Exit Here is a contemporary version of the funeral home, creating an accessible and welcoming environment to change the conversation from death to a celebration of life, with Restauranteur Oliver Peyton.
We were really excited to hear about Oliver’s ideas to completely change how we experience and engage with our ultimate journey or that of a loved one, and felt that this was a fascinating and timely brief to engage with.
In stark contrast to attempts to reinvent the rest of the high street, from estate agents to banks, the look and feel of the funeral parlour remains staid and uninspiring. On top of this, death has often been seen as a taboo subject, little discussed and very much subject to a rather Victorian approach, rather than a completely personalised occasion. If we look at how weddings in the past 30 years have changed beyond all recognition to be completely bespoke celebrations, why shouldn’t a funeral give us the same potential to reflect peoples’ personalities.
Store Design and principles
We wanted to create an open and welcoming environment, that helped to break down the barriers that we felt existed in current funeral parlours. We wanted to create a sense of calm with the softness of a domestic environment, to help people feel more comfortable.
The prominent corner site and Art Deco frontage allowed us to create a simple striking shopfront- removing all of the previous clutter on the façade, with a minimal hand scripted sign that glows above the shopfront. Internally we have used a generous curved corridor to create an open lobby to link two new private meeting spaces- with one room set as a living room, and the other as a dining room and connected these to the contemplation space. The idea was to keep a little of the eclectic feeling of home, accessorised with prints of vintage star maps and constellations to provide a backdrop of an ethereal nature, taking inspiration from other worlds. The cheerful colours and timber floor accentuate the accessibility of the spaces, with comfortable pieces of contemporary and vintage furniture, and some feature lighting.
We designed a beautiful folding timber privacy screen for the windows, working with Giles Wilson-Copp. It can be left open to show the interiors to the street to create the openness and engagement, whilst at the same time offering complete trust and privacy and discretion when closed for a private meeting. Without using the word funeral explicitly on the shopfront, the plinths with the miniature coffins and urn designs showcase the possible choices that Exit Here offers, along with the full size eyecatching design of the Day of the Dead inspired casket.
Casket Design We wanted to move away from a traditional casket shape, and move into a design that was about simplicity in every situation. One of the design challenges was to create an affordable classic option that could be available to everyone.
From an anthropometric perspective, human hips are now often wider than previously, so the traditional coffin form of tapering sides is not necessarily a relevant template to work from. We therefore started to work through designs that were simple and symmetrical, eliminating a tapering side, as well as keeping a clean form that will work well in classic environments as well as more contemporary celebrations. The casket will be available in a core range of colours, but this is also open to personalisation- so that someone could also choose their own favourite colour.
We have also created a hand drawn casket that is inspired by Day of the Dead festival, with each piece a unique striking and vibrant design reflecting the celebratory nature of the festival, rather than the sombre approaches to funerals so often seen in Britain. Classic elements used within Day of the Dead celebrations such as the calaveras- (the representations of human skulls) and marigolds (flor de muerto) are used throughout the design.
Urn Design To complement the form of the casket, we have created a very simple timeless design, made in the heart of Stoke on Trent- with a minimal form inspired by classical geometries.
“It was such an extraordinary brief to rethink the future of the funeral parlour that we couldn’t say no! Through research and discussion, as well as understanding how the industry operates, we hope we have made what is inevitably a difficult time, somewhat easier through our designs, with greater possibility for a more personalised experience. We hope that our work can help break down attitudes and taboos about talking about death so that ultimately people can really choose how they would like to be remembered and celebrated.” Ben Masterton-Smith, Director of Transit Studio.