5 lessons from our experience of designing furniture for Places of Worship

Places of Worship furniture design church font consacration

Over the years we are very lucky to have had the opportunity to create furniture for some incredible places of worship. The projects we have been involved in have supported the communities whose activities are focused around some of the country’s most significant religious buildings including Wakefield Cathedral, Mirfield Monastery and Sheffield Cathedral, to name just a few.

Each project has been a unique and thoroughly rewarding experience that has involved working alongside some very inspiring and committed people.

The design process was intuitive for us and we seem to have an innate understanding and respect for the architectural, spiritual and societal considerations. It is only on reflection that we have recognised a number of common themes from the design process.

Respect for heritage

Places of worship often have a history spanning many hundreds of years and often we find  that very little has been changed within the building for quite some time. One of the first things we find ourselves doing when we embark on discussions about a renovation project is to reassure those involved that change does not mean ripping out the old and replacing it with something completely different. Sensitive design takes its inspiration from the centuries old stories that have been absorbed by the walls of the building over time and the style and character of the original architecture.

Respect for change

Having said all that, change can have a hugely positive impact on the community. Historically churches were built to be the religious heart of a town, village or city and they are still very much a part of everyday life and worship for people living nearby, even though the activities taking place within the walls are changing. As well as being a place of prayer, a church or cathedral might offer food to the homeless, job clubs to work seekers, a venue for events and a meeting point for groups of all ages and backgrounds. By updating the interiors and making them more flexible the church can become a more practical resource for those who use it.

Respect for worship

Whatever new activities an ecclesiastical building is accommodating for the generations of today and tomorrow, its solemn purpose as a place of worship is still central to its existence. As a place of prayer and reflection, service and praise, it nurtures and sustains those who work hard to manage and maintain it. It is extremely important that all those working on any restoration or refurbishment keep this very much front of mind. Whatever additional demands come from the community, those worshipping there have their own very clear purpose and the building must continue to serve their needs.

Respect for people

One of the joys of an ecclesiastical restoration project is that it gives us a chance to work with a committed group of individuals whose passion for their place of worship and their community is humbling. Our role is to be one voice amongst many and to collaborate with everyone involved, taking on board opinions and ideas and developing them together for a common purpose.

Respect for purpose

We have talked above about purpose and need but we are also mindful that practicality must go hand in hand with durability and aesthetics.

If the space needs to have seating for hundreds of people on one day and then be one large open space on another day, we can create furniture that can be moved, stacked, wheeled and assembled quickly and easily. The secret of great ecclesiastical design is to achieve this in a way that takes account of all the elements of respect already mentioned. It should look good, be built to last, be flexible yet strong and complementary to its historic and solemn surroundings.

Our reputation as church furniture designers has brought us a number of new projects which we are really enjoying being involved in at the moment and we hope there will be many more to come. Further news to come on our latest work but in the meantime please take a look at some of our past bespoke church furniture work.