Over the past several years, not only have design trends changed, but the entire concept of a funeral home has changed. Today, funeral homes are designed to be event centers to celebrate the life of the deceased. Open floor plans, multi-use spaces and plenty of natural light create an inviting atmosphere for families.

“When funeral homes first became an accepted part of a community, it was normally in a residence (hence the name) and was warm, inviting and very residential in style and scale. As funeral homes evolved from actually being in a residence to being in a facility built for funeral business, the residential style was still residential and traditional. Fast forward 75 years or more, funeral homes are in facilities designed for funerals, memorials, celebrations and receptions. These facilities are becoming more like a country club whether they are traditional or modern,” explains Bob Killingsworth, President of J. Stuart Todd, Inc.

Modern architecture and interior design trends have also changed what products and services funeral directors offer. Technology is one of the biggest trends changing merchandise selections, guest book registrations, obituary viewings, and remembrance presentations in today’s new funeral homes. Funeral homes need to be able to accommodate and showcase the new technology that is available and incorporate it into their architecture and interior design.

Currently, the industry has been focused on cremation and reception facilities. Depending on the state regulations, the majority of the funeral home designs are now including space for receptions/events and cremation facilities. Once again, these facilities are driven by community growth, trends and traditions. Reception and cremation facilities can be combined with the funeral home plan or designed as a free standing building.

“Whether it be a remodel/addition or new construction, an open floor plan is key. Creating a multi-use open floor plan is both inviting for families and efficient for the directors,” states Greg Bryant, Development Consultant at Behrens Design & Development, Inc.

Spaces in funeral homes today need to be practical and also aesthetically pleasing. Something beautiful that serves no function may be nice, but can be difficult to justify.

“Something functional without some attractiveness to it, defeats the purpose as well. An example, is in that of digital signage. A digital sign display that is built into the interior design aesthetics and decor of the building provides both functionality and attractiveness to its purpose. Furniture is another example, a beautiful couch that doesn’t allow an elderly person to get back up can be counterproductive to the ambiance and feel desired of the funeral home,” explains David TeBrake, Executive Vice President/Owner of Miller Architects & Builders.

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. Architecture and interior design is the unique combination of technical requirements and artistic desires needed to produce a useful, functional and aesthetically pleasing built environment. Factor in how quickly the funeral industry is constantly evolving, and architecture and design both become more challenging than ever before.

Get industry information and advice from top architecture and design firms for 2017 in this feature editorial.


“When designing showrooms and arrangement rooms, we feel it is important to meet with the funeral directors and casket companies to help create a space that is designed specifically for their community. Today, the availability and delivery time for merchandise has significantly decreased the funeral directors inventory. Showrooms are typically half of the size that they used to be 10 years ago due to improved product displays and technology. Our goal is to create a space that is warm, inviting and less intimidating for the families while at the same time making it efficient and accessible to the needs of the funeral director,” explains Greg Bryant, Development Consultant at Behrens Design & Development, Inc.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a remodel/addition or new construction, Greg stresses that an open floor plan is key in today’s industry. Creating a multi-use open floor plan is both inviting for families and efficient for the directors. The goal of Behrens’ interior design staff is to design the space with trends in mind, but not forget the need for furnishings and fixtures that can withstand day to day activity.

“Behrens Design will act as the client’s representative and guide them from the inception of the idea through the completion of the project. We will assist them with budget establishment, site selection, feasibility analysis, full architectural design, interior design, obtaining financing, bid review, contractor selection and construction monitoring. Behrens Design offers architectural and interior design services for the funeral industry. Whether it is an existing business or start-up, we will guide the funeral director through every phase of the project,” explains Bryant.

Behrens Design goes beyond just offering architectural and interior design services. They will assist the funeral director in determining what is right for their business both now and in the future. They will establish the right budget for the project and work within that budget to create the perfect design. Behrens makes it very clear that they are not a general contractor. Separation of architect and contractor assures that they have the client’s best interest in mind. This also allows the funeral director to involve local contractors and subcontractors that are part of their community.

To learn more visit www.behrensdesign.com.

JST Architects is a full service architectural and interior design firm licensed to practice in over 45 states. They have worked with funeral home owners over 40 years to develop new facilities from bare ground, design additions, renovation of existing facilities and conversion of other building types into funeral homes and event centers. They also design mausoleums, columbaria and cemeteries.

“Current architectural and interior design is open and bright with clean lines and an emphasis on the quality of the materials used. This approach to design works well with funeral homes that focus on services, celebrations of life, memorials and family gatherings. A facility that has timeless finishes and is open and flexible, and is not constrained by pews in a chapel or sofas and chairs in a stateroom appeals to families that want to have a personalized service,” states Bob Killingsworth, President of J. Stuart Todd, Inc.

As the industry continues to change, there will surely be a few things that will have a huge impact on the funeral industry. From an interiors point of view, the advancement in fabrics and carpets that are much more stain resistant and durable allow funeral home owners to be more relaxed with allowing food and refreshments throughout the building. These products are allowing areas to serve as a stateroom or chapel one day and a reception area the next without the concern for stained fabrics or carpet. This flexibility results in better usage of the space and the ability to meet the family’s desires for customized services.

“There is always a bit of a ‘balancing act’ when selecting between current trends and durability and appropriateness. The design should be fresh and reflect current style, but should not be trendy or temporary feeling. The long-term finishes like carpet, tile, plumbing, fixtures, and large upholstered pieces should be selected to be timeless and durable. Items like pillows, lamps and accessories can be more on point with current styles, yet never trendy,” Bob explains.

Many times, the client views design services as an expense, and not the asset that it actually is.

In reality, our services allow them to build, renovate, and expand their facilities to improve their image within the community; to be able to attract more business and higher quality employees. The design fee is a small percentage of the overall cost of the project; however, the resulting facility provides a home for their business for 20, 30 or 40 years,” Bob continues.

To learn more visit www.jstarchitects.com.

At Miller Architects and Builders, they know that the most important interior design aspect is having an open floor plan with a warm, inviting atmosphere.

“Natural light is an important part of this concept to facilitate openness between the building and the environment it is set within. The colors selected within the facility are also a key to creating this environment. The correct colors create a sense of warmth, calm and peace to help facilitate the atmosphere the funeral home wants to portray to their families. Having a facility that can be “multi-purpose” is also important in today’s funeral service centers. What one family wants to do for their loved one might be completely different than the next family so spaces that can be changed and adaptable are key in providing what each family needs,” explains David TeBrake, Executive Vice President/Owner of Miller Architects & Builders.

Miller offers a full service package of architecture and interior design services that takes the hopes and dreams of clients and seamlessly melds them with Miller’s 50 years of experience in the industry. They strive to create an environment that not only meets the needs of clients’ wishes, but also provide a functional facility that offers the amenities needed to compete in the marketplace both today and well into the future.

“Miller has been in business for over 140 years and has been dedicated to serving the funeral industry since the 1970’s. Our catalog of hundreds of successfully completed funeral projects assures the success of your next project as well. We offer a single source package of architectural and interior design services, along with constructions services that utilize the local labor forces of your community. This package creates a successful project with the expertise of our staff combined with the labor of your community. Our value proposition is a simple tag line we have used to summarize our company and what we provide, Single Source, Superior Service, Remarkable Results.

What sets us apart from our competition is our experience, personnel and single source of services.

No other company has been in business as long as our 5th generation, family owned business has been. Over two-thirds of our employees have worked together for over 20 years. Our single source of services offer the most complete package of services to allow us to focus on every detail of your project so you can focus on running your business,” continues Dave.

To learn more visit www.millerab.com.