Dark Academia Decor from the Thrift Store

Dark Academia Decor from the Thrift Store

Dark Academia decor isn’t exactly a home decor style that you might see in the major magazines or HGTV shows. But it’s a decorating aesthetic that is making the rounds on social media and it caught my eye immediately- especially from a thrifting point of view!

It’s a style that is all about maximalism (i.e., lots of stuff), vintage, and, well, all things academic. Think old books, vintage paper, candles- like an old library or study in a Sherlock Holmes movie.

So, the Creative Vintage Darlings and I decided that this style would be a fun installment in our Thrift the Look series. Especially in October, given how moody and spooky-alluring it can be!

Since this is a social media-driven aesthetic, I turned to Instagram for my inspiration photos. And I actually found two that caught my eye.

I was first drawn to this one, which was more of a flat-lay photo from above. I loved the moodiness of it and all the little bits and bobs that filled the image.

flat lay photo on instagram from amanda the bookish

But I also liked this image of a desk vignette, too. In particular, the wall art of book pages and paper ephemera really caught my eye.

vignette of moody decor from karoline's library

So, I decided to use both photos to create my little corner of dark academia decor!

This post contains affiliate links for your crafting convenience. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. All blue, bold, and underlined text is a clickable link, either to a product or to a related post.

Thrift Shopping for Dark Academia Decor

Since old books are a cornerstone of this aesthetic, I was already one step ahead in this challenge. Because I’ve been thrifting and collecting old books for as long as I can remember.

old books that were found at thrift stores

I’ve been pretty lucky to score several of these Victorian-era gilt books from our local Habitat ReStores here in Charlotte and in Asheville.

I honestly didn’t think I’d find a bust or marble statuette while thrifting- turns out, classic busts turn up a lot in this decor style! But lo and behold, I found this pair at a Salvation Army.

I ended up splitting the pair with another woman who was interested in them, too. Oh, the momentary kinships we make while thrifting!

getting the look of moody decor from a thrift store

The crystal skull is actually a vodka bottle that I had thrifted several years ago in Florida! I bought it for Halloween decor but was excited to put it to good use on the blog finally.

As for the cloches, well…they were a fun find no matter what, especially with their wooden bases! And since dried flowers or herbs appear in my first inspiration photo, they came home with me, too.

I also thrifted some vintage candleholders and a candelabra- as well as a pack of white tapers! The packs of dried seed pods secretly came from Michaels- so those weren’t thrifted. But they WERE at least on clearance.

dried seed pods and vintage candle holders

Since I always do a little bit of upcycling to bring my Thrift the Look projects together, I also thrifted this large canvas art. It’s something mass-produced but had a nice vintage academic feel to it with the old world map graphics.

old map art that will be upcycled into book page art

So, let’s get to the upcycling part of this adventure!

Book Page Art

Remember how I pointed out the book page art in the second inspiration photo (the desk vignette?) Well, my plan was to cover most of the canvas with old book pages and other vintage paper ephemera that I’d collected over the years. To get that same look for my backdrop.

But since I didn’t have enough pieces to cover it, I treated myself to a bundle of pages from ebay (just like this one). There are similar listings on Etsy, as well.

book pages and canvas for making some book page art

The benefit of buying bundles like that is that I got pages from dozens of different books. Which meant, different colored paper…pages of varying size and font styles, etc.

First, I set aside the pages that I loved the most and wanted to be prominent and visible. They’d go on last.

Then, I grabbed a basic glue stick to adhere the pages to the canvas. I started with the corners and edges, working my way inward towards the center.

attaching book pages to a canvas for book page art

Sometimes, I applied the glue to all four corners and the center of a book page. Or sometimes just to the top corners in case the paper “leafed out” a bit. Just for interest and “academic absent-mindedness” that I thought leant itself well to the theme.

For pages with large margins, I often carefully folded and tore those blank margins away. And I kept adding and layering paper to my heart’s content.

book page collage on a canvas from the thrift store

Finally, I’d worked in and applied my chosen pages to lay on top for fuller visibility. And that was it, my book page art was done and ready to set the scene for some Dark Academia Decor!

collage of book pages and vintage paper ephemera

Dark Academia Decor from the Thrift Store

Ready to see how my vignette came together? I set it up on my home office desk, but honestly, it would be a FABULOUS mantelscape for this time of year.

Using the two inspiration photos from Instagram, I gathered and collected all of my elements and put them together like this.

sadie seasongoods version of dark academia decor

I usually photograph my blog post projects in super bright light, but wanted the moodiness to be authentic. With candlelight to help, of course- just like in the inspiration photo.

Do you see all of my thrifted bits in the photos? For a touch of luxury and elegance, I gave the bust a little vintage beaded collar that a friend had sent to me. It’s precariously hung around her neck with basic thread.

dark academia decor or moody decor is perfect for october

And look how liquid the glass skull bottle looks in such dim, moody lighting. Like it’s made of melting ice or something!

See that book in the center of the overhead shot? Many of you know me as Sarah Ramberg (though I’ve answered to Sadie ever since launching my blog 9 years ago), but I was Sarah Norton before I got married. And I found that book in an antiquarian bookshop during my college days…imagine my shock at the title!

dark academia decor that comes from thrift stores and upcycling

I also remember paying $12 for it as a 19-year-old. To spend that on something I couldn’t eat or wear was the ULTIMATE luxury. But I also knew I’d be haunted forever if I didn’t snatch it up.

