Decorating with Maps

In my 20s, the idea of purchasing “art” for my apartment has always seemed daunting. Instead, I’ve leaned on the home and design sections of stores like Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond, choosing things that could often be classified more as “signs” than as pieces of art. Over the last couple years, we’ve discovered that we’re partial to the look of prints on canvas, which is fortuitous considering the canvas pieces are often slightly less expensive than the prints or photographs. And in this apartment, we’ve added a couple more variations on a classic object that can prove to be very eye-catching: the map!

I think maps are a great home decorating piece for a number of reasons. First, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are maps small enough to fold up and put in your pocket, and maps large enough to fill an entire wall (when I think about the latter, I always picture ship captains poring over a giant map, measuring out the distance to their destination with those torture-looking instruments). Second, and this might be the coolest reason, is that maps have been made for hundreds of years. Therefore, maps from different eras, and even different parts of the world, are going to look different. And finally, when colors and design elements are incorporated, I think maps can be really beautiful. So without further ado, these are the maps currently adorning the walls of our apartment.

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We purchased this old map of Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, at an arts market in Boston a few years ago. If you’re looking for inexpensive old maps, this is probably the best place to find them, if you’re willing to do a little digging. The maps are often all tucked in a bin together, and you have to patiently tab through them to find one that you like, which is how we came across this one. I love it for a few reasons: the map’s border is crabs and shells, and there are region-specific images scattered throughout. I also love the large compass rose and its placement right in the elbow of the Cape. Instead of hanging this one, we have it on the top shelf of the ladder bookcase in our living room leaning against the wall. (The map didn’t come with the frame; it’s from Amazon).

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One of the things we quickly realized when we started decorating this apartment is that the walls are much bigger than they were in our last one, and that required some larger pieces to fill them. One of those larger pieces is this old world map from Wayfair. I mentioned earlier that we are partial to canvas; this map is actually on canvas, but then the canvas is in a frame, which I think makes it look more expensive in a good way. The dark blue and gold fit in perfectly in our bedroom, while the creases give it an old, authentic feel. The thin gold lines between continents show trade and steamship routes, which I never tire of examining on occasion.

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This little guy was a gift from my mom and is our newest map accent. While the walls in this apartment are generally quite large, there are also some smaller ones to fill, and this map fit perfectly between the door to our closet and the corner of the room. We have a general outdoor adventure theme going on with the decor in our bedroom, so this fit in perfectly, and you could probably find it or similar pieces at TJ Maxx, Marshalls or HomeGoods.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give an honorable mention to the ski resort trail map. In our old apartment, we had one hanging on the wall in the office; as I got better at snowboarding, we would highlight all the trails I was able to master. Some trail maps are quite beautiful as well, and can be worth framing. They’ll make a great conversation piece! I’m sure we’ll collect some more maps in the future—they’re an easy way to add whimsy, detail and beauty to any space.

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