Trends in funeral home architecture have become more contemporary, more brightly lit, and more inviting. The same is true for interior design. The old drab, heavy curtain look is a thing of the past. The color schemes used today are more vivid and more mixed, and better coordinated for younger tastes.

“Funeral homes are much less intimidating today, more open and more inviting. The mystery behind the funeral home doors is gone. Many funeral homes offer retail centers for flowers, sympathy cards, and aftercare items behind glass doors and open to the public. The same is true for casket presentation and cremation alternatives. They are open and not behind closed doors. This gives the overall impression of the funeral home less intimidating,” explains Brent Behrens, President of Behrens Design & Development, Inc.

Funeral homes are making the transition to a more casual environment. Generous light and open floor plans allow spaces to be versatile and used for many different types of services – inside the building and outside of it. Modern design elements inside and out make for a more inviting space that inspires and comforts families.

“The most noticeable change that we are seeing is that our clients want a more relaxed and casual atmosphere. In new construction only about 50% want a formal chapel, and regardless of a chapel or not, they want the building to have the feel of a country club or nice hotel lobby. We are currently working on several remodel projects to ‘de-formalize’ the existing formal chapel. We are changing the seating from pews to comfortable stack chairs that allow for any seating arrangement that the family wants. An important part of any project is the ability to have large flat screens in multiple locations for video tributes and informational videos about the services provided by the firm,” describes Bob Killingsworth, President of JST Architects.

As funeral homes become more casual, they also become much more flexible. This gives the funeral home the ability to offer a funeral service tailored to what the family wants. In the space that had been the formal chapel, the seating can be arranged however the family desires.

Technology has also advanced over the years as the traditional items, such as informational signage, guest books, picture boards, etc. have now given way to digital signage, digital guest books, and elaborate audio and video systems throughout the facility.

Our industry has also seen major changes to the casket selection room. This room has gone through many evolutions over the years, but in recent years the changes have been significant.

“Most of us remember it being a sea of caskets in a large room. It progressed to a smaller room with the ability to stack caskets to reduce the footprint, but still display the same number of caskets. Modular showrooms then took over the design as casket companies developed elaborate displays utilizing just portions of caskets to display more merchandise in a much smaller room. Today, most of the new designs do not contain a casket selection room. Most of these facilities utilize a flat-screen TV to display their merchandise,” points out David TeBrake, Executive Vice President and Owner of Miller Architects & Builders.

Another significant change has been the incorporation of food service into the funeral home. Most new designs today include some type of luncheon room within the building. Whereas older funeral homes have transitioned their casket showroom into this space to better serve families. This room serves as a place for family to gather during a visitation, but also provides the ability to house the funeral luncheon within the funeral home for those not associated with a church in their community.

When choosing interior fixtures and other interior aesthetics, it is just important to design with trends in mind as it is usability.

“It is so important to meet the criteria of both. There has been a trend towards more modern, clean lines with some of my southern interior designers that we work with and I think this is perhaps coinciding with the move towards cremation and minimalist services,” states Rick Roberts, President & Co-Owner of Roberts & Downey Chapel Equipment, Inc.

There are endless decisions to be made on design projects in today’s rapidly changing industry; all the while balancing the client’s preferences, budget, code requirements and general good design. Factor in how quickly the funeral industry is constantly evolving, and architecture and design both become more challenging than ever before.

Continue reading this feature editorial for additional information on architecture and interior design trends and insight from top industry professionals.

“It’s More Than Just Architecture!”

“The process of planning a new building or remodeling an existing one is a complex undertaking and one that involves seasoned professionals that can help you through that maze of considerations that are involved. At Behrens, we are here to help you through that maze in the most economical manner,” expresses Brent Behrens, President of Behrens Design & Development, Inc.

Behrens offers full architectural design services. They design to your budget rather than determining the budget by the design. This saves time and unnecessary expense. Specializing in funeral home architectural and interior design, Behrens can also provide more than just design services including comprehensive feasibility analysis, site selection, market research, financial projections, and financing assistance as needed. Behrens’ affordable development services help avoid making expensive errors in renovations, additions, interior refurbishing, and new construction and are available anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.

Behrens Design & Development has been in business since 1998 and has completed over 500 design projects in the United States and Canada and they have experienced their share of challenges.

“We like to say we have learned from our many challenges and pass that experience on to our new customers. We are the most experienced and that is reflected in our commitment to excellence. If you’re thinking about a building project, call us, you’ll be glad you did!” says Brent.

