Part of the reason New Jersey residents love their state is the abundance of small towns — it just feels like home, with all the added attractions of natural beauty, diversity, history, culture, changing seasons, the City just across the river, the shore, the pizza. If you live in this state, you can relate!
Living here, though, also means that you have a variety of ways to define your image of “home and hearth.” With so many options available in a single state, deciding whether you want to live on a water view lot in River Edge, a town home near the shore, a modern condo carved from a converted factory building with a view of the New York skyline, or a grand old two-story set on a manicured lawn in Montclair, might be a difficult choice. Then, too, you might drive through Red Bank or Cedar Grove and know immediately that you have found your “home.”
Finding the architect in New Jersey to help you forge your reality may take some time, but it should not be overly difficult. Remember, though that the “perfect alliance” will be one based on a shared vision, mutual trust and an honest and open business relationship.
Ask a few up-front questions to get that relationship off to a good start:
- What are your specialties? If you want to retain the character of a centuries-old home, you should not consider an architectural firm that specializes in modern Euro-style and chrome-and-glass office buildings, no matter how spectacular and energy-efficient they may be.
- Settle In. Define your goals. If you’re New Jersey born and bred, you may already know what appeals to you the most about the community you have chosen; if not, take the time to analyze your lifestyle, and assess both immediate and long-terms goals before you seek out an architect. Develop a budget plan based on your needs and your future plans.
- Find a “Look.” Some architects have a signature style. As you drive around New Jersey’s villages, you will no doubt encounter new homes or home additions that provoke an “I could live there” response. Seek out the architect responsible for those designs if they strike a chord with you.
- Discuss the NItty Gritty. As you interview architects, don’t be afraid to “pry.” Designing a home means that you will share some personal information with your architect. Be certain at the outset that you have the kind of understanding and mutual respect that will allow for open communication.
- Talk About Building. The plans don’t spring to life by themselves. Will your architect recommend contractors? Will the designer manage the project? Is your chosen architect a one-person shop or is there a team to supervise construction? Who will take final responsibility for making sure things get done, and done right?
- Lock in the Costs. Budget overruns and unrealistic expectations can derail a building project faster than a natural disaster. Take care of the financial matters early on, and the entire process can be smooth. Don’t shy away from dollar limits; insist on definitive contracts and full disclosure. Have an attorney look over all legal documents, for your own protection and to minimize any problems.
Whether you want to build new, add on or simply update and improve an existing home, New Jersey’s abundance of character-filled villages and townships offers great opportunities. Getting a feel for the way an architect will approach your project will help you make proper decisions. Enthusiasm and creativity are contagious. When you are looking for a way to truly make your house a home, no matter which New Jersey community you choose, look for an architect who will encourage your ideas and who welcomes your input.