Once upon a time, you could find a phone booth on any city corner. But the rise in mobile phones means they're not used much anymore, and many are likely to be taken out of commission to save on maintenance costs. That might sound like a problem, but for some people, it's an opportunity. Here are some of the most creative ways phone booths have been transformed.
A few years ago, British Telecom began leasing old phone booths for £1, particularly encouraging uses that would serve the community. Sebastian Handley of Lewisham, London, got one and converted it into a tiny lending library. He installed lights, carpet, and shelves, and £500 worth of books. The idea is that readers can take a book and bring it back later, or leave another in its place. The idea of phone booth libraries has spread to other areas, even to New York City, where they tend to look a little different.
In 2011, a revered local pub closed down in Shepreth, Cambridgeshire, UK. The loss of The Plough was deeply felt, and villagers got together for a temporary replacement. They created a new “pub,” named The Dog and Bone, inside a unused phone box. The booth was only large enough to accommodate one bartender, but revelers lined up to get a pint and socialized outside. The stunt was part of a campaign to get The Plough reopened. It wasn’t successful at the time, but the beloved pub was finally resurrected in 2014.
In Osaka, Japan, the Kingyobu collective began bringing phone booths back to the streets in 2011. These weren’t to make calls from, though: they held goldfish instead. The goldfish is a symbol of good luck in Japan, so the vertical goldfish aquariums were greeted by smiles everywhere they appeared.
A repurposed phone booth is used as a entrance to a pub in Regesbostel, Harburg, Germany.
British artist Laura Keeble put reclaimed stained glass with religious iconography into the glass panels of phone booths to create art in 2012. Titled “Confessional,” the booths were installed on London streets, sometimes right next to a normal phone booth. There was no priest waiting inside, however; the art was meant to provoke a double-take from passers-by.
In 2012, a variety of artists and designers were invited to reimagine the phone booth in a competition called BT Artbox. Their creations were later auctioned off in honor of the 25th anniversary of ChildLine, a children’s charity. One of the works of art created for the occasion was this sofa called Box Lounger by Benjamin Shine. It looks quite comfy!
This phone booth in Pensacola, Florida, was repurposed as an ATM. It makes sense: you’d want just as much security and privacy for your banking as you would for a phone call, if not more. You’ll find this booth in the parking lot of McGuire's Irish Pub.
8. SALAD KIOSK
Just this year, Ben Spier opened a tiny salad shop housed in a phone booth in Bloomsbury Square, London. It’s equipped with power and several refrigerated shelves to stock a day’s worth of fresh, organic salads and a few deli items. Check the Spier's Salads website to see what’s on the menu today.
The Red Kiosk Company has transformed many of the old British phone boxes into various kinds of food carts, cafes, and pop-up shops that can be rented for retail use.
Another rental company is transforming old phone booths into offices. Pod Works will be a subscription service in London, Leeds, and Edinburgh for which members will pay £19.99 a month (about $30) for access to a network of micro-work stations outfitted with a desk, Wi-Fi, a scanner and printer, 25” screen, multiple ports for other devices, and coffee and tea. The idea is that the booths-turned-offices will provide more privacy and silence than a coffee shop.
The metal structure was the right shape and size, so it only made sense that an old phone booth could be converted into an outdoor shower for ocean swimmers! This shower was spotted at a dock in the British Virgin Islands.
A German company called Teledisko has repurposed phone booths as “the world’s smallest disco.” It’s a coin-operated party! Pay €2 to step inside for as long as your selected song lasts, as many people as you can fit in. It’s outfitted with strobe lights, a smoke machine, and even a disco ball. Oh, and cameras, too, so you can have a souvenir of your party (for an extra fee). Currently, there are three Telediskos: two at permanent locations in Berlin, and one available for rent.
12. MULTIPLE CITY SERVICES
New York City still has thousands of phone kiosks, although they are rarely used, so in 2013 the city invited designers, planners, and others to imagine new life for them. One of the finalists for the design challenge was Sage and Coombe Architects. They have a design called NYFi that can transform the old phone kiosks into stations where the public can buy bus tickets, subway tickets, get directions, summon emergency services, connect with Wi-Fi, and even make a phone call. Imagine that.