5 clever ways to decorate with maps

decorate with maps

Part art, part daydream, maps are powerful sources of inspiration. They help you plan, explore and learn. In fact, if it were up to my husband, they might just cover every wall in our home! We love to decorate with maps. People usually think of maps as functional tools, but we choose them for their design potential. So, let me share a few clever ways to use geography in YOUR home.

Why decorate with maps?

  • They tell YOUR story: Where you’ve been, where you fell in love, where your family is from, etc.

  • They offer bang for your buck: Large-scale art is expensive! Maps allow you to go big without top dollar.

  • They’re educational: Decorating a kid’s room? Maps are a wonderful way to teach them about the world.

  • They’re conversation starters: People are curious, maps have a way of sparking great discussion!

1) The Gallery Wall

Can you keep a secret? This map is a Valentine’s Day gift for my husband. As I mentioned above, he’s a bit of geography nerd with an adventurous, exploratory soul. He loves reading about the world’s most bizarre and fascinating places (Maphead by Ken Jennings & Atlas Obscura are his latest obsessions), so I thought it would be fun to commemorate one of our grand adventures togethera summer abroad, teaching and living in Sydney, Australia.

In fact, I was able to customize the map to show Pyrmont, the exact area where we lived. When my hubby looks at this, he’ll be able to spot all of our regular haunts/walking routes: the Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, the Sydney Opera House, etc.

clever ways to decorate with mapssydney opera houseHarbour BridgeDecorating with mapsdecorating with maps

The trip was especially meaningful to us because we never really thought we’d get to Australia. It’s expensive, logistically challenging and we had a one-year-old in tow.  However, when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped! We loved Australia so much, it comes up in conversation at least every other day. We even talk about moving there.

I found my print through Mapiful. The company allows you to create personalized map art, by zooming in and out, to feature just about any point on the globe. There are a variety of looks and styles to choose from. I opted for the “Asphalt” design, so it could match the rest of our bedroom decor (full post on that here). Eventually, I intend to order two more to make this a 3-piece gallery wall, showing all of our adventures abroad. Here’s a similar trio below, displayed on Mapiful’s website.

2) Go historical with the Library of Congress

If you want to personalize even further, think about your names. Is there a geographical feature sharing one of them? Don’t know? Do a Google search, you might just find something fun. We immediately thought of Hudson Bay and created meaningful art for our son’s nursery by turning to the Library of Congress’ online map archive. His name is Hudson, so this old French image depicting “Baye De Hudson” seemed a perfect fit.

The Library of Congress has an amazingand easily searchablecollection of images. There are hundreds! If a map was published prior to 1923, there are no U.S. copyright protections and it is considered in the public domain. We saved our image to a flash drive, took it to Office Depot, had them print it to fit our frame, then mounted it on poster board for framing.

3) Decoupage statement wall

Want to really jazz up your walls? You can decoupage maps or nautical charts to highlight all of your favorite places. The process takes a bit of patience, but the end result is incredible! This is the powder room in my parent’s Lake Michigan cottage. They’re boating enthusiasts and selected charts of all of their favorite waterways.

They added the feature about 10 years ago and are still getting compliments and comments. It’s definitely a conversation-starter! I have a full-tutorial on the process here, as well as additional photos.

how to decorate with maps

4) A Teaching Tool

When designing Hudson’s nursery, we wanted to find something we could use as both art and a teaching tool. We didn’t have a large space to work with, so we stuck with one focal point —a cheerful, soft-colored World Wall Map. At less than $15.00, it was not only cost effective, but it also hit all the right style notes. The shades are soothing, yet kid-friendly. And at 50″x 32,″ it fills the space nicely. You can’t get much more budget-friendly art!

If you have a larger space to work with, you could go bold and do a full-on wallpaper treatment. Etsy has some of the sweetest designs for children, like this one with planes and hot air balloons.

nursery wall map

5) Subtle Touches

For those who want to incorporate maps in a more subtle way,  there are so many beautiful accessories on the market. Globes are gorgeous, but don’t limit yourself! You can also inject geography into your space with a map-inspired side table, lamp or blanket.

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