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Referred to Approach Architects by one of our retail bank clients, Elias Papadopoulos, a local real estate agent and entrepreneur, solicited us to help him convert a former funeral home into a new real estate office. Elias and his partners intended to work out of the residential apartments on the second floor until the work below was completed. The client’s goal was to convert the funeral home into a full-service real estate office where agents, lawyers, and mortgage brokers could all maintain offices and share amenities such as conference space, a copy room, and restrooms. The program was to include: (1) reception desk and waiting area, (1) library, (2) online stations, (1) new women’s washroom, (2) conference rooms, (1) fax/copy room, (1) supply closet, (5) offices, (8) cubicles, (1) new stair, and a refinished basement.

Our Approach

The original layout of the first floor was quite awkward and did not easily translate into a working office. Our challenge was to turn the large viewing hall of the funeral home into the new main workspace for the real estate agents. Circulation became the major design driver while trying to connect all of the program elements and maintain two separate means of egress. We were able to convert what was formerly a series of railroad style parlor rooms into the new main corridor. This corridor links the lawyers’, mortgage officers’, and real estate agents’ offices while still providing circulation to the residential tenants above.

The main entrance to the funeral home was reused as the real estate office entrance. Inside, the waiting area was sized to allow for a casual living room like seating arrangement. Also in the waiting area, the original small stair to the basement was replaced with a new larger and more formal staircase for access to future office space on the floor below. At the top of the new staircase, the reception desk was located. Naturally, the reception desk is the first thing a visitor views, and it functions as a screen between the waiting area and the employee areas beyond.

Our client asked that their large conference room be visible to their clients, and they requested that it not look like your typical white-walled box. The new conference room is adjacent to the waiting area and enclosed by a curved glass partition. The curved glass, when followed, leads visitors back into the office area, which was once the large viewing hall. The client was pleased with the height of the ceilings in this room as well as with the natural light provided by the tall windows along the front façade. In order to maintain a sense of height and openness, all new partitions in this room were to be partial-height glazed partitions. Because the client’s intention was to attract new agents to their office, the new workstations were positioned in clusters adjacent to the windows along the front wall, where they would receive the most natural light.