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Dark Academia Aesthetic | 8 Key Elements for Interior Design

A dark academia themed living room with ornately, framed pictures, houseplants, and a black studded sofa

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There's a multitude of unique interior design styles emerging currently, so the options for aesthetics are becoming increasingly boundless. Personal taste is now more diverse than ever.

One such home decor trend that's caught our eye recently is Dark Academia. 

Some describe Dark Academia as a microtrend, appealing to those with a specific taste. However, the aesthetic has a timeless quality, taking design inspiration from as far back as the Renaissance era, so it could be a design style that outlives some of the currently popular trends.

So why is Dark Academia all the rage right now, and what exactly is all the fuss about?

In this article, we'll delve into 8 of the key elements often found in an authentic Dark Academia space, providing suggestions on infusing your home with this darkly enchanting vibe. 

But first, let's discuss some elements associated with Dark Academia.

What is a Dark Academia Aesthetic?

A vintage/Victorian dark academia living room with ornately, framed pictures, mirror and candelabras

When it comes to interior design, Dark Academia embraces academics, literature, and the arts, oozing romanticism of all things intellectual. 

The style brings to mind imagery of dusky autumn days and historical architecture, reminiscent of an elegant English university on a rainy day. 

It assumes a classic yet mysterious atmosphere that uses rich colours and sophisticated décor. 

Some might even describe a Dark Academia space as gothic, evocative and regal. Enthusiasts are drawn to its refined and darkly elegant aesthetic, finding pleasure in the studious ambience it creates.

Is Dark Academia Just a Home Decor Aesthetic?

A collection of dark academia themed decorations, including a vintage typewriter with glass lightbulb, old-fashioned books, and a teacup against a dark green wall

Dark Academia is essentially an internet aesthetic and subculture, and enthusiasts apply it to anything from fashion to media, so it's not limited to interior design.

Anything with a moody and mysterious undertone can fit nicely under the umbrella of Dark Academia. 

It's even a book genre in itself, encompassing sombre literary favourites such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dead Poet's Society.

How to Incorporate Dark Academia Decor into Your Space - 8 Ways

Dark Academia interior design may seem melancholic, but it can be incredibly cosy and inviting, offering a sanctuary for introspection and creativity.

So let's explore the eight key design elements that can help you achieve the perfect balance between dark and moody, and cosy and classic.


1: Dark Academia Colour Palette

A mood board showcasing the colour palette of dark academia spaces, which includes plum, purple, dark, green, black, burgundy and dark blue, along with dark academia, inspired, interior design spaces

Colour is a crucial aspect of a balanced Dark Academia aesthetic. You want to infuse richness and refinement into your space to achieve the right effect. 

There's a significant emphasis on having a darkly painted wall colour. It's a staple component, that's for sure, but if you don't think you can hack a dark wall colour, there are other options to consider. 

You can opt for a rich colour with a sense of brightness, such as dark turquoise, or incorporate wainscoting of a dark shade and a brighter colour above it.

If you're going dark with your colour scheme, you can certainly go as bold as black. If you're working with a space that doesn't suit a palette this extreme, consider using decadent hues such as burgundy, deep greens, navy, plum, or charcoal.

To create a balanced aesthetic, avoid an overly complex colour scheme. Choose 1-2 main colours, and break these up with earthy shades (such as brown or beige in the form of wooden accents and furniture) or subtle pops of colour in jewel-toned hues.

Metallic accents are welcome for a regal touch in the form of golden antique lamps, picture frames, ornaments and candelabras. Copper, brass and bronze are also highly integrateable. 

2: Dark Academia Wallpaper

An entryway in a home with dark academia wallpaper, with illustrations of moths and leaves

A common element in Dark Academia interior designs is bold wallpaper.

There are no hard and fast rules on patterns, but common choices include damask or vintage illustrations, accompanied by a rich but muted colour scheme. It should blend seamlessly with the colour palette to maintain sophistication. 

Embossed wallpaper or those with metallic elements add visual interest and depth to the space. 

Consider using wallpaper with a dark-coloured background and a botanical theme - illustrations of foliage, fauna, or animals such as moths, rabbits, birds, snakes or deer. 

Alternatively, you could opt for a more eccentric vibe, going for illustrations of astrological constellations or whimsical mushrooms.

Besides traditional wallpaper, the style pairs well with sleek, wooden panelling accent walls or a Venetian plaster finish.

3: Dark Academia Art

A dark academia gallery wall with ornately framed vintage and Renaissance artwork

Typically, a Dark Academia space would include classical art pieces, such as Renaissance art, antique maps and portraits of historical figures.

Vintage wall hangings and tapestries, carved picture frames, black and white or sepia-toned photography, botanical prints, taxonomy art and scientific illustrations all elevate a Dark Academia space. 

Dark Academia and maximalism (an aesthetic of excess) go hand-in-hand. Don't be afraid to fill your space with decoration, but be conservative in the type of art you choose. Retain a sense of order and refinement. 

Many Dark Academia enthusiasts also opt for a gallery wall, which can provide the same richness and complexity as wallpaper. Elements that suit the vibe might include pages torn from old books, vintage prints and other wall decorations with an antique, classical or literary theme.

Art choice is hugely personal, and this doesn't change even if you're designing a Dark Academia space, so if none of the above suggestions suits your style, add personal touches.

