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How to Give Your Dorm Room the Dark Academia Aesthetic for $120

published Aug 2, 2023
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Collage of photos for Aesthetic with a Budget on how to get the dark academia style: gold vintage bookshelf with books, vintage accents, gold ornate mirror, black vintage-look alarm clock.
Credit: Funerom, Carina Romano, IKEA, Shutterstock

Classical, mysterious, and cozy with just a touch of creepy — the dark academia aesthetic is undoubtedly a vibe. It’s easy to see why the trend is wildly popular on TikTok, especially among college students who are literally in the midst of their academia era. The aesthetic celebrates literature, art, architecture, and education, giving it a timeless, slightly mysterious feel.

If you love to romanticize your life and have a flair for drama, dark academia just might be the perfect aesthetic for your college home. It’s classical and sophisticated, and if you’re more into vintage vibes, it’s a welcome change from the bold prints and bright colors that are popular across dorm rooms these days.

The dark academia aesthetic is typically characterized by lots of plants and books, gilded artwork, tapered candles, dark colors, and antique-style furniture. The best part is, while this sounds like you might need to be a Victorian heiress to afford all of it, you can actually achieve the look in your space for under $120 total.

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Candles are a staple if you're trying to create the dark academia aesthetic, but most dorms won’t allow them — let alone the number of candles it takes to pull off the look. These battery-operated, no-flame candles are great options for college students. Even if you’re not in a dorm, they’re perfect for a college budget, as you won’t have to keep paying to replace them!

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was $13.99

This photo pack has a low cost, but a huge impact. You get 54 photos, all of which fit the dark academia theme. You can hang them all up on your walls at once, or hang up a few and swap them out whenever you feel like making a change but don’t want to spend more money on something new.

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This gold-framed mirror will make you feel like a noble member of a society from a bygone era — all for only $16! This style of mirror is classic and sophisticated, bringing a gilded elegance to those boring cinder-block dorm walls.

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If you’re worried about your dark academia-styled room getting a little too dark, plants can bring some life into your space to lighten it up! (Yes, even if the plants are fake, like these — not everyone has a green thumb, ya know!) Have you ever seen a movie with a moody writer or historian who doesn’t have plants surrounding them? It’s giving Hogwarts herbology class.

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The dark academia aesthetic is often characterized by vintage pieces, and this alarm clock will bring an old-timey charm into your space while also providing the functionality to make sure you’re awake for your dreaded 8 a.m. class.

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This twin-size duvet cover comes in a sophisticated shade of dark green, adding to the moody vibes of the dark academia theme, with some cute pom-pom details to give it a modern twist. As a bonus, it comes with a pillow sham — which is one fewer thing you need to buy!

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If you want to spice up your decor game, consider buying a surprise bundle from Etsy, which promises decor items on a budget. This dark academia bundle includes things like postcards, letters, and photos, along with a candle (which you can gift to someone if you live somewhere with a “no open flame” policy), a tea cup, and stickers.

Lauren Fant


Lauren Fant lives in California and loves all things decor, organization, and lifestyle. She is interested in social media and content creation — you can find her on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest. In her free time, she enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family, going outdoors, being creative, going to church, and traveling.

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SchoolMerced College
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