1. Create as high a ceiling as possible. High ceilings help create the feeling of awe and reverence. High ceilings also required create the acoustics required for most worship services. Music requires a high ceiling in order to sound full-bodied and powerful.
2. Use proportional spacing and balance to create a symmetrical worship environment. The stage, bimah, platform, altar, pulpit or other focal point of the worship space should be centered to allow most members of the congregation an unobstructed view. When placing seating, it is important to use symmetrical design. If pews are to be installed with a center aisle, each row of pews should be the same length and spaced the same distance apart to create an even appearance throughout the worship space.
Example: If fifty chairs are to be installed on the right side of the stage platform, then for the purpose of symmetry, fifty chairs need to be installed on the left side as well. Additionally, if ten large windows are installed along the left side of the sanctuary, ten windows, or at least some other similar decorative element needs to be installed along the right side to create balance in the room.
3. Select colors to create interest and drama in the space. When choosing wall colors, select a color palette that is off-white, crème or a very light pastel. Although they are dramatic, dark painted walls absorb light. The worship space will appear dark and can be a difficult environment for reading.
It is better to use dark or bright colors as accents throughout the space. A good rule is to carpet the space in a single color and then use that color for the seating upholstery and painted accents. You may then use a variation of that color, or a combination of that color with other colors, to create interest on the focal point of the space – stage, altar, bimah, pulpit.
Under most circumstances, ceilings should be painted either “ceiling white” or the same color as the base wall color. With very few exceptions, don’t paint the ceiling a dark color since this will cause the space to appear substantially smaller and will not allow light to reflect off the ceiling.
4. Use fabrics, polished wood, lighting fixtures, artwork, and windows to create the drama required to give the space the feeling of reverence. The right combination of fabrics, decorative artwork and accent painting can set the mood for the worship space. Before designing the space, visit as many worship centers as possible.
See what works and what does not. Visit the local bookstore or library and look at books on religious architecture, home decorating and interior design. Try to find elements that can be incorporated into the PraiseBuilding.
5. If the budget is tight, don’t save money on anything that will be touched regularly. If the congregation must save money, it is better to save it above eye level. Too many times, congregations will attempt to save money by installing cheap carpeting, selecting low quality fabrics, inexpensive pulpit furnishings, and less than durable seating.
If the budget is tight. purchase the best quality fabric, wallcoverings, floor coverings and furniture. Keep in mind, these are the items that will come in contact with every member of your growing congregation for many years. Inexpensive carpeting that wears out in five years is really more expensive than a higher quality carpeting lasting twenty years. When installing initial carpeting in a PraiseBuilding, fixed pews or seating are not a problem.
However, when it comes time to replace carpeting, one needs to figure the removal and possible storage of fixed seating. This extra labor will far exceed the cost of installing a good quality floor covering the first time. There are plenty of opportunities to save money above eye level of the congregation.
If one needs to save money, start with the basic design. Is there a less expensive design for the worship space that can create a similar look and feel? Purchase less expensive lighting fixtures, ceiling fans, stained glass windows, sound systems, artwork, etc.
Don’t attempt to save money on anything that could wear out quickly with constant contact. Remember that replacement cost will always be more expensive than purchasing an upgraded product the first time.
Stephen Ferrandi is the Director of KLNB Religious Properties, a real estate firm serving religioius clients in Maryland, D.C., Pennsylvania, and Virginia. He is one of the top experts in land development in the region. Mr. Ferrandi frequently contributes real estate related articles to both print and online publications.