DIY Map Wallpaper in My Laundry Room
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Affordable and creative options to using wallpaper in a room on a small budget. This tutorial for map wallpaper is a simple project with beautiful effects. No maps? Try using gift wrap, book pages and more, plus use this one DIY TIP that will make these inexpensive paper options adhere to walls without wrinkles.
I have a room reveal to share with you today… it is not actually a room, but a space that is integral to a well-functioning home and the last space on the first floor of my house where orange/brown trim and woodwork still resided.
This little closet of a laundry room is highly functioning and has lots of storage…
…it just needed some color, personality and style. I posted how I sprayed painted the louvered doors last summer. That made a big impact, but not enough.
The orange brown trim and cabinets are no more thanks to Beyond Paint and one of my favorite things…. colorful maps.
I love maps…like…. really LOVE them!
I know the reason I love maps so much is because they are so visual and colorful. Looking at them makes my brain happy and is where my love of seeing pops of color around a room came from. The blues, pinks, and turquoise colors of the maps that were on the walls of my grade school classrooms were my saving grace when I was growing up since they held my interest when academic subjects didn’t.
I also got excited when the pull-out maps came in National Geographic magazine every month. I studied every inch of them.
The laundry closet was the perfect place to add them to my house. To get enough maps to cover the walls I went to Ebay to find the maps I remember as a child. I found many sold in “Lots” for sale.
I bought 24 National Geographic maps for $18.
Since I like blue and turquoise, I searched to find maps that had states along coastlines and countries that bordered water. I didn’t use any desert or mountain state maps since they are mostly brown, white, and green in color.
Ed and I considered leaving the louvered doors off the closet now that the space is colorful and cheery…
…but decided since we do place items and dirty clothes, towels etc. on the washer and dryer all week long, plus other junk we like the space closed off.
We are enjoying the colorful surprise waiting for us now though when we open the doors.
I even made sure to include a map of South Carolina and Lake Murray. :-)
After the walls were covered with the maps, the water heater control stuck out like a sore thumb. I thought I could spray paint it white, but it would still stick out.
How did I hide it?
I hid it using a shoebox. I made sure the shoebox fit over the metal box…
… covered it with maps and attached it using Velcro.
The map covered shoebox stays secure, but can easily be removed when needed.
It may not be perfect, but it does the trick. :-)
I painted the cabinets using a Beyond Paint. You can read my review of it here: Painting Cabinets with Beyond Paint. We also continued the NuCore plank flooring into the closet which made a big difference to the space, too.
I used large sections of maps as well as cut out sections that I simply layered and added until the walls were covered.
I made sure each one had blue on it.
I used the maps with the least blue along the bottom and behind the washer and dryer.
I could not be happier with how the space turned out. I love it!!! :-)
How to Use Maps As Wallpaper
The total cost of the supplies I needed to paper the walls with the maps ran about $35.
- If your walls are old, make sure they are clean and free of dust and grease before applying the maps. You can prime the walls first with wallpaper sizing/primer and then apply the maps using wallpaper adhesive. When you are tired of seeing maps on your walls and want to do something different, removing the maps is the same as removing wallpaper from a wall.
- Maps – I bought mine on Ebay, here. but you can use any map(s) or pages from an old Atlas. Check your local thrift store for them.
- Wallpaper primer/paste
- Scissors or a paper cutter
- Paint brush
- Plastic spreader or spatula
A tip from a reader Mary Ann: Another resource for maps is to order them from ALL 50 states! If you do it online on the state tourist sites they will mail you the map from their state for free.
I got my plastic spreader at the home improvement store. They are also sold on Amazon, here. If you have a plastic spatula in your kitchen, you can use that. The spatula will work the same way as the spreader I used when you use the bottom edge of the flipper section to swipe over the sections of maps as you apply them to the wall.
- Find maps where you like the colors and cut those areas out to use.
I used about 4 full-maps where I liked all the colors, but it is much easier to apply the maps to the wall in smaller sections. For the rest of the walls, I cut up the parts of the maps where I like the colors.
