Design studio brings new life to Napa funeral chapel

A place that once memorialized the dead now has new life.

The former chapel at the Treadway & Wigger funeral home in downtown Napa has been remodeled and is now home to an architectural and design firm, Tapestry Studios, Life by Design.

Rows of pews that once lined the chapel interior have been removed, leaving an open, expansive space. Large square frosted glass windows that once shrouded the exterior of the building have been replaced with clear windows, bringing much light into a formerly somber space.

Walls and columns have been painted. Blue carpet was removed and concrete floors were stained a rich brown color and coated with a high gloss finish.

At the same time, touches of the former chapel remain, such as the original doors and lighting fixtures.

"It's history," said Kelly Marquet, president of Tapestry Studios. "We wanted to keep a little of that."

About three weeks ago, Tapestry Studios moved into the 3,900-square-foot former chapel area. It features a fine furniture and artist showroom open to the trade, showcasing furniture, jewelry, sculpture, lighting, photography and other arts.

The rest of the former funeral home is being remodeled to make room for other tenants or businesses.

Marquet said that the business was most recently located in an office park behind Wal-Mart in Napa. When she saw the former chapel space was for lease, "I knew what it could be."

The well-lit area featuring furniture and accessories is arranged "to inspire people," and to help clients connect with artists and studios, said Sophia Tsilimigras, who works in marketing at Tapestry Studios.

For many decades, Napans mourned the passing of their loved ones inside the chapel of the Coombs Street building. But when the Wigger family sold the property and business this past year, the new owners decided to lease the space.

"It was serendipitous," said Tsilimigras. "It all came together."

When asked what she thought of occupying a former chapel space at a funeral home, Marquet said, "I didn't have a problem with that."

Indeed, locals who once visited the chapel and have now seen the remodel remark on how different it looks, she said.

"It's difficult to repurpose a mortuary chapel," said former mortuary owner Ted Wigger. However, "I think they are making excellent use of the space. It looks very nice."

Before her showroom opened, designers and decorators had to travel to Berkeley or San Francisco designer showrooms to shop. "Now they can do it here," Marquet said.

In addition to their current business model, there's the possibility that Tapestry Studios could also include retail sales.

Business owners submitted an application to the city for a use permit for such sales. It is in the preliminary review process, according to the city.

The property owner, Rags Heffran, declined to comment until the Planning Commission reviews the use permit application. Other tenants have not been announced.

The Heffran family bought the property in July 2015 for a reported $3.5 million.

The Treadway & Wigger funeral home business was sold to Vallejo funeral home businessman Buck Kamphausen in January 2015.

Kamphausen moved the Treadway & Wigger business into Napa Valley Memorial Park on Highway 221, which he has owned for several years.

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