I have always loved maps. As a child, my family had oversized travel atlases, fishing maps, map puzzles, auto club TripTiks, and—my fave—a raised-relief globe on a walnut stand with a brass semi-meridian.
My dear father was an engineer, and he was always unwinding huge land survey maps on the kitchen table. Or more intriguing still, very old maps of “uncharted” woodland areas. I even have a book titled, The Atlas of Atlases.
These days, of course, people can text you a Google Map that talks you all the way to your driving destination. And a $200 off-season fare with a no-frills airline will take you places Google Maps hasn’t found. Still, I miss the sense of self-reliance, imagination, and expansiveness that came with the paper versions.
So, as summer arrives, I’m ready to enliven that stale, out of control, so-called gallery wall in my studio with a bold, clean statement. I see map murals and map wallpapers everywhere lately—in little bespoke shops, huge home stores, wedding venues, and children’s stores. So, happily, they’re trending. And yet, maps are timeless. In my book, that’s the perfect room edit.
I did over two weeks of research for this project. I truly LOVED every second of it. But wow, even for a map nerd like me, there’s an awful lot out there. And it’s not all good.
My décor manifesto includes walking away from “shiny objects” of dubious quality for the following reasons:
- In the long run, it just makes good economic sense.
- In a small space, good quality is one of the keys to getting it right.
- In a small space, nearly all design elements are in sharp focus.
- In a small space, something of poor quality tends to stand out. And not in a good way.
There are exceptions, of course. Those rare closeout finds or that quirky estate-sale piece. But in general, buying better quality will give your room both polish and a look of stability.
So, here is what I found in my research. A couple of GREAT map mural suppliers. And something from a retailer I always check in with—Houzz. Let’s go look at some maps! And I’ll tell you which one I went with.
Table of Contents
- #1 BEST VINTAGE-LOOK MAP: Malte-Brun World Map on Mercator Projection – from Limitless Walls
- #2 BEST MAP MURAL FOR CHILDREN’S ROOMS: Classic 3-Panel World Map Wallpaper Mural – from Houzz
- #3 BEST VERSATILITY: World Map 2 Wallpaper Mural – from Murals Your Way
- A QUICK SUMMARY
- DON’T SKIP THIS SECTION, PLEASE! – Pre-Purchase Considerations
#1 BEST VINTAGE-LOOK MAP: Malte-Brun World Map on Mercator Projection – from Limitless Walls
- If you’re a little apprehensive about splashing a huge map on an entire wall, have a look at this one. It has barely-there colors—which you can tweak, by the way—and a beautiful linear quality. All in an antique style that is neither heavy-handed nor frumpy.
- Custom sizes AND custom color tweaks are available.
- The Standard Fabric and Premium Canvas options have textured finishes and are peel-and-stick (no paste required). Many frustrating weekends spent hanging wallpaper prompt me to recommend the peel-and-stick options.
- The Paper and Vinyl options have a smooth, matte finish but they are non-adhesive and require paste. Maybe you’re feeling fearless or you’ve got the paste technique down. Or you could hire a pro. No shame in that.
- Protective top coat is available for $2/square foot. Something to consider for kitchens or high-traffic areas.
- NOTE: The names and legends are in French—for all you Francophiles and Qubecois out there. Otherwise, take a spin around their site—you’ll be amazed by what they have. Their options really are limitless!
What I Love
Rush service available. Free shipping. 100% No-Risk Return Policy. Excellent customer service. You can “Black & White” your map for free if you find something you like but don’t want the color. You can also make small color changes—for example, to the background of this map—upon request. Use their live Chat feature, I found them to be very responsive and knowledgeable. And nice, to boot! Lots of maps, lots of options, I really love this place!
In case a fellow map nerd so happens to land on this post, the Mercator’s Projection was rolled out by a Flemish cartographer in 1569. His name was Gerardus Mercator. His technique was favored for navigation charts because it allowed the navigator to chart a straight-line course without the need for course correction. (Oh, if only.) This was achieved at the cost of distorting land masses farthest away from the Equator—like Antarctica and Greenland—making them look too big. Now I ask you, how could this map not rescue your next awkward cocktail party moment?!?
This world map is perfect if you need a simple, light-handed way to invigorate the look of a space, while keeping the mood quiet, or balancing more modern elements. This map can also work well with Industrial, Modern Rustic, Modern Trad, Boho, Vintage Chic, or Farmhouse décor. And it might be a thoughtful gift for the history lover in your family—install a peel-and-stick option for them and have the “reveal” at a surprise party.
