It took years before Brittany Elizabeth found an interior style that felt true to her. “I tried farmhouse and boho, but I felt like I kept changing my home because I was not really happy with it,” she says. Elizabeth, who runs an interiors Instagram account showcasing her home, painted her house multiple times throughout these style iterations before finding something that stuck: black. “I came across Jessica Jelly’s page a couple years ago, and she had a black wall in her dining room,” the content creator says, adding that she was intrigued by this statement-making choice. She decided to try out the look on a smaller wall in her home, and says she’s never once considered changing it back.
Elizabeth’s home could be described as “dark academia,” a phrase made popular on TikTok in 2020. Described by The New York Times as a “subculture with a heavy emphasis on reading, writing, and learning,” the newspaper traced its origins roughly back to the mid-2010s on Tumblr and credited stay-at-home orders that kept students out of physical classrooms for its modern-day genesis.
The ethos of the community projects itself with a very specific aesthetic: a mix of vintage tweed, worn leather, candlelit rooms, and gothic architecture. There are countless Instagram and TikTok accounts solely dedicated to sharing inspiration for embodying the subculture, offering advice on anything from fashion to curated lists of books and movies that get the dark academia stamp of approval. And like many personal styles, the look eventually found its way into the home, bringing distinct qualities with it. It could be described as a moody, vintage maximalism, often featuring dark-hued or black rooms lit by candles and decorated with vintage treasures, antiques, and stacks of books.
However, unlike other aesthetic microtrends born from the internet, like cluttercore or cottagecore, the murky atmosphere of dark academia seems to have kept the style from burning out fast and bright. According to Google’s Year in Search, an annual retrospective of trending searches compiled by the tech company, dark academia was among ten trending interior styles from 2022, a representative confirmed. Among the other styles on the lists—aesthetics like Scandinavian, modern farmhouse, art deco, and bauhaus—dark academia was the only one that had a direct correlation to a social media subculture. Looking back on the past five years, styles like midcentury modern and boho have dominated when it comes to capturing the attention of people around the globe; however, there’s a case to be made that dark academia could soon become an interiors stronghold.