It seems the darker, colder months of the year pull people into two camps: those who want to clear everything out and start fresh, and those who want to hole up, hunker down, and hibernate. If you’re on team hibernate, then we’ve got the aesthetic for you: Dark Academia has entered the chat.
As Michael Rolland, interiors expert and MD at The Paint Shed, explains, “The Dark Academia aesthetic draws inspiration from European gothic architecture, such as Oxford and Cambridge University, late 19th-century literature influences such as Sherlock Holmes, and a dark, moody color palette—think Hogwarts at home.”
“It’s a Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones aesthetic,” says Peti Lau, trend expert for used furniture marketplace Kaiyo. “I would describe it as very collegiate and gothic-inspired.”
Dark Academia was a top trend in 2020 and 2021—and it shows no signs of slowing down in 2022. If you’re still not sure this trend is (still) on the rise, then Rolland suggests looking at the stats. “The Dark Academic trend as a whole has been skyrocketing on TikTok … videos including the tag #darkacademia have racked up an incredible 1.6B views so far,” he says.
Read on for what experts think of the trend, how you might try it at home, and more.
Start With a Mood Board
Momtaz Begum-Hossain, modern color theorist and author, suggests starting with a mood board to pull together the mood you aspire to, noting that the Dark Academia aesthetic “takes its inspiration from the settings and era of novels by Mary Shelley and the poetry of Lord Byron with a touch of modernity.”
As you collect your images, “think extravagance, mystery, and grandeur,” Begum-Hossain says. “Conjure up images of boarding school dining rooms, antique picture frames that line the corridors of Oxbridge, carved archways and columns, and Baroque and Neo-Classical sculptures, made accessible for the 2022 home.”
Remember That Dark Means Dark
“A dark palette is key to achieving the Dark Academia aesthetic—it’s in the name, after all!” Rolland says. “[Think] grey tones [that] are neutral enough to timelessly fit with other aesthetics. Those looking to inject a little color but wanting to achieve this trend could instead choose a rich dark green … or if drama is what you are looking for, a dark brown … will fit the aesthetic, too.”
Begum-Hossain agrees: “This is a mood-inspired aesthetic, and dark, rich tones that evoke an air of mystery are what you’ll find in the color palette—[try] different shades of brown, from deep chocolates and sumptuous mochas to reddish browns like mahogany.”
If you want to add a touch of brightness and warmth to your Dark Academia palette, Lau suggests incorporating dark orange, cream, gold, and burgundy with the darker shades.
Let the Room Tell a Story
“Dark Academia's mysterious-yet-grand affair lures us in with its picturesque, almost fantasy-like scenes,” says Connor Prestwood, interior designer for the home decor brand Dowsing & Reynolds. “The aesthetic that only ever seemed to appear within film is now cropping up on our social media, inspiring us to be braver with our design choices.”
Eilyn Jimenez of Sire Design agrees, noting that this aesthetic isn’t just applied through darker colors. It’s also “historical in design, satiating homeowners’ recent desires for furnishings and accessories with character and pieces that start conversations,” she says.
“Homeowners … want their homes filled with pieces that have a history behind them,” Jimenez says. “Rather than fast furniture ... clients are increasingly seeking to purchase pieces of quality that can evolve with them and their homes. Younger clients are also increasingly sustainability-focused and want an alternative to mass-produced or catalog-purchased items. Now more than ever, they prefer to have pieces that reflect their character and grow with them.”
Try Less-Permanent Applications
“If you are renting and are unable to commit to such dark colors on the walls, these tones can also be used across your storage,” Rolland says. He suggests repainting tall bookcases or opting for dark wooden furniture and green velvet furnishings. “[This] will add hints of this moody palette into your space without angering your landlord,” he says.
When it comes to introducing Dark Academia into your home, Rolland suggests opting for any room that calls for coziness. “The living room is one of the best rooms for this aesthetic due to soft furnishings, such as heavy curtains, rugs, and cushions, being a welcome addition to this space,” he says.
“The bedroom is another room in which Dark Academia would work well,” Rolland adds. “[Think] a four-poster bed, dark wooden drawers, vintage warm bulbs, and wall paneling. The dark tones and warm lighting also suit this space, as it is a space that should be reserved for sleep.”
Prestwood has ideas more specific to the nature of Dark Academia. “Dark Academia gives you more freedom to display your passion and interest in the world of learning and showcase this within your interiors,” he says. “This sub-cultured aesthetic is all about learning, so a big dark wooden desk would be the perfect focal point.”
Begum-Hossain agrees: “The centerpiece should be an old typewriter, but make room, too, for a desktop globe.”
Embrace Your Inner Maximalist
“Maximalism is key for Dark Academia!” Rolland says. “It is an aesthetic that truly benefits from embellishment. [Think] large Persian-style rugs and heavy, extra-long velvet curtains [hung] above the top of the window to give the illusion of a higher ceiling. Leathers are also a key element of this trend: Chesterfield sofas and high-back chairs.”
Along with your larger furnishings, Dark Academia is all about the smaller details, too. “Accessories, such as … a chandelier, Grecian busts, globes, candlestick holders, and ornate frames in gold, wood, or black are guaranteed to give the desired look,” Rolland says. “Those less squeamish may even add some taxidermy or animal skulls into their decor.”
Jimenez agrees, noting that if you approach the maximalism of Dark Academia correctly, it can create lush results. “Incorporating one darker statement color into a space through a decor accent such as a coffee table book, fresh flowers in a vase, or a piece of wall art, while blending the color with classic materials like marble, can create beautiful juxtapositions of color and texture,” Jimenez explains. “Various types of marble have always been a staple in design, but bold, heavy marbles are making their way into the design world and staying for a very long time.”
Lean Into the Vintage Feel
While it’s easy to go overboard when putting a maximalist touch on a space, Lau reminds us that it’s not just about adding more—it’s about adding more of the right look. And vintage, weathered, and aged are key.
Think “aged oak wood, reclaimed wide plank wood floors, blackened steel, iron, and antique bronze metal finishes,” she says. “A sense of patina is a nice touch to a Dark Academia interior as well.”
Put the Academia in Dark Academia
Even if a room is full of dark colors and cozy accents, it’s not academia until you add the most key element of all: books!
“The key focus of this aesthetic is literature,” says Rolland. “Think of the Hogwarts library. Visit old books shops, antique shops, [and] online and in-person charity shops to find books with old binding to act as accent pieces. Stack a few as a stand for a bust on a sideboard or simply display on a shelf or bookcase.”
Begum-Hossain suggests transforming the area where you keep your books, whether it’s a bookcase or shelf in a corridor, the living room, or the bedroom. “Books are the center of the aesthetic, so it’s a chance to celebrate your collection,” she says. “The color of your shelves and the decor and furnishings you place around your library can be used to enhance the theme.”
Incorporate Some Light—Intentionally
While the mood should be dark, the room itself still requires light! Just make sure it fits the aesthetic.
“Don’t forget your moody lighting to match,” says Prestwood. “Install lights on dimmers to control the ambiance. Candles will be key, whether chunky stand-alone sticks or full candelabras.”
And when it comes down to it, whatever your design decision, keep the heart of the aesthetic at the center of your choices. “A Dark Academia room is a romantic nod to the idea and style of privilege, intelligence, and class,” Lau says.