2. Clean walls and let dry, if you have problem walls, you can apply a coat of wallpaper sizing to the walls first.
3. Turn the map or cut sections over and brush a coat of wallpaper paste to the back. Make sure to get paste on all the outer edges. Fold the pasted section in half (paste to paste) to “book” the paste to the paper.
4. Carry it to wall and carefully open and apply the cut section of the map to the wall using the spreader to adhere the paper to the wall.
5. Some maps depending on the paper they are made out of, may wrinkle when you apply it to the wall. Don’t worry about this…the wrinkles are easy to remove.
This is the most important step to ensure DIY map wallpaper success:
How to Remove Wrinkles in Map Paper Once Maps are Applied to the Wall.
- A wallpaper smoothing brush will not work to smooth the maps onto a wall, the paper is too thin and you will see the brush marks and spaces of the bristles in every sweep you make over the maps. You need to use a plastic spreader or spatula to make sure the paper is adhered well to the wall and to remove any wrinkles or air bubbles that appear right after you apply the map sections to the wall.
6. Firmly run the plastic spreader over the map in all directions, pushing the wrinkles and air bubbles out to the edges. Go over a few times. You can press pretty hard if you keep the spreader edge level against the wall. If you angle the spreader, the ends could rip the paper, so as you swipe across, keep the spreader level.
7. As you can see the wrinkles are gone.
8. Continue to add more map sections to the wall one by one to create the map wallpaper on your wall.
9. As you apply new sections of maps, go back and check the previous pieces you applied and go over them again with the spreader if you see any more wrinkles forming.
10. I kept swiping over the maps I just applied and then the ones previously applied quite a bit to ensure I removed all the wrinkles, it only takes a few seconds. Doing this before the paper dries will ensure wrinkle-free map wallpaper.
11. Keep adding maps and sections of maps to the wall until it is covered. From time to time, take a damp cloth over the map wallpaper to remove any wallpaper paste residue, but be very gentle so you don’t remove any color from the maps. Let dry. I did not seal the maps.
DIY Map Wallpaper Fix:
If after the maps dry you find a wrinkle or air bubble, there is a simple fix to get rid of it. Use a very sharp craft knife and cut a slit into the air bubble or wrinkle. Use a small paint brush or toothpick to get wallpaper paste behind the paper and then use the spreader to flatten the area. Let dry.
If you have any questions about using maps as wallpaper in a room in your home, don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section of this post.
When I read about your love of maps and getting excited about the fold out maps in National Geographic, I thought – me too!!
In fact I looked up this project to do the exact thing you did so beautifully. I saved the ones I liked best. Same as you, I like the blues, high snowy mountains and coasts.
I loved maps so much I
Hi Mary – Happy to meet another map lover. I have loved them since I was a little kid. I think it is since they are so colorful and visual – they make my brain happy. :-).
Thank you for this lovely idea. We are avid skiers and are going to cover one of the downstairs loo walls in piste maps :)
Hi Janie – I makes me happy to hear that you were inspired by my map wallpaper project. I had to look up what a piste map was, but how perfect for your joy of sking. Your loo will look perfect for your life and style.
The laundry area looks so good in the after photos!
Painting the cabinets white really opened the closet up and made it look clean & crisp.
I loved your solution to the water heater box!
Thanks Pam. :-)
I LOVE MAPS TOO… LIKE REALLY REALLY REALLY LOVE THEM!!!
When I read that I was so happy to know I’m not the only one who thinks s they are awesome! Crazy thing is I’ve have this idea for years and years and I’m so happy to see what the result looks like! I love it💗!!! You did an awesome job! Thanks for sharing!!
Thanks Kimberly – It is nice to hear from someone that loves maps as much as I do. I have always loved them since I was a kid. Maybe I was a map maker in a previous life. XO
Can the same process be used with a map that has been laminated
Hi Mary – I don’t think using laminated maps would work as well since they are thicker. If the lamination is very thin, they might work. Do you have one you can cut up and test. Apply to a piece of cardboard to see how it will look. If you like it then, you can do a wall.
