Interior Design

Introducing 'Dark Academia' – the new trend filling interiors with moody maximalism

The most unconventional craze of the season is here – this is how to get involved with a stylish twist

Railings by Farrow & Ball in a dark academia style bedroom
(Image credit: Railings by Farrow & Ball)

Brace yourself: 2021's most unexpected interior craze has arrived, in the shape of Cluttercore's moody maximalist sister, Dark Academia. This popular trend is rooted in showcasing dark-toned walls and a myriad of diverse quirky treasures, think Hogwarts but with a lot more style. Despite its slightly spooky ambiance, we can see why this trend is ever-so-popular. 

Just like Cluttercore, and Cottagecore, Dark Academia stems from social media platform TikTok. However, it is provoking excitement far beyond the digital world – influencing this season's biggest interior design trends – from earthy palettes and restored antiques to the desire for natural-toned furnishings. 

Dark Academia encapsulates everything that has shaped our homes over recent times. 

Dark Academia style in a living room

(Image credit: Downpipe by Farrow & Ball)

Dark Academia might have its roots in the latest trending social media aesthetic, but the founder of interior design company KTM Design, Katie Thomas, suggests the allure of Dark Academia is unlikely to waver. 

'There are many ways you can incorporate elements of the Dark Academia trend into your home without risking dating your interiors in the future. The trend lends itself well to a timeless design, as it can include more classic features which never go out of style,' Katie explains. 

Off-Black by Farrow & Ball in a living room

(Image credit: Off-Black by Farrow & Ball / Octopus Publishing)

These 'timeless' features are inevitably appealing to designers and homeowners alike, who can decorate in the knowledge that the style will remain somewhat ageless – what more could we ask from a trend?

Five ways to style Dark Academia – the designer way 

While we can see the appeal behind Dark Academia, we're turning to the experts who share their interior design tips – so you can get behind the trend without sacrificing your home's style. 

1. Venture to the dark side – with paint 

Sacha Walckhoff's Apartment with a dark academia style hallway

(Image credit: Gilles Trillard / Sacha Walckhoff Apartment)

If any space epitomizes the Dark Academia trend, it is that of Sacha Walckhoff. The French designer curated a shrine to the style through his eclectic apartment, perhaps most prominently through its dark-hued scheme. 

'I like to mix styles and eras in order to create conversations between 19th-century ethnological wax heads and works of contemporary art. I have designed the hallway with this in mind; painted in a beautiful Farrow and Ball Anthracite to make the room seem dark,' Sacha shares.

He also used the paint to create a juxtaposition with his bookcase – creating a contrast of colorful accessories – from 'very old pieces to works by contemporary artists – making it a sort of modern cabinet d'amateur.' 

2. Maintain a dark scheme with antique portraits  

Michelle Nussbaumer designed apartment with portrait and dark paint

(Image credit: Stephan Karlisch / Michelle Nussbaumer)

Designer Michelle Nussbaumer has similarly shared how to emphasize your moody scheme by using antique portraits –and pairing them with a twist. 

'I like to use antique portraits and especially nineteenth-century portraits of gentlemen. These types of nineteenth-century portraits help create a moody aesthetic. You can look for these at auctions. Putting several of these portraits together can produce a library, clubby feel. To emphasize this feeling, I like to use patterned wallpaper on the ceiling,' Michelle explains. 

3. Source authentic antiques  

Michelle Nussbaumer designed home

(Image credit: Michelle Nussbaumer)

Dark Academia is not possible without the shelves laden with antiques – whether that is an ornate photo frame, elaborate candle holder, or a flower vase. Despite their vibrant history, Creative Director at Albion Nord, Camilla Clarke, suggests antiques are fitting for a modern home that wants to indulge in its daring aesthetic. 

'So many people think of antiques as old, dusty, and something that they would find in their grandparents' houses, but an antique can add so much to even the most contemporary space,' she shares. 

'Give an antique a new lease of life and upholster it in a fresh linen fabric or bold velvet. There is nothing more satisfying knowing that you chose that piece and it is unique to your home.' 

4. Interrupt the moody palette with earthy hues

Tanner's Brown by Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Tanner's Brown by Farrow & Ball)

While this trend is primarily associated with monochromatic tones, it similarly celebrates natural colors – including greens and blues – which are already trending this year. 'Earthy, muted tones will help to create a calm space, and we'd recommend avoiding dull greys and swap them out for earthy greens or dusty blues,' Camilla suggests. 

She adds that these colors 'can be used in both classic and contemporary interiors' and exhibit a 'lovely sense of history,' perfectly curating this timeless trend. 

5. Invest in natural furnishings – for an enduring statement piece  

Off-Black by Farrow & Ball in a dark academia dining room

(Image credit: Off-Black by Farrow & Ball / Octopus Publishing)

In the same way that earthy tones contribute to Dark Academia, natural furnishings are equally influential in this trend. But of all the natural wonders, which should you invest in first? Camilla has the answer.

'One of our favorite materials to use is pippy oak. It's a beautiful and natural living product with texture and movement in the grain – helping to bring warmth and character to a piece of furniture,' she shares. This tone works particularly well against 'harder materials such as metal or stone' and, of course, the rich hues of your black paint. 

Has social media just reshaped our traditional living room ideas? Our rooms look set to be majestically moody.

Megan Slack
Megan Slack

Megan is a News Writer across Future Plc's Homes titles. She has a background in national newspapers in the UK and has experience in fashion and travel journalism, which she previously practised whilst living in Paris and New York City. Her adoration for these fashion capitals means she particularly enjoys writing about upcoming styles and trends for Homes & Gardens. Megan also loves discovering vintage pieces in her spare time, meaning her decor is largely influenced by the beauty of the jazz age.