Design: Bring back the pool room

Ben Crawford is hooked on a snappy new way of capturing memories.

Ben Crawdford's Instagram wall. Photo / Ben Crawford
Ben Crawdford's Instagram wall. Photo / Ben Crawford

"That's going straight to the pool room" is a line I regularly pull from my witty but unoriginal banter bag. I borrowed it from the classic Australian movie The Castle where the phrase describes something worthy of public display and admiration.

When I recently visited my parents I checked out my boyhood bedroom. It was littered with display-worthy stuff but something really caught my eye. It was a photo of me with the first rabbit I'd ever shot, Blu-Tacked to the wall. An ACTUAL photo. I realised then that the pool room has changed significantly since Darryl Kerrigan was absorbing the serenity in Bonnie Doon.

My sister Libby got the drawing genes. I didn't. So I taught myself the art of photography (she also got the long-leg gene and I was left with short, stocky ones. Some people get all the luck).

I started out using slide film and waited in eager anticipation to see whether my exposure calculations had been spot-on. As digital grew in popularity I dug my heels in. "The magic and craft of photography is being lost," I cried.

But slowly I warmed to digital as the technology improved. I added a digital SLR camera to my kit and pretty soon I was relying exclusively on an electronic process to capture my images instead of a chemical one.

Recently I've taken things one step further. There's a great saying that the best camera is the one you have on hand. That's why the vast majority of my non-assignment photography is now done on my iPhone. It's about capturing life's memorable events as they happen. And the dross too.

It's funny how things come full circle though. The digital revolution ignited a demand to replicate old-school film effects. Hello Instagram.

If you're not already on Instagram, I'm not sure I should recommend it, unless you want to live your life from this point forward in a series of 612 x 612 pixel snapshots and forever be deliberating between LoFi, Valencia or Brannan. I have to admit, I am an addict.

So warned, take your smartphone, install the free Instagram app, apply one of the many filters and turn digital photos into grainy, overexposed, vignetted masterpieces worthy of being shared among the Instagram community. This is today's pool room, jam-packed with personal achievements and mementos that used to sit on a mantelpiece, or were stuck to bedroom walls with Blu-Tack.

Making mementoes

As addicted as I am to Instagram, I think it's sad we're losing our physical pool rooms so here are three ways to bring back their essence.

1. Make your Instagram real

I recently printed out my favourite Instagram photos to decorate a wall at home. Visitors spend ages browsing through my "selfies'' and other random events. Pool room cool achieved. Boom.

To do this yourself I recommend the Instagram printing service Printstagram. Though US-based, the quality is fantastic, it takes less than a week for shipping and at about NZ$14 for 24 square 4x4 prints, it's great value too.

I stuck each square randomly to the wall with coloured Washi masking tape from Father Rabbit in Grey Lynn.

2. Stimulate table talk

Here's an idea I've wanted to do for ages. Select your best Instagram photos, print them out via Printstagram, then set about creating a table that's sure to spark conversation.

Glue the images to the surface of an existing table then fix a pane of strengthened glass over the top, bolting down in each corner. Or make your own table by sourcing timber from South Pacific Timber in Eden Terrace, stick down the images in a grid-like pattern then apply a few coats of sealant to create a flat, waterproof surface. Buy some trestle legs from Trestle Union.

3. Create a book

Who doesn't want a book about themselves? Now you can have it, in a matter of minutes. I love New Zealand's own Milk Books. Head to and import your Instagram photos. Let the auto fill tool work for you, or get creative by designing your own layout. Choose from a range of covers and binding options, then wait for your portable pool room to arrive on your doorstep.

You can follow me on Instagram here.

Ben Crawford and sister Libby won the first series of The Block NZ. They run their own creative advertising agency Libby & Ben, see

- Herald on Sunday

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