Did you overlap the map pieces or butt them?
Hi Diane – I overlapped each piece slightly as when the paper dries it will shrink a bit.
If you were wanting to apply some sort of sealant, do you have any suggestions as to what type to use? I want to be able to wash the papered walls at some point.
Hi Rosanne – You could use a matte water-based polyurethane over the maps. Mixwax Polycrylic would be what I would use. It comes in a few different sheens. I think it would look best matte and not shiny. Just make sure to use water-based and an oil-based sealer would yellow the maps. You could also use a matte decoupage medium sold in craft stores.
Great idea! I have this same exact laundry closet in my home including the same orange brown 60’s wood cabinets. It looks so good without having to do a ton of work!
I absolutely love how this came out!
Gorgeous! I will be doing this to our laundry room this summer. Thanks for sharing
Not sure if you will see this since this is a 2017 post but another source for maps is to order them from ALL 50 states! If you do it online on the state tourist sites; you don’t even need a stamp like in the “old” days!
Hi Mary Ann – Thank you for the tip about where to find maps. I love maps and didn’t known this. :-) I will add it to the post.
I just found and joined your fabulous site. I am so in love with everything you did in your laundry room. I love how you paid attention to the small details. You nailed it with the shoebox idea. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Ivory – Thanks for joining my site. XO I am happy to have you as part of my online family. :-) My laundry room is my favorite DIY since I love maps. I was so happy to be able to incorporate them into the decor.
Nice clear directions, Thanks. I too LOVE maps. I have a large collection of trail maps of forests I’ve visited. These are topo maps. My wall will be predominantly green – my favorite color. My question is: Did you overlap the maps or carefully butt them up to one another? If they overlap were they tough spots to get wrinkles out of? Did you need the base layer to sit for a while before adding on top of it?
Hi Jill –
I overlapped the maps slightly and did wait until the previously applied maps were in place and not moving. I did not wait for them to be completely dry. If you run the spreader tool from the middle out on each piece of the map you add, you should not get too many wrinkles. If you do, simply keep going over them starting from the center out. You can apply more wallpaper paste over the maps to help the spreader go over the surface easily. You can wipe away any excess with a damp rag afterwards.
Once you start and get the hang of it, you will see what works. Since the maps are made of a nice paper quality, they are pretty sturdy. If one does tear, it is so easy to just lay a torn section to match up and then swipe the spreader over it. The layers all blend in.
If you have anymore questions, let me know.
Have been reading your blog for many years – you always surprise me with new projects. I love the color and your use of the blues. Really striking and a happy surprise when guests would want to do laundry. Want to try it but am wondering if the paper is easily removable if I want to redo in a few years?
Just LOVE this! Gorgeous transformation. Great tips,
going to have a go myself.
Great work….I’ve never wallpapered before ….some of the maps I’d like to use are printed on glossy paper, maybe even partly water resistant. Do you reckon the paste would still work to adhere those to the wall? Is special paste required? Thanks
Hi Chris – If your map paper is simply shiny, I think regular wall paper paste should work to adhere the underside of the paper to the wall. If it is laminated, it may not work. Once the each piece you add sticks to the wall, you can simply go over the surface with a damp sponge and wipe away the excess wallpaper paste. Let it dry and see what it looks like. You can try a piece in the least seen area of the wall to make sure it works that way you want it to look.
If you want to be able to remove the maps at some point in the future, make sure to put the wallpaper sizing on the wall first, then proceed.
If you use any other type of adhesive, like spray glue or decoupage medium, it may be hard to remove from the wall in the future.
Did any images from the back side of the map show through to the front when you applied the wallpaper paste? This is my concern with the maps I want to use
Hi Evaleen – None of the images from the back side of the maps were visible once the paper dried. I used a lot of blue parts from the maps. If you use a map with more white or lighter colors, you may see some of the images or maps made with thinner paper than I used. My maps were from National Geographic magazine and a few other from an Atlas. The paper was the thickness of two pieces of printer paper together.
