Travel Themes

By Karen Parr-Moody


Home décor travels in a fabulous direction when accented by travel-centric items such as antique maps, vintage globes, and well-worn suitcases. Even for someone who hasn't been a globetrotter, displaying items of travel conveys a romantic yearning for knowledge of other cultures. One might use a single item to represent this theme in a room, or use several as whimsical companions to each other.  Whether one is intrigued by the Old World style or prefers a brighter, modern look, there's a travel-theme look for everyone.


In the photo, left, is a charming old school globe that was once, no doubt, at home next to a shiny red apple ($17.50; Booth B-109). Rich with the details of places and the colors of regions, it now has the charming patina of wear. Just like the World Book encyclopedias of the 1950s, globes were portals for schoolchildren, transporting them to the places they dreamt of going. For decorating purposes, one might find such globes in sepia, full of raised mountain ranges, and looking as if they belong in a grandfather's study. There are also shiny black versions, which would work well in contrast to a collection of sepia and blue globes. Different sizes and colors in a globe collection will give it the look of a heavenly constellation, even if all globes represent one planet. 





Maps celebrate the romance of old-fashioned exploration. But for some, maps represent a homeowner's heritage. Such maps make wonderful conversation pieces in the home. In the photo, right, is a rare  authentic Colton's map showing Europe as it looked in 1855 ($120; W-105). This map would lend an authentic touch to a room of just about any American, since so many of us trace our roots back to Europe. Personal meaning is easy to convey with maps. One can not only choose maps based on family origin location, one could also find a vintage map of one's home town or a favorite vacation spot. There are almost as many decorating possibilities as there are maps themselves.


Another way that people choose to decorate with maps is by theme. Those that pertain to a narrow interest may include bike trails, nautical maps, celestial maps, train routes, subway routes, and wine-region maps. Someone just starting up a collection has the luxury of creating their own theme. Perhaps it would be maps of anomalies, such as early maps of America which show California as an island. It could contain maps that commemorate a historical moment, such as maps of Europe during the Cold War. Or it could be a collection of maps representing centuries-old trade routes from geographies of particular interest. For the sea lover, such a collection could consist of colonial port towns. The ideas are limitless. 


The antique map of the city of St. Louis, left, is interesting in that it shows drawings of dimensional buildings rather than rendering them as flat blocks of color ($25; W-105). Beyond being a great map for someone whose roots are in the city, it would also appeal to a collector of steamboat memorabilia. Close examination reveals that the lower portion of the map is a treasure trove of steamboat illustrations for the late 1800s time period (there is also a train pulled by a steam engine of the period). 





The adventurous spirit of travel is not limited to maps. With items such as colorful road signs, some collect merely as a hobby while others decorate their walls with them. The photo, right, depicts a yellow-and-blue, shield-shaped sign for the Ontario highway known as Queen Elizabeth II Way ($125; Booth B-230). Known as a "trailblazer" sign, it belongs to a group of designs for the QEW that are dark blue with yellow lettering; these were used from 1955 to the present. The QEW dates back to 1931; it began as a public works project during the Depression and was named to commemorate the 1939 visit to Canada by the royal couple Queen Elizabeth and King George VI. This sign has a nostalgic draw in our digital age, reminding us that, even with GPS and smart phones, road signs still have their place on the road to adventure. 




This well-traveled suitcase, left, belongs to a long line of historic travel items made by the French leather goods house of Louis Vuitton ($1,895; Booth B-317). Founded in 1854 by apprentice trunk-maker Louis Vuitton, the company made innovations in travel by 1858, when it introduced the first flat-bottom trunks. Before then, trunks were made with rounded tops (to promote water run off when on ship decks), and thus could not be stacked. Louis Vuitton would go on to be the luggage company of choice for many illustrious clients, and was known for its customized trunks, such as those including cots that were made for travels to Africa. Empress Eugenie, wife of Napolean II, had a special trunk to house the voluminous crinolines for her gowns. And many other luminaries went on to travel with the luggage, including Douglas Fairbanks, Jeanne Lanvin, Ernest Hemingway, and Leopold Stokowski. A Louis Vuitton suitcase makes a romantic edition to one's decor, a daily reminder that the world is a big place worthy of exploration. 


Maps and cartography decor, along with other travel-centric vintage items, add charm and character to old and new homes alike. Due to their graphic nature, they pack a lot of style, as well, and they are not expensive to purchase.  So whether it's a small print of your favorite travel spot, a wall-sized illustration of Europe, or an old school globe, a map can bring a graphic highlight to a room and make it more personalized. 


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