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Creating a Magical Common Room Inspired by Harry Potter | Dark Academia Comes to Life

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

Whether you're nine or forty nine, if you're a fan of Harry Potter, you have imagined yourself at Hogwarts at some point in your life. While we may not be able to find ourselves a suitable castle to recreate our favorite enchanted world, we can certainly decorate a space in our homes that gives us the same feeling of unlimited magical possibilities. It's actually fairly straightforward to collect items to decorate a Harry Potter inspired space, since most things we need should be showing their age ... old castles aren't filled with shiny new furnishings! Which means we can scour our local thrift shops and online used furniture boards for a few evocative pieces, and fill in the gaps with our collection of books and licensed merchandise.

Follow along with my fascinating, step-by-step transformation of an unloved storage space into a fantastical retreat inspired by the Gryffindor Common Room. See how I used thrifted finds, homemade accessories, and clever color tricks to create this "portal" to the Harry Potter universe.

If you'd prefer to watch this discussion on YouTube (with lots more photos!) instead of reading through this whole, long post, please click here!

Now let’s dive in to see how I transformed this catchall office space/storage room into a super immersive Magical Common Room that became the backdrop for all kinds of fantastical activities at The Storyteller's Cottage, from Harry Potter classes, parties and summer camp, to magical tea parties, board game nights, and more.

This room is located on the second floor of the house, in a weirdly-shaped space that was created when my circa 1891 building was connected by new construction to the rest of the commercial property behind it. It had a strange L-shape, no entry door, and this open staircase to the third floor attic space. Despite its weird layout though, it had great potential for a space that seemed to belong to a castle -- especially since I wanted it to remind people of the Gryffindor Common Room, and we could pretend the staircase was heading toward the Gryffindor dormitories. And speaking of the staircase, this room also had a tiny closet under the stairs with wood floors and built-in shelves … and I know you can guess where I’m going with this … of course this would make a perfect cupboard under the stairs for Harry Potter fans!

Photo: Warner Bros. Studios

It’s never a good thing to get into a copyright war with a large company over their intellectual property, so I didn’t want to recreate the exact Gryffindor common room … instead, I chose to decorate the space so it would remind you of the space where Harry and his friends hung out. To do that, I scoured the internet for all kinds of screenshots from the movies to see exactly what items stood out in the Gryffindor common room. Because, as I frequently remind you in my posts & videos, creating an immersive space, where you FEEL as though you’ve been transported to another world, doesn’t require buying a lot of expensive or authentic period items, it actually just needs a few iconic pieces to SUGGEST the environment you’re trying to replicate, and the visitors’ imaginations fill in the rest.

So looking at the Harry Potter studio photos, you can see that this room is really all about the red chairs, the red walls, the fireplace and the old paintings. So I knew I wanted to build my room around these four items, but before I could start, I had a construction project to complete.

This stairway originally featured a very crude, open railing when I bought the house, and I decided to box it in to give it the weight more appropriate for a castle, and to provide a backdrop for a freestanding fireplace in this little corner. I found this fireplace on Craigslist for about $100, and it really looks old and built-in.

With the banister boxed in, I had the perfect spot to hang this fantastic wallpaper that looks like stone castle walls -- which I found on Amazon, by the way. And with the wall filled in, there’s also a nice solid place to hang a round antique mirror over the fireplace, which I bought for something like $10 from the nice lady who sold me the bedroom set for Agatha Christie’s room.

As you know if you’ve seen my other Before and After posts & videos, to decorate a “blank canvas” of a room you want to attack it in five layers:

  • Your background

  • Large furniture

  • Accent furniture