Funeral parlours on British high streets are in dire need of a makeover. Attitudes towards death and grief have not progressed since the Victorian era and Exit Here represents an attempt to modernise this experience for everyone. We design well-lit, comfortable spaces for the places that we work, rest and play, so why not when we are saying goodbye to a loved one?

Transit Studio was commissioned by Oliver Peyton – of Peyton & Byrne – to reimagine the way people engage with death and break down a series of taboos that have persisted in our culture for hundreds of years. Design has the power to achieve this by framing space with sensitive, natural materials and colours that produce a calming effect. It is important to make these spaces open and accessible to all, and this can be achieved by using simple forms and references to different cultures.

The shopfront itself is as open and welcoming as possible to encourage people to enter. Crossing the threshold can sometimes be difficult but here a simple blue-framed portal guides visitors into a plain white space. Inside, a generous curved corridor creates 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 to the contemplation space. The cheerful colours and timber floor accentuate the accessibility of the spaces, with comfortable pieces of contemporary and vintage furniture, and some feature lighting. The space has the eclectic feeling of a home, accessorised with prints of vintage star maps and constellations to provide a backdrop of an ethereal nature, taking inspiration from other worlds.

It was vital that trust and privacy played a key role in the ambience of certain areas. We therefore designed a folding timber privacy screen for the windows, made by Studio Wilson-Copp, which can be left open to show the interiors to the street to create the openness and engagement, whilst at the same time offering complete discretion when closed for a private meeting. The internal spaces should aid conversations about the best ways to honour and celebrate someone’s life and so we rejected the idea of someone sitting behind a desk for a more collaborative and democratic room.

Even the shape of the urn and casket has been reimagined for this project. The grim silhouette of the traditional tapered form of the latter has been replaced with a more minimal straight-edged box, with rounded edges. This comes in a variety of finishes and custom colours, including a hand painted design inspired by the Day of The Dead celebrations using classic elements such as the calaveras (the representations of human skulls) and marigolds (flor de muerto) are used throughout the design.

Exit Here has kickstarted a process of rethinking the design of funeral parlours in the UK and shift attitudes towards death, focusing rather on a celebration of life. This simple retail unit acts as a clear signal of how contemporary forms, colours and materials can radically reshape our experiences at the most difficult of times.