Gin Braverman never thought she’d decorate a mortuary. As the founder and principal of her eponymous design firm, Braverman boasts a portfolio full of well-appointed restaurants, buzzy storefronts, and beautiful boutique hotels—not funeral homes. But when a mutual friend recommended the Texas-based designer to revamp Broussard’s Mortuary— a 133-year-old, family-owned business just outside of Houston—Braverman found the partnership to be “organic.”
“I’m a huge fan of Six Feet Under,” Braverman admits. “I was really fascinated by the idea of pulling back the curtain on the industry and approaching it from a different, user-focused angle.”
Mortuaries have been a key part of the circle of life since the 18th century—providing a convenient place to embalm and preserve corpses outside of a family’s parlor—but they’re not exactly pegged as a design destination. Since many mortuaries are stuck in the past with heavy drapes, crystal chandeliers, and outdated touches, Braverman wanted to create a stylish space that didn’t overlook Broussard’s mission.
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“We wanted it to have life without having too much excitement,” she says. “We weren’t going to force cheerfulness, but we wanted an air of elegance and respect for the use of the space. People deserve to be celebrated in style.”
Though Braverman kept the original layout of the 2,500-square-foot workspace, she enhanced the mortuary with uplifting touches. New millwork added some warmth to the walls, while floral wallcoverings added more visual intrigue to the property. “We wanted to avoid mirrors as many visitors are [in mourning], and wallpaper translated this classic language in a more modern way,” Braverman says. “We changed up the wallpaper from room to room, but it still had a consistent finish.” Contemporary accessories and custom furniture complete the space without making look like “a modern furniture showroom.”
Though the final product is well-suited for a mortuary, Braverman points out that the overall atmosphere could fit an array of spaces. The key, she says, is to make the design approach as natural as possible. “I think it’s really important to not rush it and [spend time] collecting things that mean something to you,” Braverman recommends. “I think it shows when you try too hard, and a room can feel unapproachable.” After all, when it comes to celebrating life, what matters most is surrounding yourself with pieces you truly love.
Read on for an intimate tour of Braverman’s mortuary makeover:
Since the reception area is the first room guests will see after parking their cars, Braverman wanted the space to act as a visual exhale. “We didn’t want it to feel like a reception desk like you’re checking in for an appointment,” the designer says. “We wanted to add a bit of character with the wood trim, desk, and decor, so everything could fill consistent.” Though millwork wasn’t in the project’s initial plans, Braverman says that her clients were sold by the instant charm it created.
Art: Wayfair Accessories: CB2, Anthropologie, and Wayfair Shelves: Custom by GEWL Chairs: Custom by GEWL Desk: Custom by GEWL.
When designing the arrangement room, Braverman wanted the space to feel “somber yet uplifting.” To put it simply: “We wanted it to very feel comfortable. When you’re in an arrangement office, you’re probably not thinking about decor; however, we wanted to feel like you were wrapped up in a big hug.” Braverman immediately felt those warm, welcoming feelings with this whimsical wallpaper repeat from Scalamandré, which inspired her to paint the trim work a matching red. “
Wallpaper: Scalamandré Pendant: Regina Andrew Sconces: Ballard Table: Custom by GEWL Chairs: Custom by GEWL.
Depending on the size of the services, a group of dividing doors in center could turn the viewing room into one larger space or two smaller areas. The task, Braverman says, was to ensure the space looked its best in both configurations. “We wanted to keep a lot of neutral colors in this area because of how large it was and how much flexibility we needed,” she says. To complement the warm sophistication the taupe walls and textural black and white furniture brought, Braverman opted for wallpaper with a hint of iridescence. “It gave the space a touch of elegance and sophistication,” she shares.
Wallpaper: MDC Interior Solutions Rug: Modern Rugs Art: Perigold Sconces: Ballard
Lamp: CB2 Sideboard: Custom by GEWL Coffee Table: Custom by GEWL Chair: Custom by GEWL Sofa: Custom by GEWL.
Since the lounge is usually filled with florals during a service, Braverman paid homage to the room’s purpose with floral wallpaper. “Even though it has a somewhat busy pattern and detailed millwork, it creates a neutral backdrop in its entirety,” she says. “[The floral print] seems to go with the funeral theme.”
To bridge the gap between old and new, Braverman employed custom-made furniture from her sister brand, GEWL. “We wanted it to feel more curated than something you would see at a home furnishings store,” she says. “These pieces have character, but you don’t have to think about them too much other than to appreciate their comfort and texture.”
Wallpaper: Scalamandré Rug: Tacto Lamp: Anthropologie Art: One King’s Lane Tables: Custom by GEWL Chairs: Custom by GEWL Sofa: Custom by GEWL.
Though Braverman dressed most of the rooms with wallpaper, she did reserve a few spaces for strategically placed art. Admittedly, finding the right pieces to put in a mortuary is a tall order; however, Braverman focused on the ordinary and expected. “The goal was to pick artwork that really looked like it belonged, not grabbing anyone’s attention,” she shares. “We didn’t want anything to compete with memorabilia or whatever attendees would bring into the space.” Here, a piece of abstract art is anchored by a woven bench, should guests need a moment away from the chapel.
Art: Perigold Bench: Custom by GEWL.
For many, stepping into a mortuary can feel like an overwhelming, emotional rollercoaster, so it was important to create small moments of solace throughout the space. The restroom proved a perfect opportunity. “The restroom is where one might go to have a moment alone, so we wanted it to feel as serene and gentle as possible,” she says. Like many spaces in the mortuary, the design direction was driven by the selection of the wallpaper, muted florals in a soothing purple tone. The grayish green tiles completed the look in style—offering an equally relaxing attitude without appearing too cookie cutter.
Wallpaper: Supply Showroom Light Fixture: Anthropologie.