Book Fetish

Create Your Own Dark Academia Bookshelf Aesthetic

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Melissa Baron

Staff Writer

Melissa is the author of TWICE IN A LIFETIME from Alcove Press and represented by Laura Cameron at Transatlantic Agency. She lives in Chicago and works as a technical writer to pay the bills. She is a former English major, and has never met a semicolon she didn’t accidentally abuse in some fashion. In her spare time, she explores Chicago, writes a lot, and hangs out with her fiancé and two cats. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok @melissabaronwrites.

As much as dark academia as a genre is cloaked in collegiate settings, mystery, gothic architecture, dimly lit libraries, and moody atmospheres, the dark academia aesthetic also has a specific look to it, whether it be fashion or in this case, decor for a dark academia bookshelf.

This also depends on what kind of dark academia vibe you’re going for. Maybe you’d like to create a bookshelf that’s inspired by light academia, or botanical, or witchy, or whimsical. You can play around with it to see what you like, but there are a few core foundational decorative elements to dark academia to help give you an idea of where to start. We’ll list out specific items you can pick up to help fill out your bookshelf, but let’s start with other general ways to create this aesthetic, whether it’s on your shelves or in your room.

Palettes and materials: warm, earthy tones, typically autumnal colors. Forest greens, midnight blues, dark burgundy, muted gold or orange, rich browns, shades of gray and black. Warm or dark wood accents.

Patterns and textures: plaid, houndstooth, velvet, wool, linen, faux fur or leather. You can incorporate this into pillows, throws blankets, and clothing.

If you’re looking for places around you to find decor to help fill out this aesthetic, look no further than nearby antique stores, thrift stores, flea markets, and estate sales. Things that invoke a history, an understated grandeur, gothic or baroque or neo-classical elements, can all come together to create the atmosphere you’re looking for. Greenery, as well: dried flowers, plants, the sort of floral presence you would find on a campus in peak fall. We can’t neglect the literary element, either. You can find older cloth-bound or hardcover books from used bookstores, antique shops, and other independent bookstores that specialize in carrying rare and vintage books.

Use these examples and a moodboard to help you build the aesthetic you want to see, and then check out the list below for some specific items you can add to your bookshelf to craft your very own dark academia library.

Gothic bookmarks

hand holding dark academia bookmarks

Boost your bookmark collection with these dark academia-inspired bookmarks by Solem Nox. You can get a set of three, five, or all eight, and select which ones you’d prefer (I’m particularly fond of the Oscar Wilde and Da Vinci bookmarks). $10-$28.

Botanical glass domes

a row of seven botanical glass domes with various dried plants and flowers inside

Add some charm to your bookshelves with these botanical glass domes from Designs by Brickhouse. When you order a set of three, you will receive a mystery combination of dried botanicals inside, so no set is like another. You can also place an order that includes three pieces of vintage decorative paper. $16-$20

Dark botanical wallpaper

dark botanical wallpaper with a stained glass window, a nightstand, and a potted plant in front of it

Include a floral touch to the back of your bookshelves with this dark botanical wallpaper from marWALLous. You can get removable or traditional wallpaper samples, as well as larger swaths if you want to go big and wallpaper an accent wall or an entire room. Samples are $16

Owl bookends

two cast iron owl bookends side by side

Spruce up your shelves with these cast iron owl bookends from JJ Featured. They have the perfect dark and antique visage to look right at home on a dark academia bookshelf. $49

Dark academia mystery box

A flay lay of some dark academia knick knacks including chess pieces, a pipe, amber bottles, and more

Add some dark academia knick knacks to your bookshelf by ordering this dark academia vintage mystery box from Jan181. Each box features a unique collection of five to seven curated items, and you can express to the seller if there’s a specific theme or color scheme you’d like to fit your bookshelf. $25

Foiled bookmarks

Four black and gold flaked bookmarks placed on top of an open book

Include some gothic bookmarks for a dark and elegant addition to the decor. This set of four gold flaked bookmarks from Third Place Library are perfect choices. $10 for unlaminated and $12 for laminated.

Skeleton key bookends

two burlap skeleton key bookends between three vintage books

Add some texture with these skeleton key bookends by Next Door to Heaven, made from sturdy burlap. They can also be used as pincushions! $16

Dark floral wallpaper

dark floral wallpaper behind a beige couch with a gray throw blanket

If you’d like a more romantic wallpaper to incorporate into or around your bookshelves, this dark floral wallpaper by Kanvas Wall Arts is the perfect addition. You can acquire samples for $13

Copper snail figurines

two copper mini snails facing each other next to a green leaf

If you’d like to devise a light academia or a botanical-themed dark academia bookshelf, consider adding these sweet mini copper snails by Fanoge. They will fit right in with your fungi gothic horror book collection, too. $26

Industrial lamp bookends

Steampunk bookends: on one side a metal pipe, on the other an edison bulb lamp

Add a splash of steampunk to your dark academia vibe with this industrial lamp bookend set by Urban Industrial Craft. You can customize the metal socket color and the wood base to match your aesthetic (I recommend the antique or brass sockets with the rustic oak or weathered wood base). $59

A Bookish candle

a candle and its box resting on an open book, with the text old bookshop on the candle

Bring the smell of an old bookstore or library into your room with this old bookshop candle by Cosy Art London. It’ll fill the room with the smell of old books and leather, and will look right at home on a dark academia bookshelf. $24

Cottagecore art prints

Six framed botanical art prints

These cottagecore, botanical art prints from Darkling Aesthetics are a great way to include some lighter elements to your dark academia bookshelf. Print them at home and put them in antique frames. $9

Skeleton keys

ornate brass skeleton keys laid on top of a book page

Strew some skeleton keys about on your shelf to add a sense of dark mystery with this set of 12 brass skeleton keys from Pineapple Supply. $10

Apothecary jars

three jars filled with dried herbs and flowers on top of vintage scrapbook sheets, next to two botanical apothecary spoons

Add an apothecary jar filled with randomly selected dried herbs and flowers by Designs by Brickhouse, which includes rosebuds, peach blossoms, lemon grass, and chrysanthemums. Each order includes one jar, a vintage botanical apothecary spoon that comes in four colors, and two vintage scrapbooking sheets. If you upgrade your order, they will also include a wax seal in either gold, rose gold, or silver. $15

Vintage booksets

Spines of antique books

Fill your shelves with this stack of seven antique books from Charming Treasure Finds to invoke an old library atmosphere. These are authentic old hardcovers, mostly clothbound, that may include rare finds and first editions from the 1930s to the 1970s. You can specify that you’re looking for a dark academia aesthetic and what genres you’re looking for. $33

Now that you have a starter pack for creating your dark academia bookshelf, naturally you need to fill it with more dark academia books: