Even if it’s been years (and years) since you ceremoniously walked across a stage to earn a diploma, the appeal of back-to-school vibes never fades. The unmistakable smell of dusty books, the hushed whispers of a stained glass-adorned library, and the crunch of fallen leaves under your new pair of loafers—it all feels fresh and inspiring, even though it's all based in long-standing tradition.
To conjure up that feeling without the stress of studying for finals, you can evoke a bold, bookish feel in your home. The dark academia interior design trend blends Ivy League-like plaids, leather, and dark hues for a look that is equally preppy, gothic, romantic, and oh-so-moody.
What Is Dark Academia?
Dark academia is a subculture of design that feels bookish, moody, and reminiscent of dark libraries, antique books, and soft candlelight.
“Dark academia is about creating mood,” interior designer Sarah Solis says. “It’s often best exemplified with deep, darker tones, paints, plaster, textures, patterns, and rich wood. The feeling it evokes is both sensual and cozy—it’s the ultimate moody experience.”
Ready to dive into dark academia interior design? Read on for nine spaces that nail the warmth and elegance of the look.
Select Dark and Dramatic Paint Colors
Now is not the time to shy away from bold, dramatic hues. When choosing paint colors for a dark academia-themed room, think, well, dark. This stately blue, Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy, adds depth in a calm, assured way—especially when used in large doses, like wall-to-wall bookcases in an office or library space.
You don’t need a bonus room worthy of a headmaster’s office to incorporate the trend into your home, though. “The look can translate into virtually any room, but is best executed in an area that is not an open floor plan,” Solis says. “A library, living room, or bathroom are all great spaces to achieve this look.”
No Library? No Problem
Even if your home doesn't have an office or library space. that doesn't mean you have to skip the look altogether. "Just because you're not drowning in leather-bound books doesn't mean you can't channel Nevermore Academy or Hogwarts in your own home," interior designer Bethany Adams shares with us.
Instead, consider making a big impression in a modest and often overlooked space, like an entryway or a hallway. That's what Adams did here. "A small space like an entryway is crying out for a dark color to give that same sense of intimacy that a moody library would," she says. "Guests will naturally seek to pass through to the lighter, larger spaces beyond where the magic can truly begin."
Lighten the Mood With Unexpected Artwork
It can be tempting to give dark wood a makeover, but to fully embrace the dark academia look, put down the paintbrush.
“Wooden libraries and offices often get painted over, but there's something so handsome, stately, and timeless about a mahogany library,” Claire Staszak, owner of Centered by Design, says. To lighten the mood without white-washing the walls, she added a cheeky wink to the space through unconventional artwork.
“We kept this space from feeling too serious with a large horse portrait, which is a quirky play on a more traditional portrait you might have seen at one time,” Staszak says. “Sometimes, flipping a traditional idea on its head can give a room its own personality and make it more memorable.”
Invest In Showstopping Window Coverings
So rarely do we recommend blocking natural light, but it’s essential for the dark academia look. In this living area, Solis employed floor-to-ceiling window treatments to filter sunshine, which creates a warm wash of red over the space. Any room with lower ceilings can easily lean into the cozy, warm vibes needed for dark academia, whether a powder bathroom decked out with dark-toned tile or a bedroom painted in a monochromatic paint (navy or espresso-colored, perhaps) covering all four walls and the ceiling.
Pull Inspiration From Literature and Libraries
Interior designer Anna Booth has plenty of ideas of where to look for dark academia inspiration—and you don't have to go far.
“To evoke the mood, let the color story pull from things or memories that remind you of literature, libraries, and things that have stood the test of time, such as nature, the patina of a leather satchel or antique wood,” she says, who designed this dark and academic space to both read and rest.
Add Low Lighting
Stacks on stacks of books? Check. Classic patterns? Check. Dark, rich tones? Also check. The finishing touch to this Sarah Solis-designed dark academia desk is the lighting.
“Lighting plays a very key component in allowing you to lean into this vibe,” Solis says. Her advice? “Dimmable and Incandescent are preferred. It’s all about that low, warm lighting.”
Small Pops of Color Go a Long Way
Wall-to-wall built-ins in a room washed in neutrals nails the dark academia vibe. For a modern twist to the trend, add small pops of color, as this Jessica Lagrange Interiors-designed space did. Think colorful art books, a zebra-print stool, or a sunshine yellow painting. The small moments of bright hues make the space befitting of a CEO that doesn’t take themselves too seriously.
Install a Library Ladder
Channel your best Beauty and the Beast impression by adding a rolling library ladder to a dark academia-designed space. Not only is a ladder practical for reaching books on the tippy-top shelves, but it adds a sophisticated aesthetic appeal. You'll feel like you're picking out a book, one far older than you, from Harvard's library instead of your home one.
Layer Lush Textures
The trick to creating a dark academic-designed bedroom that doesn’t feel like you’re about to get in trouble with the headmaster? Textiles and textures. Take notes from this bedroom designed by Jessica Lagrange Interiors. She paired a textured wall treatment with buttery soft bedding, gauzy window treatments, and furniture that begs to be touched. It softens the look, making it bedroom appropriate.