A dealbreaker for you?..
It’s possible to install on your own, but easier if you have someone to help you. Especially if you’re going with a heavy wallpaper option—which can tear under its own weight if not supported by another pair of hands. As far as I can tell, Limitless Walls ships from North Carolina, and only to the U.S. and Canada.
MEASUREMENTS: SMALL: 6 feet 10 inches x 5 feet 3 inches. MEDIUM: 9 feet x 6 feet 11 inches. LARGE: 11 feet 2 inches x 8 feet 7 inches. CUSTOM SIZES AVAILABLE.
***If your map will cover your entire wall, be sure to click the YES button under Options when ordering, and they will extend the map by an inch to give you some installation “wiggle room.”
#2 BEST MAP MURAL FOR CHILDREN’S ROOMS: Classic 3-Panel World Map Wallpaper Mural – from Houzz
- Classic map with classic fonts and colors in mid-century style. A bright, colorful welcome to your child’s room.
- Contains up-to-date names of countries, cities, national capitals, and geographic features. Will engage and enrich your child for years to come.
- Peel-and-stick fabric resists tears, water, wrinkles and bubbling. It’s (almost) child-proof! NOTE: The peel-and-stick option is NOT RECOMMENDED for use over a crib.
- Will not damage walls or leave residue. An excellent option for apartment dwellers!
What I Love
Both stylish and educational, this map can work beautifully with either modern or vintage décor. Honestly, I just don’t see how can you can go wrong with something so classic.
A reviewer mentioned that the map was very easily installed in an elementary school with the help of one other person and two ladders. They hung the middle panel first and then matched up the side panels. If you only have time to look at one map for your child’s room, this is it.
This map mural is an excellent choice if you want to design your child’s (or other) space with a bright, classic look and a nod to mid-mod.
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: PEEL-AND-STICK OPTIONS ARE NOT RECOMMENDED FOR USE OVER A CRIB.
AUTHOR’S NOTE to clear up any potential confusion with the Decal vs. Mural options here:
1. Single-panel, peel-and-stick maps in smaller sizes (up to around 60 inches x 40 inches) are referred to as “Decals,” though they’re printed on a finely textured, canvas-like material. They’re like a sticky poster.
2. The larger single-panel maps AND the huge multi-panel maps are referred to as “Murals.” They’re also peel-and-stick.
3. Choose the size you want in the first drop-down box and the appropriate panel configuration will appear.
A dealbreaker for you?..
The colors are described as pastel and distressed, but my sister-in-law ordered the very same three-panel, 125 x 84-inch configuration, and says that the colors are bright and very beautiful, much like the image (depending on your monitor, I suppose). But if you’re looking for something soft and pastel-y, I really don’t think this is the right map for your wall.
MEASUREMENTS: 125 inches W x 84 inches H. Available in 6 other sizes.
#3 BEST VERSATILITY: World Map 2 Wallpaper Mural – from Murals Your Way
- Subtle, sophisticated colors in a continental-view map
- Custom sizes are available.
- Five different options for material, including one that can be used outdoors.
- NOTE: 8 x 10-inch custom sample available in the U.S. for $10. In case you’re anxious about purchasing, you can check out the colors and material beforehand! And use the $10 as a credit toward future purchase.
- My samples arrived with the full image scaled down to an 8 x 10-inch sample size. There’s also a watermark, so they’re not really suitable for framing. A business card with the name of an account manager was included in the folder, which I thought was a nice touch.
- Rush orders available. Free shipping in contiguous U.S. 100% No-Risk Return Policy (their Love It Guarantee).
What I love
I can’t think of a space where this map wouldn’t look positively beautiful. Kitchen, beach house, bedroom, entryway or stair landing. Powder room, workshop, library or study. The colors are subtle and “soft on the eye,” making it very easy to engage with. It can work with a range of décor styles, as well.
BUT.. you do have the option to “Black & White” this map, if that’s what you prefer.
You can also personalize it, by choosing a font style, color, size, and location of the text for $25. A thoughtful and charming option for a child’s room!
This is the right choice for you if you love a classic look in softer colors that doesn’t tip toward vintage or antique in style. How’s that for compromise? Lots of gentle, airy, ocean blues. The greens are muted and almost neutral. You’re probably just a little bit curious by now? Well, go on and at least have a look at it here.
A dealbreaker for you?..