Love this! I’m preparing to ‘map-paper’ in a kitchenette in my airbnb. Because it’s over a sink, I feel like I need to seal it. Is that necessary? Or will the wallpaper adhesive protect the map surface from occasional splashes? Is there a sealer you would recommend?
Hi Shelley – That map-paper sounds perfect for an AirBnb. Near a sink, you would need to seal or else water spots would show up on it. The best sealer will be water-based in a matte finish. Minwax Polycrylic would be good. Just make sure the paper has fully dried – a few days before applying the sealer. You don’t want it to wrinkle.
You could also use Martha Stewart Decoupage Medium in Matte sold at Michaels. Here is a post I used it on so you can see what the product looks like: https://inmyownstyle.com/map-covered-shelf-organizing-boxes.html
Love, love it – mine could be just like yours. You walls also looked pink at first. I’m thinking about it. :-)
My shelves in the laundry closes are open. Surely I could find some to hang in there.
I’ve searched for the closet that one amazing mama did for her son. And used all orange shoe boxes – the kind with the swoosh, of course – Mostly to hold shoes, but a few other items. I hope I pinned it.
Hi Ellen –
For your open laundry room shelves – you can keep them open and place square or rectangular baskets on the shelves and then stick the contents on the shelves in the baskets. It would look nice and neat. You would simply pull a basket out when you need something.
I had open shelves in the mudroom of my previous house. I used dollar store baskets and covered shoe boxes with maps, but you could use scrapbook paper , giftwrap or any kind of decorative paper. You can read the post here: https://to.ly/1zgIq
Excellent article. I just found hundreds of old river navigation maps in an old boat we bought and are remodeling for an Airbnb rental.
Love this …I was wondering if this could be done in an RV with the same supplies?? The RV is not always a cool space. Could the wallpaper buckle with the heat. I am a newbie to wallpapering. Thanks for any input.
Hi Patricia –
A map wall in an RV would be quite fitting. :-) I love the idea!
I think it would be fine if you made sure you adhered each piece of the maps well, making sure all the corners are down and there are no air bubbles underneath. My laundry closet gets hot from the dryer and I haven’t had any problems with the maps buckling. I would use wallpaper sizing first on the walls. This step is important if you want to easily remove the maps some day. If you don’t think you will ever remove them, then you can skip the step. Then apply the maps and seal as I did. Use light coats and make sure the temp is not too hot when you do it so the paste and sealer do not dry too quickly.
thank you so much!!! I happen to have an old Rand McNally US Map and this would be fitting for sure for our adventures!!
Have a great day!
LOVE your laundry room!
One question: You say you bought 24 maps … was that just about enough, or did you have leftovers? I’m trying to gauge how many maps I’ll need for a slightly larger space.
Thanks for the inspiration!
Hi TP – On Ebay, the maps I bought came in a lot of 24. I did not use all of them. I used most of them and cut them up to use the bluest areas on each. If I used the entire map I would have needed less. I did use a few smaller maps I already had from an atlas also on the wall. I used these to fill in areas along the back. I had about 4 maps leftover that I didn’t use. They were of desert or mountain states that didn’t have any blue on them. :-) If you want more of one color, then I would suggest getting more maps than you need so you can be selective and choose the parts of the maps you like best.
How do you resist the urge to travel all the time with such a dreamy wall decor? It’s a brilliant idea, Diane. You’ve done that very well! Usually when I apply wallpaper in my house, it doesn’t look good as your example.
Good map Diane :) where do you get such an idea? I’ve applied the map wallpaper but the results are not as good as you show
Hi Boxon – Is wrinkling of the paper the problem or do you not like the color of the maps you used? Did you use the spreader? That is the key to getting the maps wrinkle free. You have to keep going over them until they show no more wrinkles. Even if you applied one piece 15 minutes earlier, go over it again with the spreader.
It does look fantastic! I am curious though, if you decided at some point to change your design…
Is it any different than removing standard wallpaper?
I had an electric panel- (much flatter to the wall)- I decoupaged some scrapbook paper to a panel and attached magnets to it.
