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Maps as Wallpaper: Home Projects

Maps as Wallpaper: Home Projects
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Philip Detjens’s profession as an international banker took him, his wife, Susan, and their two children to live in farflung places such as Tokyo and London. Susan’s inspiration for the wallpaper came from her collection of Baedeker’s Old Guide Books, which feature beautiful fold-out maps.

“Don’t let anyone think I tore up those books,” she says. “I scoured antiques stores to find Baedekers in really rough shape so that I wouldn’t feel bad about using the maps.”

Initially Susan wanted to do the whole room with these maps, but it became apparent that she didn’t have enough of them. She opted to use the sepia-toned Baedeker maps as a border and to cover the remaining space with topographical maps from their travels: Switzerland; Verdon Gorge in France; Yugoslavia, where their daughter worked for a time; and in a prominent spot, Berkshire County, where the Detjenses have retired.


The Detjenses hired their favorite painter, David Beaujon, for the job. He says homeowners can do this project themselves, as long as you’re patient and you plan carefully.

Susan and David first hung the maps with pushpins. Then David applied glue to the backs of the topographical maps. (He recommends Roman’s Ultra Pro-880, a clear adhesive with “a lot of tack.”) For the thinner Baedekers, he diluted the glue to the consistency of maple syrup and coated the walls with it to avoid dissolving the fragile antique paper. Since diluted glue dries fast, he first prepared the walls with sizing, a material that makes it easier to hang and position wallpaper.

David used a damp sponge and a natural-bristle brush to remove bubbles and smooth the surface once the maps were placed on the walls. He cautions against using a $5 brush from the hardware store, because its coarseness can damage the paper. He uses a top-of-the-line $50 brush, but homeowners don’t have to invest that much; a China-bristle paintbrush is a good alternative.

After letting the walls dry for several weeks, David sealed the surface with water-based Faux Effects’ AquaGard.


maps, $170; labor and materials, $500

What do you like the most?

“Maps are a passion shared by our whole family,” Susan replies. “Our daughter collects Eastern European maps, our son is a cartographer, and the map room reflects all of us — where we’ve lived, worked, traveled, and had adventures.”

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One Response to Maps as Wallpaper: Home Projects

  1. Marika Ujvari March 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    I have seen the world map on a ceiling in my friends’ library. It was very impressive!

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