Monday, February 23, 2015

Decorating with Maps

Scotland Map Detail
Vintage Maps: A New Décor Destination
Did you know that maps play an important role in many of our lives?  I am not speaking of the maps that you use when you are in a car trying to find a destination.  I am referring to the maps that we hang on our walls in our homes.  The instant that a map is taken from its context, matted, set in a frame and placed on a wall, it takes on a new majestic meaning.  What is that meaning and what is it that gives maps such a prominent place in some of our homes?  These questions lie at the core of my recent search.  In hopes of finding answers to these questions, I have asked many of the customers of my maps and ephemera shop to provide me with answers. 

It turns out that the answers to these questions are different for each individual.  For many people, maps, especially antique and vintage maps, have an aesthetic value that compromises certain décor.  Let’s face it, antique and vintage maps look good on the wall.  But why is that?  Is there more to vintage maps on the wall than an aesthetic value?  For some, the answer to that question is yes. 

Without realizing, vintage maps can indirectly relate to the past quests of our relatives.  Those relative’s journeys through life have become a quest in our minds into the days of yesterday.  These maps as snapshots into the past provide reminders when life was hard and living was simple.  It is the antique and vintage maps that remind us of our ancestors and the struggles and hardships that they overcame.  And it was those hardships and sacrifices that define who we are today.  

For other people, maps give us the story of our lives from the present to the past.  Brenna from Minnesota wrote, “My family personally loves maps as a way to tell our individual life (childhood) stories as well as ours as a family.”  Brenna and her husband were born in Minnesota and moved to Missouri.  Her husband traced his origins to Norway and Italy, and Brenna was adopted from the Philippines.  For her and her husband, having maps on their wall reminds them of their past and the past of their ancestors.  As well, it is the maps on their wall that become an instrument of teaching their children about their past. 



Detail of Lower Manhattan
Maps play an important role in the lives that we are living here and now.  Many of us have maps on our walls as a reminder of special events in our lives.  For some it is these maps that share wall space with family photos from the current years of our lives.  Alicia from Nova Scotia purchased an antique map of New York City.  She wrote, “..We just love NYC as a city.  It’s beautiful, the history, the shopping! We’ve been (there) a few times and we just love Central Park.  We’ve gone to the Boathouse a few times for lunch and we fell in love there…”.  To celebrate their 2nd wedding anniversary, Alicia and her husband went back to Central Park where they had a photo shoot. Madeline of Manhattan wrote that the map of Manhattan that I sold her was added to their wall of art, photos and maps to surprise her fiancé. (see above)  She said that she has wall collages of their hometowns, but wanted to make a wall that told about their life together.  For Madeline, Alicia and many others, maps are a reminder of the lives that we are living now and the love that binds us together. 

Vintage Map of New Hampshire
For others, wall maps have become like a banner and represent a pride of place.  Some have the maps of their own States and cities, because that is where they love to be.  Maps on our walls are also favorite places to visit.  Debbie of New Hampshire wrote, “When I travel, I usually bring home maps. I have brought home dish towels with maps and hung them in the kitchen. I love historic maps of areas that I love…” 


When I first decided to take this journey towards finding the meaning of wall maps, I was not entirely certain what I would discover.  I can say that I am happy that I made this quest, because it gave me a glimpse of the importance of map décor and how it helps bind the lives of families and explorers of life.  I must say thank you to those who have contributed to this blog post.  I couldn't have done this without you.  Please feel free to leave a comment.  And if you wish, please visit my Etsy Books and Paper shop where you can find more great vintage maps.