Hi Kat –
Since I used wallpaper paste with sizing, the removal would be the same as regular wallpaper. I bet your electrical panel looks very nice. I like the fact that you too it one step further and are using it as a magnet board too. Very creative. :-)
Love this colorful space. I did this to a tall table and sold it at a sale a couple years ago. It was one of the first things to go.
Hi Patty – I dropped your book into the mail late today. You should be getting it in a few days. Did you make a profit on the table you made over with maps? I think I would like to do this myself, cover a piece of furniture with them. I bet your table looked fabulous!
The table was ‘adorable’ according to my husband. LOL. I always make some kind of a profit when I do a project like that but sometimes it pays better than others. I also did a side table for my brother with some very old newspapers that had articles of war times in it. The little historic town I live in along a river has some great antique stores and I got the papers for a steal. It was a lot more work but so cool an he loves it.
What a COOL idea – colorful and good idea for re-purposing paper maps. What with GPS and the internet – maps could become obsolete.
One NOTE: from one who considered it ‘need to know’ – Tax Day 2017 is on April 18th. Believe me – having to pay – I want to wait until the last possible minute! :)
Hi Becky – I love my GPS and think you are right that maps are becoming obsolete. Kind of makes me sad. I think I need to stock up for future projects. Ah yes… a few days delay for tax day… dragging out the pain. :-(
I love it, Diane! Melissa at the Inspired Room used to have maps papering the top of a little hall in her former home, but she only pinned hers up. Beautiful and interesting! Your other suggestions in your comment reply to Kari are great ideas, too. I’ve been mulling over some gifts to make for my world-traveling children with maps. Fun, fun, fun!
I also think the cover for your water heater control is brilliant. I have a thermostat covered with a basket, but it falls off occasionally. Thanks for that idea, too.
I hope Tax Day isn’t too painful for you. Enjoy National Laundry Day, instead. :-)
Interesting use of Nat Geo maps. Just recycled 50 years worth to used book store. One thing I did not see which most wallpaper DIY and paint stores recommend is preparing the wall first. We’ve always used primer or sealer, especially with old, uneven walls. They prevent peeling, improve adherence, and prevent the walls from absorbing moisture, especially important in damp areas. Hope it works out for you.
Hi Ellen – Someone is going to love finding your donated stash.:-) What a treasure trove for map lovers. Yes, you can use sizing or primer on the wall before putting up wallpaper for added benefits, but I found out that as long as the surface is painted and free of dirt and grease and you use a newer formula of wallpaper paste, it is not needed. I will be hanging real wallpaper on one wall in my kitchen dining area soon. The walls are made of an old style of sheetrock, it is rough and not pretty. I will be sizing the walls first since the paper I will be putting up is thick and will need all the extra benefits of sizing/primer can add so the long runs of paper stay put. :-)
I love this idea, once again you inspire – ? you can do laundry and look for places to travel at the same time. I could have used this when the kids were little and I was doing tons of laundry.
Hi Diane–What a great idea! I too love maps. I guess it comes from all the years I’ve spent hunkering over them with my four children as we found all the places we read about together in school. I think I’d find myself on an exotic island in my mind while taking care of laundry. NOT a bad place to be! I have to admit though I don’t think I’d want to follow these maps anywhere ;) LOL
I love this idea, Diane! It looks fabulous and so cheery. We have a huge world map on our wall, and, since it’s been there we are constantly looking for places we here about on the news, or from friends. It’s fantastic!
I was tickled pink to see you using Australia in your demonstration photos. I can see my home town, Wollongong, on the East coast of NSW, just below Sydney. We’re famous! Ha ha.
Thanks for sharing this great idea! I think it may be one to use in a walk-in wardrobe.
You are amazing!!! I mean it!! Looks fantastic–so creative!!
Such a clever way to hide “the Little Gray Box.” I really love that when you open the closet doors there will be such a drastic and fun surprise! Intense wallpapers are amazing for small spaces it really gives you the most bang for your buck.
This makes doing laundry like taking a vacation. Magnify cent idea!
