The Dark Academia Aesthetic: How to Get The Look

The dark academia aesthetic trend in interior design is inspired by a blend of classic literature, traditional academic institutions, and a touch of Gothic influence. This unique style creates an ambiance that feels scholarly, sophisticated, and somewhat mysterious. In this guide, I’m going to be sharing how you can recreate this unique style in your own home.

What is Dark Academia and When Did it Become Popular?

Living room decorated in a dark academia aesthetic with built in bookshelves, Chesterfield doffs and a roaring fireplace. Walls and panelling are painted in dark black.

The dark academia aesthetic began to gain notable popularity in the late 2010s, with a significant surge around 2020. Several factors contributed to its rise in popularity:

  • Social Media and Online Communities: The aesthetic gained momentum through platforms like Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest, where users shared images, fashion, and decor inspired by dark academia. These platforms allowed the aesthetic to spread and evolve as more people discovered and contributed to it.
  • Pandemic Influence: The COVID-19 pandemic, which began affecting the world in early 2020, played a role in the rise of dark academia style. With many people confined to their homes and turning to the internet for connection and entertainment, there was a growing interest in aesthetics and lifestyles that could be appreciated and embraced indoors. The romanticization of higher education learning and the intellectual pursuit associated with dark academia resonated with people who found themselves spending more time reading, studying, or engaging in solitary activities instead of the traditional academic life.
  • Literary and Cinematic Influences: The aesthetic was also popularized through its association with certain classical literature and films. Works like “Dead Poets Society,” “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt, and J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, particularly the scenes set in the Hogwarts library and classrooms, have been cited as inspirations for the dark academia aesthetic. These works helped shape the aesthetic’s themes and visual style.
  • Fashion Trends: Fashion trends also played a significant role. The revival of classic styles, layering, and an emphasis on sustainable and vintage clothing aligned well with the dark academia aesthetic. Tweed jackets became synonomous with dark academia aesthetic outfits. As these fashion trends grew in popularity, they helped bring more attention to the dark academia trend in general.
  • Cultural and Societal Shifts: The aesthetic’s rise can also be attributed to broader cultural and societal shifts. There’s been a growing interest in themes of nostalgia, the romanticization of the past, and a search for deeper meaning and authenticity in a fast-paced, technology-driven world. Dark academia, with its emphasis on classic literature, traditional arts, and a more introspective lifestyle, offered an appealing alternative.

Key elements of this aesthetic in interior design include:

Dark Academia Color Palette

Dark academia interiors typically feature a rich, dark color scheme. This often includes deep browns, blacks, navy blues, dark greens, and burgundy. These colors create a moody and introspective atmosphere.

Pitch Black by Farrow and Ball

Living room painted in pitch black by farrow and ball

Image: Farrow and Ball

If you’re looking for the perfect shade of black to complete your dark academia aesthetic, look no further than Pitch Black by Farrow and Ball. This true black is an ideal choice for living rooms, as it look great on cabinetry, and will hide your TV perfectly!

Studio Green by Farrow and Ball for a Dark Academia Kitchen

A dark academia aesthetic kitchen with wooden worktops and cabinetry painted in dark green

Image: Farrow and Ball

Dark green paint colours can work really well to create a dark academia aesthetic. This beautiful dark academia kitchen showcases just how well this deep moody green can work with solid wood surfaces and gold accessories.

It’s not just for kitchens though, this unique shade of green will also look great in bedrooms and living rooms.

Preference Red

Farrow and Ball’s Preference Red is a great choice if you’re looking for a dark paint colour that also radiates warmth and personality. This deep, rich red is a great choice for living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms alike.

Hague Blue

Dark academia aesthetic living room in Hague blue by farrow and ball

Image via: Farrow and Ball

Farrow and Ball’s Hague Blue is an excellent choice for dark academia living rooms and home offices. This timeless colour will add plenty of drama to your space. Best of all, it looks just a s good in small rooms as it does in larger spaces.

Design Tips: How to Use Farrow and Ball’s Hague Blue in Your Home

Dark Academia Furniture

The furniture in a dark academia-inspired space is often reminiscent of old libraries or traditional study rooms. Think antique or vintage pieces, like leather armchairs, wooden desks, and bookcases. Furniture with a history or an aged look is particularly valued.

Antiques stores, auctions, and eBay are all great places to source furniture pieces in this style.


Wall Light

Lighting is crucial in achieving the dark academia aesthetic. Soft, warm, and dim lighting is preferred to enhance the moody atmosphere. Desk lamps with traditional designs, candlesticks, and wall lights are common choices.

Decorative Elements

Decor in a dark academia interior includes classic and scholarly items. This can include an abundance of books, preferably classics and old tomes, globes, antique maps, framed artworks, and vintage ornaments. Decorative elements often have a historical or intellectual significance.


Rich and heavy textiles are a staple in dark academia interiors. Velvet drapes, woolen throws, and Persian rugs add to the sense of warmth and depth in the space. The textiles usually follow the overall color scheme, complementing the dark and muted tones.

Architectural Features

Gothic bedroom in a dark academia style

Architectural elements like wood paneling, built-in bookshelves, and ornate fireplaces contribute significantly to this aesthetic.

Spaces with high ceilings, arched doorways, or stained glass also fit well within the dark academia theme. Gothic architecture is one of the primary influences on the dark academia style, thanks to many Ivy League universities that ere built in this style.

Art and Symbolism

Artwork that reflects classical, Gothic, or academic themes is common. This could include oil paintings, vintage prints, busts, or sculptures. Symbolic items related to learning and knowledge, such as telescopes, hourglasses, or inkwells, also add to the aesthetic.


While the overall feel is more inclined towards books and antiques, the inclusion of some greenery through houseplants can add a touch of life and color to the otherwise dark interiors.

Final Thoughts

In essence, the dark academic aesthetic in interior design is more than just a fashion trend. It creates a space that feels like a sanctuary for intellectual pursuit and reflection, filled with historical references and a sense of timeless elegance.

Emily Brookes
Emily Brookes

Emily Brookes is an Interior Designer based in the UK. Since graduating from the National Design Academy with a Bachelors Degree in Interior Design, Emily started her successful blog, Emily May Designs, which shares ideas and inspiration on how to create a beautiful home.

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