Explore decorating with maps

Ideas: Explore decorating with maps

Explore decorating with maps

Maps are a great way to decorate, and remember a great trip or a childhood home.

Story: Jodi Heckel

Photos: Vanda Bidwell

Maps can be a reminder of travels or of a childhood home, or show a dream destination to visit someday. They can help a child learn geography or an adult recall the terrain of a favorite hiking area.

As such, they are a great way to decorate an office or study, a child’s bedroom or play area, or any room in the house.

Laura Clower’s law office on the University of Illinois campus includes an antique map of pre-Civil War Virginia. It’s a sentimental reminder of her family history.

The map – matted and framed – was a gift from Clower’s father when she graduated from law school. It shows the outline of the state of Virginia circa 1850, which at the time encompassed what is now West Virginia.

Clower’s father’s family has been in Virginia since the 1740s. Her mother’s family has been in the West Virginia area since before the Civil War. And Clower was born in West Virginia and grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.

“I’m out here in the flatlands, the land of corn and sky, which has its own majestic beauty, but it’s different than growing up in the mountains,” Clower said. “(My father) knew I was sentimental about my childhood in the mountains. He gave me this really tangible piece of our family history.”

Clower’s father also wrote out a family history and placed numbered stickers on the map at spots that corresponded with family stories.

A favorite story involves Clower’s ancestors hiding her great-grandfather in a corn shock on their farm when he was a child and Union troops were marching through the area.

Another story involves a relative of Clower’s mother, who was a ferryman on the New River in what is now West Virginia. He was taken prisoner by the Confederate Army because he was suspected of being a Union sympathizer and aiding the Union cause, Clower said.

Clower’s father loves maps, she said. She attributes it to a childhood car trip he took across the country with his parents, before the interstate highway system existed.

“He talked about that all the time when I was young. That clearly made a big impression,” Clower said, recalling her father poring over the Rand McNally atlas when she was a child.
Todd Sweet of Savoy also has maps that are reminders of his childhood home. He grew up in Seattle, and his sister gave him a typographic map of Seattle, with the outline of the city and each neighborhood written on the map.

She also gave him a page from a vintage atlas that shows a map of the state of Washington. Sweet has both maps framed and hanging in his home.

“I’ve always liked maps. I just think they’re cool,” he said, adding he often used to browse in a downtown Seattle map store when he worked in the city.

A recent purchase was a pull down map such as those used in schools. Sweet found it at the I.D.E.A. store in Champaign and hung it in his living room.

“Our kids like it and it fills up a big, blank wall,” he said, adding he plans to let his children mark on the map or put stickers on it to show the places they’ve been. It will also be useful when they learn the state capitals in school, he said.

Ideas for decorating with maps:
* Frame a map and hang it like a piece of artwork on the wall.
* Paper a room with map wallpaper, or create your own by applying pages from an atlas to a wall.
* Hang a map and use push pins to show the locations to which you have traveled.
* Create a shadow box using a map from a location you’ve visited, along with ticket stubs, photographs and other souvenirs of the trip.
* Hang a pull down map such as Sweet did.
* Use an assortment of globes on a mantle or side table.
* Line a drawer or cover the inside of cupboards with maps.
* Decoupage maps onto furniture, such as the front of a cabinet.
* Turn a large map into a window blind.
* Recycle a map as a lampshade.
* Laminate maps to use as placemats or to cover coasters.
* Affix maps to the back of windows in an interior door to create an interesting look as well as privacy.