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Friday, March 29, 2024

Old Maps Never Die

The Magic of Old Maps: Upcycled Decor with Soul

Breathe new life into old atlases! This blog post explores a delightful upcycle project, transforming forgotten maps into charming home decor. With easy-to-follow instructions and inspiring ideas, discover how to bring a touch of wanderlust and vintage charm to your space using everyday household items.

Upcycle Maps

Ah, maps. The mere mention conjures images of sprawling landscapes, winding rivers, and exotic destinations. They spark a sense of wanderlust, a yearning for exploration. But what about those well-worn atlases and travel guides relegated to the back of the shelf? Can they breathe new life into our homes? Absolutely! Today, we'll take an upcycling journey, transforming an old atlas into a charming piece of decorative whimsy.

For as long as I can remember, maps have held a special place in my heart. The vibrant blues of oceans, the intricate lines defining cities, the sheer mystery of roads leading to unknown places – each element ignited my imagination. My love affair with cartography transcends atlases; city maps, nautical charts, historical gems – I adore them all. Who wouldn't dream of uncovering a hidden treasure at the fabled "X" marking the spot?

While travel opportunities may be limited for me these days, maps offer a window to boundless exploration. Here's a little secret: deciphering maps wasn't exactly my forte for years. However, a revelation struck during my time at the electric company while utilizing the mapping system on a daily basis – I was overcomplicating things! Maps, in their essence, are tools to guide us, not to intimidate.

If you share my passion for maps, then this upcycle project might just spark your creativity. Upcycling has become a core principle in my life. The joy of transforming discarded treasures into something new for our home is unparalleled. While I still cherish unique finds at auctions, a newfound awareness has emerged – "Cara, do you truly need more stuff?" The answer, most often, is a resounding "no." Our home simply doesn't have space for more "things."

Thus, my days are filled with treasure hunts through the attic and basement, unearthing forgotten gems or seeking ways to breathe new life into existing items. This time, the challenge: creating captivating decor with readily available household items, while incorporating a touch of upcycled magic. Are you on board? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or feel free to send an email – I know many of you prefer that method.

With maps swirling in my mind and heart, let's dive into the art of atlas reuse!

The origin of the cardboard tubes remains a delightful mystery. Perhaps they housed online purchases or were brought home by my ever-supportive husband, who knows I possess a knack for transforming seemingly useless items. One thing's for certain – the packing label clung stubbornly. While I yearned for a clean slate, that stubborn sticker wasn't budging so I let it be.

Upcycled Atlas Materials:

  • Old Atlas
  • Cardboard Tube(s)
  • Elmer's Glue Stick
  • Scissors


  1. Unveiling the Hidden Page: Locate the atlas's center, where the staples bind the pages. Carefully remove one page, taking advantage of any pre-existing unstapled sections.

  2. Atlas Meets Cardboard: Lay the cardboard tube on the atlas page. Depending on the tube's size, you might need to cut an additional atlas piece to fully cover it. Securely glue the atlas to the tube with the Elmer's glue stick, starting from the edge and rolling the tube inwards as you apply glue at intervals. Remember to smooth out the map for a flawless finish.

  3. The Illusion of Many: Once the map adheres to the tube, wrap some twine around it, creating the illusion of several rolled-up maps bundled together.


Choosing the Right Adhesive: The glue stick was a deliberate choice. It offered a smooth finish, far superior to the potential opaqueness of Mod Podge on my beloved maps. This particular atlas was a cherished companion from AAA. While unsure if the local office still operates, I fondly recall accompanying my mother on map-gathering excursions for upcoming vacations. Even as a child, my fascination with maps transcended my own hometown. Every road, every city, held an allure.

City Maps

Map Crafts

Reuse Maps

The Power of Three: Who can resist the allure of three? Stumbling upon another tube solidified the need for a third map, aiming for a visually pleasing arrangement of five elements within the crock. After all, odd numbers reign supreme in the world of decor.

