Decorating with Maps

For me, there’s nothing quite like an old map. It’s a window into the past, to the way we once lived. Everything about it is from a specific moment in time – the printing technique, typefaces, atlas creases, coloring, and of course the geographic features of the map itself. I have three antique maps (two are reproductions) custom framed and hanging in my home. They are the only things I actually stop to look at on a virtually daily basis, and they are quite the conversation pieces when we entertain guests.

1876 Map of Genesee County, NY

Several years ago I purchased (on Ebay) an 1876 atlas map of Genesee County, NY – where I was born and raised. This is hanging in my second floor hallway, outside of my son’s room. I love how colorful the map is – no two adjacent towns are the same hue. It would look great just about anywhere.

When we moved to our current home in Newton, MA, I bought two antique map reproductions of our village (Auburndale), showing the same area at different times – 1895 and 1917. Displaying these types of maps side-by-side on a prominent wall, preferably without any furniture below, allows you and your guests to see up close how your town or city changed as time marched onward. A present-day major thoroughfare was sketched in as a “proposed boulevard” in the 1895 map. The 1917 map shows significant property subdivision took place during the past 20 years. Many landowners, labeled on the maps, ring a familiar bell, now memorialized as street names on or near the site of their former property. The Mass Pike had not yet disrupted the local geography and claimed homes and streets by eminent domain – some just across the street from where I now live.

They are so much fun to look at – every time I do, I see something I hadn’t noticed before. And the maps will always be special to us, since they represent the place where we bought our first home and started our family.Side by Side Antique Map Display

Framed Antique Maps of Auburndale, MA

Close-up of 1895 Map of Auburndale/West Newton, MA

Close-up Map of Newton, MA - Label

Close-up of 1917 Map of West Newton

If you’re into maps like I am, you may appreciate some of the great decorating examples I’ve collected on a dedicated board on Pinterest. There you’ll find lots of inspirational ideas including kids’ rooms, DIY/upcycling projects, fixtures and fabrics.

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Kelly Rogers

13 Comments

  1. Geographic Designer on March 16, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    Reblogged this on Geographic Design.

  2. Rich Grogan on April 19, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    I love antique maps. Everyone that visits our home find them so interesting. I have several from the 18th and 19th century in home.

    I’m not sure if you’ve been, but the Boston Book Fair (www.bostonbookfair.com) at the Hynes Convention Center is a great source for antique maps. I think this year’s fair is in mid-November. The 2011 fair had an interesting session on decorating with antique books and maps (www.bostonbookfair.com/?p=23).

  3. Kelly R. on April 19, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Great tip, Rich, thanks! I will have to check out the book fair, I’ve never been but it sounds right up my alley.

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