By Bridget Gourlay
Andrew Hubbard works at his IT job during the day, comes home and spends the evening at home with his partner Tamara, an economist. Instead of watching TV or playing a board game the two of them sit down and work on their coffins.
Not ‘their’ coffins – they haven’t built them yet. The pair started their own business called Final Furniture a few years ago after a family funeral where Hubbard’s father built his brother a coffin made of recycled timber with “round, soft” features that “struck a cord with people”.
Changing the way our society sees death is Andrew Hubbard’s life’s work.
“I think traditional caskets are very macabre, with associations of Dracula, all shiny big solid boxes that scream ‘Hands off! Stay away!’
“What I’m trying to do is make them rounder, softer, more approachable not ‘stay away!’ but ‘feel free to approach’. Certainly for the funerals in my family being able to interact with the deceased person is a good way of saying goodbye. For myself it was a nice, helpful process to go through. I’m trying to encourage it.”
A green revolution has occurred in consuming where customers buy low-energy lightbulbs, eat organic food and use environmentally friendly cleaning products.
Hubbard says eco-conciousness has also reached the death industry.
“People spent their lives consuming. To be able to do something with less impact at the end becomes symbolic for them and their families.”
That’s why Final Furniture create their coffins from bamboo – more environmentally friendly because of its short growing time and because it regrows automatically when harvested.
Hubbard Senior’s coffin that inspired the creation of Final Furniture was originally built for himself. Before it was used for his brother, it sat in his workshop being used as a bookshelf. Hubbard recognised this idea could also be incorporated into the business. Today Final Furniture sell a coffin that can be used for years as a bookshelf and wine rack.
Who would buy such a thing? Quite a few people, actually.
“Those customers tend to be people with a quirky sense of humour, who wanted them for a conversation piece.”
Hubbard says eco-conciousness is behind this idea too. Customers are realising that coffins, while expensive and beautifully crafted, are only used for a few days and the desire to get your money’s worth and to ‘pre-use because you can’t re-use’ are the factors behind these sales.
Final Furniture has shipped its first sample to Australia, where they have an agent. In May, the couple went to a European trade fair where there was interest from Holland, Germany and France.
Hubbard was also named alongside nine other top New Zealand entrepreneurs in the Bayer Innovator Awards run by the National Business Review, proving his Final Furniture idea is dead on.