Mapping some memories

Art is a beautiful way to make your home “more you”, but sometimes it just feels easier to buy an “okay” print and slap it up on the wall. It seems that everyone struggles with this issue, so I continue to share ideas for this dilemma in the hope that it might help out a reader just when they need some inspiration. (You can browse more of my art ideas right here.)

I am always on the lookout for affordable and personal art ideas for clients’ homes. Today, I’m offering a subject for art that may also help you up-cycle some items in your home. Do I get bonus points if my ideas help you downsize potential clutter and inspire something meaningful and pretty? Let me know!

Image courtesy of

We’re talking about maps. Remember maps? No, not the ones you get driving directions from on a website. I mean those big pieces of paper that took forever to fold back up the way you found them. If you still have some old maps lying around the house (or hibernating indefinitely in your car), you may have some art just waiting to be framed.

Personalized Maps

Maps are great for commemorating special memories. Consider framing a map of:

  • The town you were born in
  • Your hometown
  • A favorite vacation spot
  • The place you spent your honeymoon
  • The country your ancestors came from
  • A historic view of where you live

I also like to use maps as mounting material. They can be a graphic and fun way to document your vacation trips on your wall. For example, here is a worn old map used as a background for a great picture I took of the British Houses of Parliament in London, England:

Image courtesy of me...I love it when the weather cooperates in my photos!

See how the map kind of personalizes the photo and makes both images stand out? You could do a whole wall of your favorite place for very little money using my budget-friendly art mounting technique. You’d be finding a use of for your old maps and personalizing your home.  Less clutter and more personality is always a happy combo in my book!

Other Types of Maps

While we’re talking about maps, let’s take a look at some of the other varieties out there for some inspiration. We all know what driving maps look like, but there are other options to fit lots of different decor tastes. We’re gonna stay with London as our example, so we can compare the different styles easily.

Tourist Maps

Image courtesy of

I love this map because it is modern and graphic. It covers all the popular sites that most people visit. You could also back this map with cork and put colored pins in all the places you’ve been to or want to go on your next trip. Here’s how it could look framed out and in a modern room:

Image courtesy of

Isn’t that great?  It’s not too masculine or feminine and I love the color palette.

Here’s another tourist-type map that many people may recognize:

Image courtesy of

See how bold and clean the graphic feels? This map of the famous London Underground subway system or “tube” actually dates its origins back to the early 20th century, but it feels very modern in this room.

Panoramic Maps

These maps change the viewer’s perspective of looking down on a location (a “bird’s eye view”) to looking toward the horizon across the area of interest. These maps also allow the viewer to see more architectural detail and often have “keys” or “legends” that number and identify specific buildings. This map of London features a regular “bird’s eye map at the top and a panoramic map with a legend at the bottom:

Image courtesy of

I like these maps because you get more of a feel of being there when the map was made, even if the location doesn’t look like that anymore. Here’s a close-up panoramic map of the famous London Bridge with all of its many shops several centuries ago:

Image courtesy of

The architectural profiles really pop in this kind of map, almost calling you to take a closer look. Frame this map out and it could really add some beautiful color and texture to a wall:

Image courtesy of

Satellite Maps

Satellite maps are a great way to see our world as it is today. Seasons, water ways, urban centers show up clearly, all in glorious color. This is modern London from thousands of feet above us:

Image courtesy of

Did you notice where this map comes from? That’s right. You could copy print it on photo paper for FREE. Finally, a reason to justify all that time you’ve spent playing on Google Earth! Just pick your favorite place, print and frame. It would look great mixed in on a gallery wall with of photos from the same location.

Using Maps in Your Room

And while we’re talking about hanging maps up in your home, let me give you two more tips for really personalizing your maps.

  • Mix old maps with new furnishings. As you can see in this example from above…

    Image courtesy of

    …maps are a great way to give a room a collected-over-time feel to it. The modern glass table and sleek crystal are balanced by the assorted antique boxes and the old map engraving. Mixing modern and old always gives any room a relaxed, welcoming vibe.

  • Consider framing an older map to fit in with more modern decor.By choosing a modern frame, you pull any map image into a slightly newer time and can blend it more casually with your room, even if it is a very old map image. Here are two example of what I mean:

    Image courtesy of

    This “Guide for Strangers” map (love that title!) is from the middle of the 19th century. However, because it is printed on canvas with a modern black edge, it feels much more contemporary.

    Image courtesy of

    Similarly, this map dates back to 1720. However, because it is mounted on wood, it can be displayed as a modern triptych in any home.

Like these ideas and want to see more uses for maps? I have a handy little DIY technique coming very soon that shows another great way to decorate with your old maps. Be sure to check back!

And while you’re here today, leave a comment and tell me what place you could celebrate in your home with some map art?  When did you go there? What was the occasion? If you gathered all of your old driving maps together, would they stack much taller than you expected (like ours did)?

By the way, if you missed the giveaway announcement last week you can see it right here. The Crate and Barrel produce bags included in the giveaway could help you bring home some great veggies for Mexican night in your home. (Go ahead and fill one with avocados, I don’t mind!) Today is the last day you can enter to win! Someone has to win. Why not you?

Posted on September 19, 2011, in Decor, DIY. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I love your use of maps as art! I think it’s a great idea.

    I’m sure I could paper a whole room in my old maps. I’d love to pick a few and really showcase them.

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