Current design trends take a worldly turn Home: Decorative maps and globes are appearing in stylish shops and shelter magazines.

March 03, 1996|By Sharon Overton | Sharon Overton,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

Maybe the last decade's geopolitical unrest has made us nostalgic for when the world's boundaries didn't seem to be changing by the minute. Or maybe we're just tired of gazing at the moon and stars.

But suddenly, maps and globes -- everything from priceless antiques from the Age of Exploration to the big blue globe from your fourth-grade geography classroom -- are becoming hot collectibles and are inspiring a range of home accessories.

Vintage maps and globes have been spotted in recent issues of home magazines, including Metropolitan Home and Martha Stewart Living. Hip home shops, such as New York's Mood Indigo, are catering to young collectors searching for stylish globes from the '30s through the '60s. Catalogs and retail stores also are offering contemporary maps and globes, as well as map-inspired fabrics, picture frames, lampshades and other -Z accessories.

While the trend may be partly a reaction to the over-saturation of celestial themes in the home-furnishings market, it also suggests a growing interest in global travel and a yearning for a time when the world's frontiers were yet to be explored.

"During the Elizabethan period, they referred to geography and mapmaking as the 'science of princes.' People were just learning about the world; it was an exciting period," says Paul Cohen of Richard B. Arkway Inc., a New York gallery that specializes in rare maps, atlases and globes. "We want to get back to some of that excitement of discovery."

Long before Christopher Columbus proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth was indeed round, the ancient Greeks were fashioning spherical maps, or globes, to represent their view of the world. By the 18th century, owning a map or globe had become a sign of good taste, wealth and learning, says Norman Morrison, owner of Coach House Antiques, a British firm that specializes in reproduction globes, including the 1492 German model believed to have influenced Columbus' attempt to sail west to the Orient.

Antique maps and globes still convey a sense of history and heritage. But originals are expensive and increasingly hard to find. According to a recent article in Traditional Home magazine, serious collectors are paying from a few hundred dollars to the high six figures for maps from the 16th to the early 19th century.

Increasingly, young collectors are searching out vintage globes from the 20th century. Colorful globes from the '30s through the '60s are far cheaper than rare antiques and are valued for their streamlined looks or schoolhouse appeal, says Andrei Clark, manager of Mood Indigo.

Claudio Gottardo became fascinated with globes about six years ago, when he started to notice the great variety of colors and sizes and the subtle eccentricities of the maps themselves. The New Yorker's collection grew so large -- it now numbers more than 120, including tiny globe pencil sharpeners and paperweights -- that he opened a restaurant, Mappamundo on Abingdon Square, to hold it. Last spring he and a dozen of his globes appeared in a magazine ad for Cole-Haan shoes.

The most Mr. Gottardo has paid for a globe was $400 for a pre-World War II glass globe that lights up from the inside. Typically, he picks them up for $5 to $100 at flea markets and antiques stores.

Map motifs are hot in fabrics, too. Osborne & Little's Voyage collection includes a print that looks like an ancient Chinese map with camels, winged beasts and other exotic modes of travel. Waverly's Chart House design resembles an antique nautical map.

Mapmakers also are acknowledging the influence of home fashion. Rand McNally, perhaps the best-known name in cartography, recently introduced a world map, Millennium, designed to blend with contemporary color schemes: Russia is teal, China is aubergine and the oceans are dove-gray taupe rather than blue.

Manufacturers are making globes as well in a wide range of styles -- from traditional models in antiqued mahogany stands to high-tech versions with sleek iron bases that would be right at home next to your computer.


* Richard B. Arkway Inc., 59 E. 54th St., New York, N.Y. 10022; (212) 751-8135.

* Ballard Design, 1670 DeFoor Ave. N.W., Atlanta, Ga. 30318-7528; (404) 351-5099.

* Martin Behaim globe, through Coach House Antiques, P.O. Box 118, High Point, N.C. 27261; (800) 274-3433. (Call for retail outlets.)

* The Bombay Co., P.O. Box 161009, Fort Worth, Texas 76161-1009; (800) 829-7789.

* George F. Cram Co., P.O. Box 426, Indianapolis, Ind. 46206-0426; call (800) 227-4199 for a retail store near you.

* Gear, through Toyo Trading Co., P.O. Box 61037, Los Angeles, Calif. 90061-1634; (800) 669-8696. (Call for retail outlets.)

* Mood Indigo, 181 Prince St., New York, N.Y. 10012; (212) 254-1176.

* Orbit Design Inc., 4420 S. Wolcott, Chicago, Ill. 60609; (312) 376-0003. (Call for retail outlets.)

* Osbourne & Little, 979 Third Ave., Suite 520, New York, N.Y. 10022; (212) 751-3333. (To the trade only.)

* Rand McNally, P.O. Box 182257, Chattanooga, Tenn. 37422-7257; (800) 234-0679.

* Waverly, 79 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016-7878; (800) 423-5881. (Call for retail outlets.)

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