Murals Your Way does not recommend their SmartStick option—their peel-and-stick option—for children’s rooms and other high traffic areas. I might consider a way to get this accomplished anyhow, by using small nails (or other) to securely tack the corners of the panels once they’re in place. But I did want to mention it, in case you don’t have the time or the inclination for anything other than peel, stick, forget. I get it, I really do.
A SIDE NOTE Murals Your Way has five basic options for material you can print a map on, in addition to commercial grade materials, window films, and canvas wraps. I’ll give you a quick rundown on the five basic options to save you some time, and if you want more information, click here to go to the Murals Your Way Materials Page.
1. Eco-Bella Texture has a light texture and matte finish, and requires paste to install. Good for slightly textured walls. Durable, but not recommended for use outdoors.
2. Pre-Pasted Wallpaper has a smooth texture and matte finish, with a water-activated adhesive backing—use a little spray bottle for installation. Smooth walls are best for this option. Durable, but not recommended for use outdoors.
3. SmartStick has a smooth texture and matte finish, with peel-and-stick backing. Requires smooth walls—no textures or flat paint finishes. Not recommended for use outdoors or in children’s rooms and high traffic areas. NOT recommended to hang over a crib.
4. Vinyl HD Texture has a textured surface and a matte finish. Requires heavy-duty paste to install. Recommended for slightly textured walls. NOT recommended for use outdoors.
5. VersaGrip Indoor/Outdoor has a rough surface texture and strong adhesive that adheres to concrete and brick. It can be used on walls or floors, but is NOT recommended for drywall. Extremely durable. Can be used outdoors.
A QUICK SUMMARY
World map murals (wallpaper, decals) can be an elegant or a really fun solution to your big-empty-wall décor dilemma! You won’t have to spend Saturday morning at the frame shop, or browse endlessly online comparing mats and frames for artwork. Though you certainly can hang artwork over your map wall. Maps are timeless, stylish, and design-worthy. They’re also educational, and make perfect gifts and conversation starters.
Here, in re-cap, are the maps we looked at above:
- Vintage-style map on Mercator’s Projection from Limitless Walls (vintage-y but very linear and light in style; color tweaks available on request).
- Classic 3-panel world map in mid-century style from Houzz (a bright, beautiful look for children’s rooms).
- World Map 2 from Murals Your Way (my “works anywhere” pick, AND the one I purchased).
DON’T SKIP THIS SECTION, PLEASE! – Pre-Purchase Considerations
A few things to consider before making a decision:
- What is your viewing distance from wall in relation to the scale of the map? Tight space like a hallway or foyer? Big, busy kitchen? Quiet little reading room? Maybe you want a HUGE visual impact, where the kids can read place names from across the room? Or just something quiet but present in the background? So be sure to keep scale in mind during your decision-making process.
- Shopping Tip #1: In my research, I noticed some maps in French, Italian, and German—the Germans were big into cartography in the 15th and 16th centuries. And the descriptions did NOT always indicate the language. So if you’re shopping around, enlarge the image to double-check, or ask before ordering if it’s English names and map legends that you want.
- Shopping Tip #2: Right click on the map image and select View Image. This will allow you to view the image on a black background (and possibly larger) without all the clutter on the website.
- Consider whether you want to hang the map as wallpaper with paste, or whether you prefer a peel-and-stick option. Is there someone to help you with installation? Can you hire someone?
- The surface of your wall is a very important consideration. Peel-and-stick options generally require a smooth or lightly textured wall, and no flat paint finishes. Most of us have slightly textured walls, whether plaster or drywall, so you may have to sand it down and clean the dust off of it afterwards. Prep work is sometimes frustrating—you just want to get the fun part going. But it’s worth the effort for best possible results.
- If you paint with a semi-gloss after sanding and cleaning, you’ll need to let it dry for several days so the chemicals in the paint will finish curing. If you have specific questions, I had very good luck using the Chat feature on the Limitless Walls site. Murals Your Way picked up the phone on the second ring. In the meantime, click here for in-depth information on preparing your walls from Murals Your Way.
If you’re still in the decision-making phase, click here for detailed information on measuring for a mural.
And just in case you missed this one above, peel-and-stick options are NOT recommended for use over a crib.
So if you’re ready to ditch your current décor doldrums, and imbue the look of a tired space with some worldly character, consider how a map mural might work for you. And if you’re staying put this travel season, remember that it’s a far less expensive way to see the world.