Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Not So Big House - Sarah Susanka

Summary: Architect Susanka believes that the large homes being built today place too much emphasis on square footage rather than on current lifestyles. Here she shows how homes can be designed to feature "adaptable spaces open to one another, designed for everyday use." She describes how to examine occupants' lifestyles, how to incorporate the kitchen as the focal point of the home, how to give the illusion of space, and how, with storage, lighting, and furniture arrangement, a smaller home can be comfortably livable. Photographs of contemporary homes as well as those by Frank Lloyd Wright and other modern architects illustrate Susanka's ideas and show the timelessness of the style she advocates. (summary copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. as posted on

My Review:
I am reviewing this book, not because I recently read it (I read it 8+ years ago), but because I highly recommend the ideas it advocates. As in, I actually recommend this book to people who ask me to design a house for them. At the time I originally read it, the nation was caught up in rising property values, driven by "re-sell," and many homeowners were concerned only with square footage. In this atmosphere the ideas in the book would help a homeowner to value and create a home, rather than just an investment. It advocates for considering how you will live in the house, not how the next person will - in essence, enjoy the house because it fits the needs of your family - live in the moment.

On the other hand, perhaps you have a home that was once spacious and luxurious, then two kids and one tanked realty market later you are, ahem, stuck with what is a quaint little cottage on good days, and on bad days a tenement house. In this case reading this book will make you feel like you are making a specific lifestyle choice - so that you too can enjoy the moment.

This book was originally released in 1998, over a decade ago, championing the idea that we should embrace life, use our resources wisely and build better, not bigger. Since then idea that homes can be cozy and customized has been embraced by home remodel TV shows, magazines and blogs.

The advice in this book is mainly geared to people who are building new, or doing major remodels or additions, but the concepts are applicable to anyone. In addition, there are a series of books by this author that address existing homes.

Disclaimer - if you currently live in a home you are happy with, I might not recommend reading this. There is a chance that the author might gently rub you the wrong way when describing what she sees as negative about many recently constructed house. However, if you are planning to build either your dream house on a large or small budget, this is a book you MUST read.

My Rating: 4 stars

In One Sentence: If you think you want more more more - read this book before you raise a hammer.

1 comment:

Momma Hunt said...

This sounds like a good read. My husband adn I have been discussion that options of moving to a bigger house in a few years and we are also thinking that maybe we want to stay in our smaller raised ranch and make better use of our money and take big summer vacations since we are both teachers. I might have to check this one out!


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