Hello from the road, Doug Gober here, back with more “Notes from the Road.” On this occasion I’d like to discuss a topic that is often overlooked in our industry; funeral home interiors. Throughout my career, I’ve been involved in the construction of over 100 funeral homes. Through this work, it became apparent to me the importance of understanding the role environment plays in setting the tone for the client experience. It is not uncommon for me to walk into a funeral home and feel as if I’ve gone back in time to the 70’s…. or earlier.

First Impressions, the vista or what people see and feel when they immediately walk in the door of your business should be similar to a customer experience as they walk into a modern hotel.  Notice that in most modern hotels your line of site is not the check-in desk, but the space they want you to initially focus on. This includes the quality and customization of funeral home furnishings, carpet and lighting.

Carpet – Don’t skimp, choose a high quality carpet. Patterned, bordered carpet should be used for large spaces because it makes large spaces feel cozy and less overwhelming. The texture of the carpet can be a combination of cut pile and loop. One example: a client had a higher-end carpet manufactured by Shaw. The carpet was woven through the carpet pad to eliminate separation and destruction that often takes place when caskets are rolled across the same path many times. Choosing a higher priced, higher quality carpet can increase the initial cost, but can greatly impact the lifespan of your investment.

Furniture – Consider customization for furniture manufacturing. We’ve had furniture manufactured three inches higher than usual, with arms and no skirts. This was done for several reasons. One, funeral home carpet is vacuumed every day and the skirt tends to wear and tear because of the contact with the vacuum. Two, the demographic of clients using furniture should be considered. Older guests may find it difficult to get in and out of residential furniture, which is lower and sometimes has no arms. There are several good interior designers that have access to commercial grade funeral home furniture. Be sure to keep them in mind during the design process.

Lighting – Lighting is critically important in setting the tone. Funeral homes need upscale, well planned lighting.  Dimly lit businesses can bring about an uncomfortable, negative feeling, especially in funeral homes. Make a point to turn all lights on in your funeral home or if the lights are off and the room is being unused, close the door.  One example: I’ve seen funeral homes that have beautiful, permanent and well done arrangements in a room with no lights on. Those types of focal points need specific lighting, known as task lighting. Task lighting works well with highlighting exclusive artwork or focal points in the room. Indirect lighting is a great way to balance dark spaces and avoid excess lighting. Think of the lighting in a jewelry store; Warm lighting is often used to highlight the important elements in the room. Recessed cans are much better than any fluorescent light in a funeral home.

When thinking of the layout of the space, the major designed focal point (e.g., fireplace, waterfall, large important art) should be visible from the entry. This allows clients to become immediately comfortable and heightens senses before encountering administrative space. A grieving person is not likely to stop grieving for a moment because of your space, but they are expecting a memorable experience that will positively impact their guests.  This is critically important because the guests of the family are your future.

These are some ideas to think about when approaching the design or redesign of your funeral home. Your funeral home should not resemble a church, a home or a hospital but in essence has a combination of elements in these spaces. Consulting with an interior designer can give you access to all of the possibilities we’ve discussed here.

If you have any questions regarding the redesign, renovation or expansion of your funeral home, you may contact Kate Groat at (910)-398-4863.

Until next time….

Happy Holidays

- Doug