A great collection of vintage maps or globes can add a level of intrigue and sophistication to a space, and maybe even satisfy wanderlust. The Italians collected globes and maps during the Renaissance, studying the world beyond with wonder and amazement, and perhaps little has changed today. With detailed imagery and a lot of charm, they’re a stunning addition to a wall, table, or cabinet. Here’s what you need to know about adding vintage maps and globes to your space for a little cultural street cred.
A brief timeline on Maps, Globes and Collecting
The Renaissance was a period of intellectual enlightenment when Italians, and particularly Florentines, looked to the philosophy, science, art, architecture, and literature of the Ancient Greeks and Romans to establish their own version of humanism. It was also a period dubbed the Age of Discovery when European explorers ventured beyond their nation and city-states to conquer new lands and territories. With this, maps and globes became scientific instruments for European adventurers and technological advances, such as printing, contributed to their rapid development. By the end of the 15th century globe-making and map-making were a well-established craft in Europe.
As the Italians expanded their horizons, they attached a new value to maps and globes, beyond their functional use. They became fascinated with the idea of collecting objects and created “collectors’ cabinets,” for items, including globes and maps. These collections were intended not only for awe and astonishment, but also contributed to the owner’s fashioning of a cultured and erudite identity.
Where and how to display great antique Maps and Globes
1. Consider the color palette
Vintage maps and globes typically have subdued colors due to their age and patina and the printing technologies available at the time of production. This makes them subtle and sophisticated additions to interior spaces with soft color palettes whether it be cool tones or warm hues, especially neutrals, blues, and browns.
This living space is equally elegant with six vintage maps hung symmetrically to each side of the fireplace and mantelpiece. They complement the cream-upholstered and dark-wood furniture while the pale-blue walls add a cool and calming touch. Two chinoiserie chairs in the style of Chippendale are also set against the wall and their latticework backs enhance the sense of airiness in the room.
2. Consider size and scale
The size and number of the individual maps and/or globes will influence the display of each, as will the desired look and feel of the room. So whether the style is modern or minimal, or elegant, or eccentric, hanging one map or a collection of maps will create a very different aesthetic.
A great map of Italy in a solid black frame is given the full spotlight in this warm and modern living space. Both the lighting and its solitary placement attracts attention and its prominent size is well suited to the other furniture and furnishings, which are all large and substantial statement pieces.
At first glance this room appears to have one stand-out globe on the wooden coffee table. But look closer and you’ll spot a number of smaller globes on the mantel and the shelves. The room is almost like a treasure hunt, and the individual placement of globes is a subtle and discreet way to display a collection. Plus circles are a uniting theme in this room with a round coffee table and ottoman and display of ceramic plates.
This combination of maps and a globe would make a Renaissance Italian proud. The sizes and shapes of the maps are varied and hung on the wall with no seeming order, but this works well in this room because it still has plenty of space, both physically and visually. The travel trunks and suitcases are a sophisticated touch, and like the maps and globes they embody nostalgic connotations of travel to far-flung destinations.
3. Where to position maps
Like hanging any picture on the wall, there a number of guidelines that can help determine best aesthetic placement. Keep in mind that for the longevity of maps and globes, it’s a good idea to position them away from direct light and high humidity.
The center of the map should be at eye level (approximately 58” to 60” off the floor) and there should be a 3” to 6” gap between the bottom of the picture frame and the top of the sofa. The size of the picture should also be in balance with the size of the sofa or chair: bigger pictures above bigger furniture and smaller pictures above smaller furniture.
When hanging two more pictures, they should be centered within the available wall space or over the piece of furniture below it. These two maps are neatly positioned within a reasonably narrow space that perfectly fits a compact trestle table desk.
4. Where to put that Globe
Globes have visual appeal in a room whether on their own or part of a group and bring a little je ne sais quoi to a space while reflecting the owners’ or residents interests.
Creams and blues are balanced in the upper and lower planes of this plush living space. The varied collection features cream and black, and blue and colorful vintage globes, and they’re neatly displayed along the top shelf to balance the velvet blue sofa.
An oversized globe stands proudly in the corner of this rustic Arizona living space and it’s perched on a table for extra height, space, and visibility. In addition, a smaller globe is on the center coffee table, expressing the owners’ interest in more worldly affairs.
If you’re feeling the wanderlust, check out our current selection of vintage and antique globes and maps on The HighBoy: