Picture a dimly lit library brimming with leather-bound books and cozy antique furnishings, and you'll have a good idea of what the "academia" aesthetic is all about. Inspired by classic literature and scholarly pursuits, the phenomenon has been floating around social media for some time now, with the terms "dark academia" and "light academia" being used to describe contrasting variations of the style. What began as a subculture on the social networking platform Tumblr has started to trickle into the mainstream: The Instagram posts with #darkacademia and #lightacademia have collectively racked up over 1 million posts, and on TikTok, each of these tags has hundreds of millions of views.
When applied to interiors, the academia aesthetic offers a sophisticated style that's heavily influenced by nostalgia. Books play a starring role in the decor, of course, and antique or vintage finds, especially those related to writing or learning, are also key elements. An antique typewriter, vintage botanical prints, or a traditional globe, for example, might appear in an academia-style room.
While both variations of the style draw decorating inspiration from literature, art, and history, dark and light academia each have a few distinguishing characteristics. Learn about how to decorate with each of the styles below, including the colors and accessories that set them apart.
Stacy Zarin Goldberg
How to Decorate in Dark Academia Style
Dark academia is the moodier, more dramatic version of the style (think: Harry Potter rather than Jane Austen). Subdued lighting and rich, saturated colors give these rooms a dark, intimate feel. The style works well in a bedroom, home office, or library.
When decorating a dark academia room, start with a dramatic wall color such as charcoal gray, forest green, navy blue, or burgundy. Bring in richly stained wood furniture or leather-upholstered seating. For accessories, fill shelves with apothecary jars and worn, hardcover books, choose art inspired by vintage illustrations or autumnal landscapes, and opt for flickering candles over bright overhead lights.
How to Decorate in Light Academia Style
Brighter and more cheerful than its dark counterpart, the light academia aesthetic repeats many of the same themes as the grandmillennial and cottagecore trends, including nature-inspired color palettes and old-fashioned accessories. Try the look in a living room, dining area, or reading nook that receives lots of natural light. Soft paint colors such as cream, buttery yellow, or rose pink work well with this style. Look for patterns and accessories that feature nature motifs, such as flowers, butterflies, or leafy plants. Ornate framed mirrors, pretty patterned dishware, and floral artwork can help round out the look.