If you’ve ever wanted your home to look like a wizard’s common room meets an apothecary meets a Wes Anderson film set, there’s a name for that: It’s called dark academia, and it encompasses incredibly moody, whimsical interiors. (Think: wall-to-wall bookcases, sculptural fireplaces, tufted sofas, collections on display, and dark, dreamy wallpaper.) The great thing about the dark academia look is that vintage, secondhand, and found items help to add finishing touches, so it’s possible to create the mysterious academy-like aesthetic on a budget.

Homeowner Randi Froug and her daughter, Mira Emanuel, were looking to add storage to Mira’s room with a vision in mind. “My daughter wanted a Harry Potter vibe in her room,” Randi says.

Randi bought these shelves from Facebook Marketplace for $125. They were laminate, not wood, but “I knew that they would provide a lot of storage space for all of my daughter’s books and tchotchkes,” Randi says. What she didn’t know was how big of a challenge the transformation would actually be.

“Unfortunately, we used a shellac-based primer that was extremely difficult to work with,” Randi says of painting the bookcase frames and shelves. “The shelves themselves took two coats of water-based latex with a 6-inch foam roller. So many steps!” Having completed the project, she recommends using water-based primer to paint laminate surfaces.

Randi and Mira took the backs and the doors off the cases to make painting a bit easier. They spray painted the hardware, then painted the backs a matte black. “After that, we used a stencil and gold paint.”

What looks like expensive wallpaper lining on the backs of the shelves is actually a straightforward DIY with gold paint and a stencil, and the gold suns and moons perfectly peek through the books on display.

“All together, with primer paint and stencils, we probably spent about $110,” Randi says.

With a grand total of $235 for the entire project budget, these bookshelves pack a lot of bang for their buck. “They give my daughter so much storage space for her books,” Randi says.

And with bookshelves as charming (pun fully intended) as these, who wouldn’t want to dive into a fantasy page-turner or enroll in a faraway academy?

Sarah Everett

Editorial Assistant

Sarah is Apartment Therapy’s editorial assistant. She recently completed her MA in journalism at the University of Missouri and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Belmont University. Past writing and editing stops include HGTV Magazine, Nashville Arts Magazine, and several outlets local to her hometown, Columbia, Missouri.