Beyond the Tube: Enthralled by the rolled maps, I envisioned them nestled in a basket, either wire or wicker. A trip to the attic unearthed a paint-by-numbers tube – a revelation! This sturdy container was perfect for another map transformation. Following the same instructions, I prepped the tube by removing the lid and cutting along the designated line. The map then received its turn to be adhered to the tube, requiring a slight trim for a perfect fit.

Creative Reuse

Old Map New Use

AAA Maps

How to upcycle maps

A Secret Compartment: Intrigued by the notion of hidden treasures, I opted to wrap the lid separately. Glue secured the map to the lid's top, leaving extra map paper on both sides.

A Touch of Whimsy: Final Touches and Beyond

With meticulous cuts, I created small slits in the paper reaching the tube lid's top and bottom. These allowed me to fold the excess map paper neatly over the lid's top and down into the interior, effectively concealing the paint-by-numbers information.

Organic Touches: To add a natural element, I filled the crock's base with packing material. The rolled maps were then carefully arranged within, aiming for a casual, haphazard look. It wasn't about achieving a perfectly symmetrical display; rather, it evoked the image of someone engrossed in map exploration, tossing them back into the crock upon completion.

Reuse packing material

A Vintage Treasure Trove: My basement exploration unearthed a delightful surprise – a vintage blueprint holder! It found its rightful place nestled amongst the maps, adding a touch of history to the vignette. Who knows, perhaps those original house blueprints I mentioned earlier will find a similar frame-worthy fate someday.

The Perfect Fit: The crock seemed destined for this very purpose. Though my initial vision involved a wire or wicker basket, the crock's substantial presence demanded a place in our home. It provided a sturdy base for the upcycled maps, breathing new life into both objects.

Style Maps

What to do with an old crock

A Personal Touch: Sharp eyes might have spotted a few of my beloved antique wooden feet gracing the display. I firmly believe in incorporating pieces that resonate with you, regardless of conventional expectations. While the receipt trees perched on the desk might need to find a new home soon (they do take up valuable real estate!), these vintage maps bring me immense joy.

Living room decor

The Final Verdict: So, what do you think? Would you consider creating your own upcycled map adventure? Remember, with a little creativity and readily available materials, you can transform everyday items into charming pieces of decorative whimsy. Let your imagination be your guide, and don't be afraid to embrace the unique stories your upcycled treasures whisper.

Unique Living room decor

Happy crafting my friend!

Would you like to comment?

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Susan, I love maps too. I wish they were a bit more vintage, but hey, the 80's are vintage now, lol!

  2. That was a good idea, thanks for sharing Cara....

    1. Thank you so much Nora, I am loving the maps in our crock now. I am excited I have another idea for them so soon.

  3. What a lovely upcycling craft idea that adds a unique decor touch to a room. I love this as it's a great way to give new life to some old maps!

    1. Thank you Molly, I love old maps. They can be decorative and functional, how much better does it get?

  4. These maps are the perfect complement to your desk area, Cara! I love that they have a vintage feel and how you totally made them your own too. It's such a fun way to add a personal touch the the spaces in your home. Hugs, CoCo

    1. Thank you CoCo! I love a good map, and all roads lead somewhere, or that is what my husband always tells me anyway. I was happy to add them to our living room.

  5. What a great way to upcycle old maps! How do you think this stuff up? I love the look of these in your amazing crock! Putting this on my to-do list!

    1. Thank you Donna, you gave me the best compliment! We have had to clear out two family homes in the past year, and so we have a LOT of stuff lingering. I cannot say how I come up with ideas. I see things differently when I look at an item, even as a kid I was like that. Makes for an interesting childhood, while some think I am odd, I say that is ok with me. I like being unique. I just never knew there would be people out there who would be interested in some of my outlandish creations.

  6. I love this Cara! Old maps sure so nostalgic and I am attracted to them too. They look great in the crock. XO- MaryJo

    1. Thank you MaryJo, I was over the moon to get a few items out of the basement! Doesn't begin to make a dent in my collection, but at least I know I will never run out of upcycling materials.