4: Dark Academia Furniture

A dark academia living room with a brown leather studded sofa, vintage flowery wallpaper and a glass coffee table

The furniture choices in Dark Academia often exhibit a common theme of incorporating antiquated and old-world accents, which adds to the overall aesthetic of the style.

Statement furniture is a common addition, giving the space a sense of drama and significance, as though there's a story running through every object. 

Studded sofas, gilded or wingback chairs, antique writing desks, vintage carpets and wooden or marble coffee tables with intricate designs bring elements of lavish comfort. Intertwine these with dark colours and tasteful textures for fabric.

Dark, polished woods such as oak, walnut, and mahogany are common choices for dining tables, chairs, and storage furniture, such as cabinets and bookshelves.

5: Dark Academia Materials: Textures and Fabrics

A lighter dark academia themed home library with a blue velvet couch, floor-to-ceiling, bookshelves and houseplants

A genuine Dark Academia space worships the use of materials that radiate sophistication, comfort, and lavishness.

Leather, suede and rich wood stand as dependable staples for central furniture pieces.

Soft furnishings like blankets, throw pillows, curtains, and bed linens look great in wool, tartan, suede, velvet, cotton, or silk. These materials have a timeless appeal and understated elegance.

To add depth and glimmering refinement to your decor, consider using brass or bronze fixtures or accessories.

6: Dark Academia Decoration 

A dark academia themed house, plant/terrarium under a glass dome

The key to aesthetic Dark Academia is in the details. These spaces are nuanced and every decor item is intentionally placed.

There's an air of studious classiness, and as we said before, maximalism works well in a Dark Academia space, giving a sense of ordered clutter, like a scholarly study or historical university. 

For a classic Dark Academia space, use vintage trinkets with an old-world aesthetic or items of historical significance. Antique typewriters, telescopes or globes, ornate bookends, or ambient lighting fixtures like brass or bronze lamps all fit the bill.

Tall bookshelves are used as the focal point of the room, often covering a whole wall, furthering the aesthetic of a cosy and regal library. 

Indoor greenery is also an effective enhancer for Dark Academia spaces. Go for houseplants with a haunting but regal aesthetic. English ivy or velvet-leaf philodendrons have dark, luscious leaves and are perfect for plant hangers or indoor climber frames. Tropical plants with big, glossy foliage or extravagant leaf patterns, such as calatheas or monsteras, provide a dramatic and evocative aesthetic.

If classic isn't your style, consider venturing into the whimsical aisle. Adopt a mysterious, fantastical, or Steampunk-esque look for a slightly more spellbinding take.

An apothecary style is also a popular option. This could include a collection of vintage glass bottles, antique jars, and old-fashioned scales, creating the atmosphere of a mystical laboratory from centuries past.

7: Dark Academia Ambience

The dark academia theme living room with a green velvet couch and warm ambient lighting

This is a style that should be drenched in an ambience that's moody, graceful, sleek and, simultaneously, cosy and immersive. 

Utilising all the points we've covered so far will add to the intellectual atmosphere Dark Academia is renowned for, but there are other elements which can supercharge the ambience. 

Soft, ambient lighting is a must. Create spots of warm, glowing light using table lamps and candles. This will break up the darkness and gently illuminate the space, providing the perfect setting for cosying up with a mystery novel on a rainy day.

Ornately framed mirrors placed as focal points over a mantle, fireplace, dresser or sofa create an illusion of a bigger, airier space.

Scent has a big impact on ambience too. Spicy, musky or botanical aromas enrich the Dark Academia depth. Consider essential oils or incense in amber, patchouli, frankincense, cinnamon, oud or pine fragrances. 

Enhancing sound is another way to elevate ambience. Consider playing quiet classical music on speakers to create an immersive environment. If you happen to have a record player, the authentic sound quality it produces would perfectly complement the traditional aspects of Dark Academia.

8: Modern Dark Academia Touches

A modern dark academia theme, living room with black walls are black velvet, L-shaped couch, a modern wooden coffee table and houseplants

While the classic, and almost archaic, style of typical Dark Academia may be the main appeal for many people, some may want to adopt a more modern approach in their interior design.

This can be done by opting for a more minimalistic design and maximising space, creating an open and airy layout. 

Consider using a more neutral colour palette and go for contemporary art to create simplicity.

Move away from a cluttered, maximalist aesthetic and towards simplicity, enhancing blank space to create an atmosphere that's conducive to a clear mind. 

Select sleek furniture that complements the rich Dark Academia colour scheme.

You want the space to feel fresh and functional but maintain Dark Academia's richness and elegance.

Dark Academia interior design isn't just about aesthetics; every detail works together to create an immersive environment that has an abundance of depth and evokes a sense of history, academia, and vintage charm.

The style is a harmonious blend of intellectual charm with moody allure, making it a great option for those seeking a space that reflects their academic passions, or with a soft spot for mysterious or gothic aesthetics. 

The 8 key elements we mention above outline the traditional style, but, as we always say at L&L, your interior design should reflect your taste. Pick and choose from our suggestions and don't be afraid to add eccentric elements if that sparks your interest. 

Are you crafting a Dark Academia space? Share pictures of your setup and discuss any elements that lend your home interior design this moody elegance in the comments below.

Check out our Dark Academia Pinterest Board for more inspiration.

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