The Australian funeral industry is set to shift with the launch of The House, the first funeral home in Australia to operate memory services as opposed to traditional funerals. The Australian funeral home is committed to changing the public conversation and perception around funerals and death and creating a healthy cultural conversation around what happens after people die.
Founded by Kylee Stevens, Morna Seres and Christian Willis, The House has been created to subvert the concept of traditional funerals and offer people choice when it comes to remembering their loved ones. Taking a combination of arts, culture, memory and design, The House aims to tell the personal story and narratives of each person's life, as well as a new emotive understanding of memory.
'We are aiming to shift the perspective of funerals and offer a meaningful experience doing justice to the life of the person who has passed, as well as the memories of their family and friends," says Kylee Stevens, Co-Founder of The House. 'Funerals have become somewhat rational, scripted and less personal. Each person, their life, and memories of that person are different. The House is committed to providing a truly personal service that is bespoke and specific to each individual and that stands alone as a memory in time."
Services conducted by The House will not be contained to traditional churches, in-cemetery chapels and other traditional locations. A series of venues have been earmarked for services and each will offer something unique. Morna Seres, Co-Founder of The House explains, 'The importance of the physical environment, be it a modern space, a significant building, a great landscape, or a private home, is about people being able to choose a relevant ceremonial space that reflects the human spirit".
In selecting and developing these different spaces, The House have also commissioned renowned Australian paper artist Benja, to develop a bespoke paper chapel that can be transported to services. A light chapel to be used specifically for The House, setting the tone to create beautiful feelings of reflection.
'When it comes to funerals, there is a place for tradition as well as celebration. The House works across those concepts but also fits within the space between these areas. We are aiming to service memories in a meaningful and relevant way, be it happy, sad or a combination of both," says Morna. 'We will be creating moving experiences in meaningful settings, using visual, audio and other sensory elements to show and harness a complete picture of life."
'Choice is one of the driving factors for The House and we are committed to offering something different from the standard cookie-cutter funeral services. In Australia, there are a myriad of personal, spiritual, religious, cultural beliefs, let alone personal preferences, tastes, likes and dislikes. We want to honour these in death as we would in life," concluded Christian Willis.
Question: What inspired the creation of The House?
Kyle Stevens: We were inspired by a number of funeral experiences that we each felt lacked personalisation, seemed rushed, corporatised and not quite the memorable representation they could have been. Although each service was personal, this didn't necessarily mean they were personalised.
These experiences lead to a number of natural questions, what are the choices that people have, why do so many people seem to make the same choices at such a significant time in their lives, what if you wanted to hold the service in a setting that was more relevant, what are today's ecological choices, and the magical question what if…?
Question: Have you planned your own funeral?
Kyle Stevens: To an extent yes, certain elements of my funeral are planned, however I keep evolving the ceremony to the point that its very likely it will change!
Question: How would you describe The House?
Kyle Stevens: We're a new type of funeral and memorial service.
We're passionate about how the memory of a person is expressed and experienced by the people who have loved them in the final moments of saying goodbye. We provide private services that are personalised, sometimes curated, often intimate and always lasting.
Question: What does The House offer that traditional funeral homes don't?
Kyle Stevens: We're the first boutique ceremony provider specialising in The Art of Saying Goodbye. We're also the first end-to-end provider.
This means we provide choices across every element of the funeral process.
Whilst we provide the exact the same core activities, often across the same traditions, our point of difference is offering clients endless possibilities, our modern sensibility for personalisation and our passion for the authentic expression of memory. We believe time slows down on these days and our ceremonies aren't rushed. People spend the most part of the day and into the evening saying goodbye in their own way.
I've worked with clients from their early pre-planning stages, where I've attended cemeteries to assist clients with their choice of burial plots, right through to the creation and management of an intimate and memorable viewing, a celebratory wake, or discussing professional natural death care services, grief and bereavement counselling, and even for some, anniversary remembrances.
Recently we worked with a catholic family and at the end of the evening wake, one of the family members came up to me and said, -I saw you at the pulpit today with the Father, and now you've been here all night serving us at the wake, what do you do...and can I get your business card?!"
Question: Can you share with us some of the quirky funeral concepts you offer?
Kyle Stevens: Quirky in our experience is often expressed by the character of each person. Because we tailor each service, anything can happen.
Recently I attended a corporate function and the gentleman next to me asked if I could provide a Viking themed funeral ceremony. If that is what matters to him, then that is what's essential for us, and we make that happen.
Question: How do you hope to create a healthy cultural conversation around funerals and death?
Kyle Stevens: The human experience need is universal and culminates in human memory and culture. The ineffable nature of the human experience is one that is often shared, perhaps not prolifically, nor easily, but certainly it's an inevitable part of life conversation.
Creating environments for sharing stories is one of the ways we contribute to this cultural conversation. We're currently working on a number of cultural events that encourage engagement in the stories of life, as well as death. We see they go hand-in-hand with each other and almost impossible to have the conversation of funerals and death without the conversation of life and living.
Question: What's a typical The House funeral cost?
Kyle Stevens: We have a unique pricing model. The average funeral in Australia costs anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 depending on your budget and choices. Our funerals are priced similarly, however we look at the cost value and substitute many of the industries traditional fees and add-on costs, for items that are more relevant to a family and their natural ways of choice and decision making.
Question: How can families ensure a funeral becomes a celebration of life?
Kyle Stevens: Authenticity, natural remembrance and a personalised expression of memory allows the light enter into the darkness. In our experience we see people respond differently to many elements of a funeral ceremony or memorial. At which points people move between sorrow and joy, is not a predictable outcome.
We aim to provide places and experiences of presence - where we join in individual expression of solace, joyfulness, release and reflection …places of relevance, where you begin the very personal journey of committing your relationship into memory.
Question: Will The House open across Australia?
Kyle Stevens: Currently we can service a client anywhere in Australia, especially if a family is open to working with us in this way, then we are there for them, and we will provide our services wherever is needed.
Interview by Brooke Hunter