior design world! It’s called “Dark Academia.” It might sound spooky, but it’s actually more about academics, literature, and the arts! (Hence, “academia.”) The “dark” part of the time is more in reference to the darker color palettes used in this aesthetic. (So, don’t worry—no “defense against the dark arts” training required to pull off this look!)
The Dark Academia aesthetic is what you might expect to find if you stumbled into the office of a professor at Cambridge or Oxford in the 1950s. Or a Gothic-era parlour, being entertained by the moody and mysterious Mr. Rochester himself. Or, ok, even the Gryffindor common room! All that to say, it’s a look that steeped in history and nostalgia, with a good dash of romanticism.
Read on to learn more about Dark Academia decor and how you can incorporate it into your home.
What is Dark Academia Decor?
The Dark Academia aesthetic is a celebration of learning and literature, as well as a passion for knowledge. So, the interior design style that it creates is heavily influenced by academia. What does Dark Academia room decor look like in action? Spaces that have the look and feel of an old library or study, often using books as decor. You’ll also find other items that invoke a nostalgia for centuries past and speak to intellectual pursuits—like telescopes, musical instruments, apothecary bottles, and Grecian busts. Dark Academia room decor is all about layers and collections that speak to the interests and intellect of the person living there.
Dark Academia decor is centered on classical architecture and design, so you’ll find a lot of dark wood furniture, ideally with intricate details and carvings. Decorating with antique furniture is highly encouraged in this style! There’s also an emphasis on dark colors and rich textiles—like velvet, leather, and wool—which add a sense of both history and decadence to a space. All of these elements build on a sense of moodiness and intellect, with a hint of mystery.
Where Did the Dark Academia Aesthetic Originate?
Dark Academia is a social media aesthetic and subculture centered around higher education, writing and poetry, the arts, and classic Greek and Gothic architecture. The subculture is associated with ancient art and classic literature, and the “romance” surrounding these pursuits.
However, the interior styling of this aesthetic isn’t actually new. It’s based heavily on Gothic-era European architecture and interiors. Think: old university libraries, professors’ studies, prep-school dormitories, and old English estates—especially the likes of those found in Gothic novels like Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. There’s a lot of old European influence in this style.
How to Get the Dark Academia Look
Want to explore the Dark Academia aesthetic and learn more about how to bring some Dark Academia decor into your home? Read these 8 tips on how to get the look.
1. Go for a Dark Color Palette
Dark is in the very name—so going with a dark color palette for a Dark Academia-inspired room is an absolute must. Dark paint can accentuate architecture features and add a moody-but-stylish vibe to the space. Decor and accessories with pop against dark paint as well! Start with colors like black and brown, as well as cream and gold, which will help ground the look. Then, don’t be afraid to go bold and incorporate saturated shades of greens, reds, and navy. Layering in dark wood and leather furniture will add to the moody vibe.
2. Use Materials That Show Off a Patina
Since this style has a definite sense of history to it, it’s important to include furniture with finishes that will develop a patina over time. (Or pieces with a faux patina.) This is also a great place to insert some antiques that show off some age without looking too worn. This can be anything from leather sofas and chairs to faded vintage rugs, copper and brass accents, and even crushed velvet upholstery.
3. Stay Timeless and Classic
Dark Academia decor and furniture should be classic and timeless. So, gravitate toward dark, rustic wood furniture, vintage-inspired rugs, antique artwork and tapestries, and tufted upholstery. Elements like these have been used for decades, if not centuries, so they create a home that feels timeless. Stick with classic silhouettes for furniture and decor—like wingback chairs or chesterfield sofas—staying away from trends or anything that looks and feels too contemporary.
4. Embrace Maximalism
Like we mentioned earlier, Dark Academia decor is all about layered collections. So, layer decor into your space, especially books, antique trinkets, plants, and even art. This look gives the look and feel of a space that has been collected over time, and creates the studious vibe of an academic space. Layering a variety of patterns and darker colors into a room will help drive home that maximalist vibe. This is also a great style for a gallery wall, so that even your walls have a sense of maximalism. Try a mix of maps, antique-inspired botanical prints, painted portraits, black and white photos, and perhaps even old letters or vintage sketches!
5. Display Your Collections
In the vein of maximalism, you don’t just want to have collections—you want to make sure you have a place or show them off! Antiques and other trinkets should be on display, in a tasteful manner. Celebrate your collections through the use of shelves, china and display cabinets, glass-front bookcases, and built-ins. And you don’t have to have a singular theme or look of what you have on display. Your shelves can span the decades and include inspiration from the Victorian era, where there was a definite mentality of “more is more.”
6. Highlight Natural Materials and Intricate Details
Natural materials, such as stone and wood, are timeless and classic at the same time. Keeping your base furniture a natural material sets the tone for the space—like the mahogany dining table and chairs, above, which are full of luster and class but still showcase the natural wood. You can also play up natural or architectural elements in your home—like an old fireplace with ornamental details, wall moulding, bay windows, or built-ins.
7. Let the Light In
As much as this style is dark and celebrates dark colors and finishes, it also celebrates large windows and natural light. Balance a dark space with natural light—keeping your windows open whenever possible. And, of course, make sure they’re adorned with beautiful drapery to highlight the window even more! Dark Academia decor basically begs for luxe velvet curtains.
8. Keep it Cozy
Dark Academia gets its inspiration from the idea of spending hours in academic libraries, cozying up with great literature and hot drinks. So, keeping your space cozy just entices this type of activity even more! Create a space that draws you in by prioritizing comfortable furniture, plush materials, layers of comfy bedding, reading nooks, and layered lighting. (We especially love the idea of creating reading nook designs inspired by famous novels!)
Try on the Dark Academia aesthetic in your own home.