How to Give Your Space a Dark Academia Refresh for Fall

Autumn is quickly approaching, and it’s time to hit the books. Even if you’re not studying up, your home could benefit from these notes on bookish design.

You may not be going back to school this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on any of the seasonal fun. Dark academia, the moody and mysterious interior design style that appeals to all the former “gifted” kids out there, isn’t going anywhere this fall—and it might just be the style upgrade you’ve been dreaming of.

built in shelves

Tria Giovan

Featuring deep, dark colors, vintage accessories, luscious greenery, and, of course, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, dark academia is a cozy yet daring look for just about any space. Though the aesthetic isn’t new, we’ve gathered some small, season-specific refreshes that’ll make any interior lean toward dark academia this autumn.

bedroom with black walls and doors
Helen Norman

Experiment with Red, Pink, and Purple Hues

Although dark academia is traditionally composed of dark, cool hues like olive greens, deep browns, and navy blues, this season’s take on the design aesthetic features some stunning warm colors. Break out the reds, darker pinks, and purples to create a sultry and sophisticated academia color palette. Try a muted pink velvet chair, pops of cherry red pillows, or moody purple paint for a refreshing—and far-from-depressing—space that still achieves the mysterious look associated with dark academia.

various houseplants
Jacob Fox

Tie in Some Greenery

Fresh houseplants and greenery may not be the first finishing touch that comes to mind when you think of this library-esque aesthetic, but crawling vines and leafy potted plants blend seamlessly with dark academia. Green pops beautifully against dark-colored walls, brown leather furniture, or basic whites and grays, and integrating life alongside sometimes-dusty books and maps creates a stunning contrast. 

Try weaving long vines between vintage gold picture frames on a gallery wall, or matching shades of green with other accessories or paint colors. You can even display your favorites in terrariums or cloche-shaped glass covers for a more majestic look that’s straight out of a fairytale.

bathroom with dark floral wallpaper and white sink
Kim Cornelison

Try Dim Light Fixtures and Candles

Lighting goes a long way when it comes to dark academia—and that’s partially because the aesthetic is known for being quite dim and muted. Candles and small light fixtures scattered around a large room emulate this style best, and there are some great options out there. 

Try the traditional fairy lights to add to the storybook appeal, or go for some fun mushroom lamps to pair with the greenery you’ve introduced. Tall candelabra-style candles add to the drama of the decor too, and clustering candles together can create a significant light source that adds charm (and maybe some atmospheric smoke) to your interior.

gothic dining room with gold and animal print

Justin Salem Meyer

Implement Antique Statement Pieces

Dark, rich, wooden furniture is a staple for the dark academia aesthetic, tying the muted color palette together. Dramatic and intricate wooden designs aren’t often found in modern furniture makes, so finding these pieces may take a bit of work, and a few more trips to the antique shop. But once you find the perfect mahogany desk, coffee table, or bookshelf, the whole room will come together in a flash. Pair with muted greens, blues, and reds to create a color palette that stands the test of time.

gray living room assorted wall art
Annie Schlechter

Cover Your Walls with Mirrors and Picture Frames

Because the lighting options for dark academia looks are typically quite dim, adding mirrors and reflective picture frames can make a room appear a bit brighter without introducing harsh light. Look for wood, gold, or silver vintage frames—your local antique shop is a great place to start. The key here is there’s no such thing as too much! 

Dark academia allows you to go all out with gallery wall designs, so hang those mirrors to your heart’s content. Mix and match different tints of gold and shapes to create a sculptural and dynamic look. Plus, adding a mix of family photos and vintage artwork, placed in similar antique frames, makes the space both personal and posh. Black-and-white photos do wonders here, but the wall is also a great place to add pops of color that draw on other colors scattered throughout the room.

living room with black built in shelves wall

Ali Harper

Decorate With Books

There’s one thing you can’t forget when it comes to this interior design style: books. Books are the epitome of dark academia, and their uses don’t just stop at reading. Shelving systems, display cases, and even slightly disheveled stacks on the floor tie the look together flawlessly. 

You should always buy books primarily for reading purposes, but it doesn’t hurt your design to invest in some larger, antique picks that draw from your room’s color scheme. A simple bookshelf, no matter how big, does the trick, but you can take your decor to the next level by weaving books in with other small trinkets—think mock marble busts, gold accents like candles (unlit, of course) and lamps, and picture frames filled with your favorite memories. Other made-of-paper pops can add to the aesthetic as well—think maps, vintage photographs, and minimalist sketches.

Showcase your favorite books—even better if they match the room’s hues—by propping them up with book store-esque tents or simply stacking books around them so the cover faces outward. There are so many ways to style a bookcase, but adding the elements of dark academia style to yours can truly make it the star of the show.

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