Map Rooms

The phrase “Map Room” conjures up images of the headquarters of a strategic military command or a rare book library, but map bedrooms run in my family for at least several generations, from Great-Great Uncle Morris’s dark map-lined bedroom off the kitchen in the old Cape house of my mother’s family to the present-day bedrooms in my parents’ house in York Harbor and that of my brother and his partner in Rhinebeck, New York.  I have dormer bedrooms on the third floor that are perfect candidates for a map room but have yet to get around to it:  as a distant observer of the creation of these map rooms, I know that in both cases it was not an easy process!

First up is the York Harbor map room which is a second-floor corner bedroom wallpapered with maps by my mother and then carefully restored by my stepmother several decades later.  My mother used standard National Geographic maps, yellow nautical charts with New England coastlines, and “historical” maps of Great Britain which she purchased by sending over her request and a blank check.

Now for my brother’s map room, another second-floor bedroom which has an interesting sloping ceiling, kind of the reverse of dormers.  He too used National Geographic maps, along with city maps, State Department maps, and French and Italian road maps from the 1950s and 1960s.  According to him there are tons of considerations you must take into account when making your map room:  the size and shape of the map, whether it has a border, content, and process.  He applied three coats of polyurethane after his placement was completed, sanding in between.

If you don’t want to bother with all that, you can just buy map wallpaper or decals, or blow up one map for a single wall as opposed to a whole room.  You often see such examples in shelter magazines, like this room in a recent House Beautiful:

Attractive but obviously not as impressive as a custom map room.  And now from the present and the attainable to the inaccessible past and future, a few fantastic map rooms:  the sixteenth-century map room of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome and New York photographer Lori Nix‘s futuristic diorama of a map room gone feral.

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