There are a few other pieces I added in as well. A stack of vintage “Authors” playing cards from this favorite Etsy shop; an old sealing wax kit I purchased from ebay; cruelty-free feathers left over from previous projects; a few wooden buttons (reminiscent of a clumsy professor’s coat); and an antique box and old letters that I’ve had for many years.

spooky season decor with a dark academia aesthetic

I just love how moody and romantic it is! And you could easily slant this style in a creepier direction with specimens and other Halloween-ish items. Or more romantic and gothic with bits of lace, sheet music, dried flowers, etc.

Thrift the Look: Dark Academia

So, what do you think of this Thrift the Look adventure? Definitely DIFFERENT than our previous challenges!

Perhaps not a decorating style you might apply to your entire home. But a corner in your office or den? A mantel display during spooky season? A writing loft or she-shed destined for creating in? Most definitely!

inspiration for dark academia decor from instagram

Ok, so now you’ve seen my attempt at Dark Academia decor. Are you curious what the other Darlings came up with for their take on Dark Academia Decor? Check out their versions below!

other versions of dark academia decor

Home to Heather | One House Two Barns

decorating in dark academia decor for spooky season

Little Vintage Cottage | Lora B. Create and Ponder 

I hope you had as much fun reading about our latest Thrift the Look challenge as I did putting it together. And if you’re curious about our previous ones, here they all are:

Craft on!


Want to be notified when I publish my next upcycling project tutorial?

Please subscribe here.

Join me on Social Media:

please follow sadie seasongoods on facebookplease follow sadie seasongoods on instagramfollow sadie seasongoods on pinterest






dark academia room decor that is secondhand and vintage

thrift store shopping for the dark academia aesthetic

Website | + posts

Sarah Ramberg is the owner of Sadie Seasongoods, a website that celebrates all things secondhand. From upcycling ideas and thrifted decor to vintage-centric travel itineraries, Sadie Seasongoods is a one-stop shop for anyone who loves thrifting and approachable repurposing ideas. Sarah is also the author of “Crafting with Flannel” and has been featured in numerous media outlets and magazines.


  1. SPLENDID! This is one of the best I’ve seen! Can’t believe you found “Sarah’s Choice” and had the good sense to buy it as a 19 year old. Will be heading to Charlotte to visit with my dtr and grandkids and hoping to run in to you at a Restore or Goodwill. Had so much fun doing that last year! You are a very gifted young woman!
    Truly enjoy your posts. Cazzie

  2. Your collected corner of Dark Academia looks like a total legit desk area, owned by some eccentric professor. Great job! Think you’ll be using that awesome backdrop for future photos:) Thanks for coming up with another great challenge!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      TOTALLY (re: backdrop)! It’s a keeper for sure…and thank you! So glad you were able to play along on this one!

  3. Wow Sarah… SO.BEAUTIFUL!! I can’t believe you found that book, how cool! You’re display looks so gorgeous!

  4. Robyn Wright says

    Could you put a candle in the skull bottle with drippings? I think that would be cool!

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      I thought about that! But at least for these photos, I loved how the low light played off of the glass in full. I also considered using it as a holder for antique scissors, too!

  5. Shut UP you found that book with your name on it! I was certain it was a DIY! That’s too cool. I love all the books you found and the book page artwork too! So good. This challenge was super fun. You killed it just like I expected you would!

  6. I love it Sarah! It came together perfectly. These challenges are so fun- I can’t wait for the next

  7. Ruth Johnson says

    Hi, Sarah ~

    I really enjoyed reading and viewing this particular blog. However, I was a bit disheartened to see that the canvas with the old world map graphics was totally covered. I expected to see just a few pages strategically placed on the canvas with the majority of the map showing through. I have only minimal creativity but I probably would have saved the map canvas for something else that would showcase its vintage artwork.

    I always enjoy reading your blogs. Please keep up the great work.

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      I get where you’re coming from, Ruth, but please recognize that the canvas was a reproduction of a vintage map graphic. It likely came from Kirklands, Target, or Home Goods and the graphics were very pixelated up close. Hopefully you know by now that I would never have done that to a quality piece of map art.

  8. Mary B. Green says

    This has been one of my favorite styles for years and now I know it has a name.

    • Sadie Seasongoods says

      Thank you, Mary! That’s why I thought it was the perfect aesthetic to do as a blog post- because it finally had a catchy name to describe!

  9. Naomi Shelton says

    Sarah, I love this! It’s new to me but it’s right up my alley! I know I have enough “stuff” around my house to have a good start on a similar display. Thanks for sharing yours! I ove thrifting and I love old stuff, so I can’t wait to get started.

  10. Wow, you did a beautiful job! I love it! I guess I’ve been oblivious to this thing called Dark Academia, but now I too would love to create a little corner. Like another reader, I initially gasped when the map canvas was covered up but see how it wouldn’t fit in. I also remember years ago buying a triple faux vintage canvas map panel to go over my couch and I just couldn’t get the look to work. Seems hard to incorporate wall maps into decor unless it is beach or nautical or Hemingway style decor. Because I’m a thrifter and have eclectic taste I actually have a headstart on creating a vignette….just need to go get some old books. Thanks for sharing this.

  11. Oh I love this Sadie. You are very clever to make this fun scene. Well done

  12. Oh Sarah! I love this blog and my Mom’s name was Sarah! I inherited some much random “stuff” from her that I can’t part with but don’t know what to do with! This gave me some ideas!!!! Do you have a challenge with tea sets and tea pots! Thanks! BTW…I’m from Charlotte but live in FL now! I hope I run into you someday when I’m thrifting with my BFFs at Gibson Mill or Statesville! Love your styles!

  13. My first time viewing this post. Love it !

Have a question or like what you see? Please let me know!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.