The 19th century was an exciting time in the classrooms of Europe. Suddenly, children who had never seen a pineapple or other foreign crops could gaze at illustrations of them on wall charts. Before long, these educational aids encompassed all manner of subjects; the teacher, pointer in hand, would tap the charts and explain how a cocoa bean became chocolate, the life cycle of an insect or the anatomy of homo sapiens.
Today, educational wall charts are prized by collectors and interior designers. Rendered obsolete in a digital age, these leftovers from bygone classrooms are highly coveted yet still relatively affordable. They are also a key part of the industrial, old schoolroom interiors look that sees institutional pieces such as blackboards, desks, laboratory apparatus and gym lockers making statements in our homes.
Invite the colours of autumn into your home using dark graphic wall charts that inspire the rest of your room.
Jung, Koch & Quentell wall charts, ‘Cockchafer’, £85; ‘Horsetail’, £140, both Wild Strawberry Prints. Mahogany console, £625, The Old Cinema. On console: ‘Newstead’ candle holder, £25, Habitat; West German yellow-and-green stamped vase, £45; vintage ‘Binga’ basket, £32; vintage carved fruit in bowl, £29, all Mustard Vintage; Italian green glass vase, £38, Homeplace; terracotta plant pot, find similar at Petersham Nurseries. Robert Heritage drum dining table, £2,800; Moller rosewood chairs, £3,400 for set of six, all Gazelles of Lyndhurst. On table: black sugar pot, £15.95; black milk jug, £10.95 (just seen); black oak chopping boards, from £29 each; black earthenware mug, £30 for four, all Rockett St George; West German green vase, £38; 1970s-inspired teapot, £38, both Homeplace; oil printed file boxes, £42 each, Retrouvius. On chairs: sheepskin rug, £59, Rockett St George; ‘Safira’ cashmere green throw, £1,249; ‘Era’ cashmere throw, £699, both Oyuna
Blend botanical charts together in a formal arrangement and use ornate gilt lighting for a more grown-up look.
Walls painted in ‘Pearl’ Colour 100 Absolute Matt Emulsion, £42 per 2.5l, Little Greene. Equine wall chart, £145; butterfly wall chart, £165; Regency-style gilt palm sconce, £275, all Homeplace. ‘Ryegrass’ wall chart, by Jung, Koch & Quentell, £140, Wild Strawberry Prints. ‘Meadow Saffron’ wall chart by Jung, Koch & Quentell, £367, Mighty Vintage at Pamono. ‘Mara’ marble side table, £150; marble candle stick, £30, both Habitat. Evertaut stool, £360, Elemental. ‘Painterly’ rug, £1,400, Amy Kent. On side table: retro rust German vase, £28, Homeplace; oil printed file boxes, £42 each, Retrouvius; seagrass basket, £24, Rockett St George; terracotta plant pot, find similar at Petersham Nurseries. Bistro table, £165; antique French sofa, £1,895, both The Old Cinema. Vintage embroidered pear cushion, £35, Mustard Vintage. Robert Gillmor ‘Red Breasted Geese’ cushion, £26.99, We Love Cushions. Vintage Welsh blanket, £294, Retrouvius. ‘Salisbury 5’ stove, £1,080, Chesney’s. Vintage ‘Beni Ourain’ pouffe cover, £195, Yonder Living
Contrast scale and eras – place a modern mural next to a vintage wall chart. Retain space between them to keep the scheme contemporary and chic.
Jung, Koch & Quentell ‘Carp’ wall chart, £95, Wild Strawberry Prints. ‘Poissons, Ecrevisses et Crabes’ mural, £65 per sq m, Surface View. ‘Cloud’ chair, £650, Rockett St George. Vintage library chair, £1,195, The Old Cinema. ‘Toscani’ cashmere throw, £699, Oyuna. Robert Gillmor ‘Sunset Flight’ cushion, £26.99, We Love Cushions. ‘Painterly’ rug, £1,400, Amy Kent
Gather together charts on a similar theme: fruit and vegetables, for example, are an ideal composition for the kitchen or dining room.
Wall charts (from left): Vintage Danish botanical wall chart #5, £35, Mustard Vintage; Czech 1930s botanical wall chart, £48, Otto’s Antiques; mushroom prints, £12.99 each, Wild Strawberry Prints. Coat hangers, from a selection at John Lewis. Oak steps, find similar at The Old Cinema. Plants and pots, find similar at Petersham Nurseries. Lights, find similar at Encore Reclamation. ‘Panda Beni’ vintage rug, £485, Yonder Living. On steps: ‘Greta’ cake stand, £25; ‘Perdita’ splatter oven dish, £20, both Habitat. On sink unit: coffee drip stand, £120, Rockett St George; ‘Malta’ black oven dish, £35, Habitat; ceramic serving board, £22; yellow West German pitcher, £34; blue West German pitcher, £36, all Homeplace
Using a vintage iron hook to attach a chart to the wall creates a more curated finish than merely hanging from a nail.
Jung, Koch & Quentell ‘Mushroom’ wall chart, £135, Ars Vivendi Thonhauser at Pamono. Danish modern trolley, £165, Homeplace. Linen sack, £42; iron wall hook, £54, both Retrouvius. ‘Perdita’ splatter oven dish, £20, Habitat
A collection of anatomical charts arranged on and against the walls looks sophisticated in black frames.
Walls painted in ‘Attic II’ Absolute Matt Emulsion, £42 per 2.5l, Little Greene. Charts (from left): framed anatomical print, £600, Elemental; framed elementary physiology anatomical chart ‘No.3 Brain’, £495, Mustard Vintage; two 19th-century framed anatomical prints, £195 each, The Old Cinema; framed scheme of circulation chart, £1,200, Elemental; framed elementary physiology anatomical chart ‘No.1 Skeleton’, £495, Mustard Vintage. Stack of mini drawers, £414, Retrouvius. 1970s aluminium lamp with copper and brass details, £95, Homeplace. ‘Aorta’ vases, from £98 each, Jonathan Adler. ‘Westbrook’ bed frame, £199, Dreams. ‘Hay Minimal’ collection bed linen, £50, Nest. ‘Ikat’ stripe cushion, £40, Habitat. ‘Era’ cashmere throw, £699; ‘Teva throw’, £419, both Oyuna. ‘Leo’ rug, £600, Habitat
Enliven bare brick walls with a chalk paper chart that allows you to scribe thoughts and notes, as well as being an intriguing and decorative piece.
Human body chalk paper wall chart 1968, £150, Ars Vivendi Thonhauser at Pamono. Console, £1,450, Andrew Bewick Antiques. Brutalist ceramics, from £58 each, Jonathan Adler. Rug, find similar at Habitat
The full feature on decorating with vintage wall charts appeared in the October 2017 issue of Homes & Antiques. Back issues are still available. To purchase a copy click here.
Photographs: Katya De Grunwald
Styling: Ali Attenborough