Family lifestyles have changed dramatically in New Jersey over the past five to ten years. The changes are a product of several factors and occurrences during that period, some positive, some negative. The metamorphosis can be seen in how families live, the make-up of their homes and their recreation choices. Frequently, the end result is multiple generations living under one roof, in the same home. This cocooning effect has been dubbed by some as “Nuclear Nesting”. One contributing factor has been the renewed rise in real estate values, which greatly outpaces the rise in household income. Home affordability is in question for a large portion of the New Jersey population. In addition, people are living much longer than ever before due to medical advances, which is wonderful. However, at the same time, the cost of health insurance and nursing care are constantly rising so this has become a great financial burden to many.
These issues are prompting many families to add space to their homes. This space usually consists of a bedroom, closet space and a bathroom, but can also include a kitchen, sitting room and/or an exercise room. In the past, this type of an addition was often referred to as an “in-law suite”. Today these suites are being constructed for more than just parents. They are being utilized by grown children who cannot afford a home of their own. Also, many existing owners want their own retreat, separate from the main living space. Since these suite additions have become more popular and the uses more diverse, the Design Build Planners of Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey has evolved the term to “Lifestyle Suites”. They have even gone so far as to create standard design layouts and package pricing – “traditional”, “upscale” and “luxury”.
These suites are designed to satisfy a family’s individual requirement, but the additional space maintains its value as an overall investment, especially when it comes to re-sale. Many prospective home buyers have similar needs and are looking for the same solutions in their own living space. “Universal Design” elements are something the Design Build Planners explore when taking on these projects. Examples of Universal Design items, also referred to as Aging in Place, can include wider doorways and easier-accessfixtures and appliances. If applied correctly to the design, the finished look is appealing to all, as well as useful to a much broader group.
Having three generations or extended family living in one household is not something new. This was not uncommon in the United States 50-plus years ago. While society and the economy are different today, this lifestyle does hold a few advantages. The percentage of households in which both parents work full-time increases year after year. Having family at home to help with the children helps financially and tends to be beneficial for all. Most will agree that having family together, more often, has a positive impact; especially with children.
In addition, trends have shown that more time is being spent in the comfort of a family’s own house. This expanded use of the home has created more demand for extra room and non-traditional space. Outdoor kitchens, media rooms, home gyms, game rooms and lounges are some of the project requests that have been on the rise recently. The New York Times has invented the word “Insperience” – the art of staying home and not being bored. This new term can be found in many of the Times’ articles in its lifestyle section.
The planning and preparation elements of these projects have also changed. “Fifteen years ago clients simply asked for a 300 square foot family room addition”, states Neil Parsons, “Today, additional space will have a pre-planned concept and the initial designs integrate furniture placement, media components and decorative elements. Computer-aided design and three dimensional virtual tours help us and the client put the project together efficiently well before the construction begins. Long gone are the days of a two-dimensional floor plan on graph paper.”
Whether people embrace or reject these lifestyles, there is little debate that they will be a part of many New Jersey homes and family lifestyles for some time to come. Below are additional photos of lifestyle suites from the Design Build Planners.