“Behrens is the most comprehensive service available to anyone who is considering building a new funeral home or remodeling an existing one. We offer services that cover site selection, budget establishment, market analysis, demographic studies, financing assistance, selection of the right contractor, monitoring the construction process, and the planning of an open house celebration when the project is complete. No one else provides all the relief of all the headaches involved in the process of designing and construction of a remodeling project or building a new building,” Brent emphasizes.

“Our firm focus is designing funeral homes and associated facilities, i.e.: reception centers, cremation facilities, administration and sales offices. We are familiar with how all the facilities operate and what is needed from a design point of view to make them efficient and functional. We can provide preliminary design to help determine if a project is feasible from a budget point of view, or if it can meet city zoning requirements. We can provide the complete set of construction documents required for permitting, bidding and construction. Many times, a client will need something in between preliminary design and construction documents, and we are happy to help with those needs too,” begins Bob Killingsworth, President of JST Architects.

JST Architects and Interiors has been serving funeral homes and cemeteries for over 50 years. They understand what is needed for a successful funeral home and cemetery. Backed by years of experience, JST can help funeral homes develop a design solution that works for the business today and plan for the requirements of the future.

“It is difficult to put a value on our services, but when the client looks at the cost of our services in comparison to the cost of the facility and what that facility can produce in revenue over a 30 year life, design services are a small fraction of the overall costs. Working in a well-designed facility is appreciated for the life of the facility. We have clients that we designed their project many years ago, tell us how much they still enjoy their facility today,” Bob says proudly.

“Our focus is on the funeral and cemetery business and the years of experience that we have serving these businesses .We are licensed in over 40 states and are exposed to many different situations that give us insight that is helpful in difficult and complicated situations,” adds Bob.

Miller Architects & Builders offers a variety of services to anyone considering a building project. Single Source. Superior Service. Remarkable Results!

“We are a full-service architectural firm that has been designing funeral home projects since the early 1970s. We take our clients wish list, enhance it with our experience, and provide the most functional design for each client’s specific needs,” explains David TeBrake, Executive Vice President and Owner of Miller Architects & Builders.

“We are also a full-service interior designer. We help select the colors, finishes, materials, and products for each project to ensure that the design is current and creates a warm and inviting atmosphere for our clients and their clients. Additionally, we are a full-service construction manager. We can oversee the construction of the project through the utilization of local labor forces and material suppliers in their community. Our experienced on-site project superintendents will make sure their project is built, not only according to the design, but also within the timeframe and up to the quality standards that our clients expect. With our involvement, they get the best of both worlds. They receive an experienced contractor that has built many quality funeral home projects and get to do so by utilizing the local people within the owner’s community,” David describes in detail.

Miller Architects offer each of the above services on an individual basis, or they can also provide them as a “single source” supplier to take the owner through the entire process from start to finish. ”Our ‘single source’ package is an experience that is second to none and provides us the ability to assure that their project will go seamlessly from beginning to end,” states David.

“Two main things set us apart from our competition. First, no other company has been involved in the funeral industry longer than we have. Our experience is second to none. Second, our ‘single source’ services are unlike any other services offered out there. There are individual architects, interior designers, and contractors, but no one that provides all these services under one roof. The seamless experience we provide cannot be matched by anyone else,” David concludes.

Roberts & Downey is a small family owned and operated business with over 33 years of experience. With their roots founded in the small farming communities of Central Illinois, Roberts & Downey have created a business to service their clients from coast to coast and beyond. Within 1.5 miles, they have access to the Interstate Highway system to service their customers.

“We have been innovators with three patented pieces of furniture. Over the years, we have listened to funeral directors telling us what they need to provide a more meaningful service experience for their families and evolved our lines to fill those needs. We provide quality, choice and value, second to none,” explains Rick Roberts, President & Co-Owner of Roberts & Downey Chapel Equipment, Inc.

Roberts & Downey’s Queen Anne casket bier has been used for both President Reagan and President Bush in the National Cathedral.

“As a family owned business, we market nationwide. We personally deliver and set up over 90% of the orders we produce, coast to coast. In January, we broke the two-million-mile mark over the highways servicing the funeral trade. At Roberts & Downey, customization is not a problem. We start with a pile of raw lumber and build our furniture from scratch, all in house,” Rick states proudly.

Roberts & Downey offers five designs of handcrafted chapel furniture using Oak, Cherry, Walnut and African Ribbon Mahogany woods. Available designs are, “Queen Anne, Prairie Craftsman, Classic, Jamestown Colonial and Provincial. Additionally, they offer multiple stain and fabric choices and can also stain match any color provided to them – making custom possibilities endless.

“Although there has been a trend towards more modern, clean lines, The Victorian style Queen Anne still represents the lion’s share of our day to day sales,” adds Rick.