Hi Diane! Can I just tell you that I adore your map “wallpaper”?!?! What a happy, bright and interesting place you’ve made to do the laundry. I’ve always thought somehow you and I must be kindred spirits, well…I’m certain of it. I have had a love affair going on with maps and globes since I was in grade school. Not only am I fascinated by all of the obscure places I find, but the colors are so clear and bright. I would have never thought to use maps the way you did in your laundry closet, but I’m not surprised YOU thought of it. My best!
I KNEW there was a reason I was still holding on to my son’s old Nat Geo’s! I hated to give up the photos thinking there was a place for them in my artsy crafty world, but never thought about the maps hiding in those magazine holders! Awesome inspiration! Thank you for this post and as always, for being so inspiring and generous in your sharing.
Stunning! Love it!
I’m with you about the love of maps. I recently spent a few hours learning about the Shetland Islands, which I knew nothing about. I love your laundry room and I think you should leaves those doors off. I would show off that unique idea. What’s more it is really pretty and interesting.
I love your new washroom. The blue and white work so well together. You are such an inspiration to all of your readers. You are so good at showing us all how one can make great changes to their homes without spending a lot of money. I love the maps. Great job!
Diane, My mother-in-law papered her entire back stairway with maps sometime in the early 50’s. It was one of many surprises on my first few visits to the home where my husband grew up, and brings back memories of a lovely lady. I think she would have been a huge fan of yours. Perhaps I need to raid my husband’s stash of National Geographic maps……
Hi Sally – I would have loved that stairway and house!! I used maps from a few sources, but 90% of the best ones were the maps from National Geographic. Have fun looking.
Oh wow! Of course, maps. Nothing like pleasant day dreaming of places to go while one does laundry. Looks fantastic too! ;)
I love it – it’s darling! I have a question – – did any of the maps overlap on the wall? Or did you put them up in random patterns?
Hi Denise – The maps are up in a random pattern and do overlap slightly so that when they dry and shrink a little no wall will show. I did put my faves where they could be seen the most.
I really enjoyed this post. The maps look amazing on the wall. And is that a shell scoop in your detergent jar?
Ho Pat – thanks – Yes it is a shell scoop in my detergent jar. I found it on a vacation in Florida many years ago and have been using it ever since.
I love this idea as I love maps as well. The area looks great!
Thanks Donna – For map lovers like us, it is a perfect way to incorporate them into our homes in a decorative way that we can enjoy on a daily basis.
This post made me smile….you totally transformed your laundry area and it looks fabulous. All the info was beautifully presented. You are truly an inspiration to your readers. Thank you.
Thank you Virginia – As a blogger this is wonderful to hear. I try my best to write my post tutorials so readers of all different DIY levels understand them. Thanks for reading my blog. XO
Yes, Diane has done it again… I give her 5 stars! She up and thought of it, she did it well, and she didn’t go overboard, which is usually how things go for moi! I really love it, and think how much it would have cost if you’d gone with a professional wallpaper dude, and professional wallpapers! blue and white is perfect! Loved the coverup for the little box, too!
Hi Linda – Buying rolls of wallpaper, even discounted would have cost more, but hiring a pro would have added a few hundred for sure. The box cover came from my “use what you have” school of thought and my years of working in retail display where we had to come up with ways to make stuff with nothing but what was in a prop room. We had to become resourceful.
Absolutely the most fun makeover yet!! I also love maps, and as a retired Social Studies teacher, I always loved working with maps–the more colorful, the better! I like the “quilt-like” effect of them being pieces of different maps put together. Thanks for sharing such a neat project. My wheels are turning!! :)
Hi Kari – I bet I would have loved your classroom when I was a kid. :-) Using the maps as wallpaper is just one way to use them, you can cover furniture with them…line drawers, cover books….and more. Have fun coming up with ways to use them in your home.
I love this! It’s one of my favorite makeovers of any blogger, probably because I too love maps. But the white and blue make such a huge change from the dreary brown. Kudos to you, Diane!
Thanks Arli – I am so happy to have found a place to use the maps that bring a smile to my face. Makes for happy decor. :-) Enjoy your day.