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The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live by Sarah Susanka, Kira Obolensky (Contributor) The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live
by Sarah Susanka, Kira Obolensky (Contributor)

Hardcover: 199 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.75 x 10.28 x 10.30
Publisher: Taunton Pr; (August 28, 1998)
ISBN: 1561581305

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Amazon.com: When describing a favorite room in the house, do you find yourself using terms such as "expansive," "formal," and "spacious"--a marble foyer or a formal dining room perhaps? Or do the words "cozy," "intimate," and "warm" come to mind--a cheery little breakfast nook or a window seat complete with plenty of pillows and a breathtaking view? More than likely, you--like thousands of other homeowners--are drawn to the more personal spaces in your home, where comfort, beauty, and efficiency meet. In The Not So Big House, respected architect Sarah Susanka and coauthor Kira Obolensky address our affinity for the "smaller, more personal spaces" and propose "clear, workable guidelines for creating homes that serve both our spiritual needs and our material requirements." The heart of the not-so-big house--which is not "just a small house ... [but] a smaller house," that uses "less space to give greater quality of life," and is designed to not only "accommodate the lifestyles of its occupants" but also to express "our values and our personalities," is discussed in chapter 1, entitled "Bigger Isn't Better." Susanka's urging for homeowners to get creative with their space as well as loads of ideas to encourage that creativity are covered in "Rethinking the House" and "Making Not So Big Work." Discussions of specific needs, such as a home for one and designing for kids, can be found in "Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous," while "Dreams, Details, and Dollars" gets down to the nuts and bolts of the operation, looking at quality versus quantity, budgeting, and what "low end," "middle ground," and "high end" really mean in home design and construction. Lastly, the authors look at the home of the future, which involves simplifying, recycling, reducing waste, and using energy-efficient construction. With more than 200 color photographs, as well as floor plans and Susanka and Obolensky's intelligent and lively dialogue, The Not So Big House is perfect for homeowners ready to rethink their space. --Stefanie Hargreaves

From Booklist: Fifty years after Life magazine commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build a dream house, a similar event is taking place--this time under the tutelage of a Twin Cities' architect. Having examined our homes and found most of them wanting, she argues for a not so big house, one that is comfortable, promotes quality over quantity, and expresses the owners' whims and preferences. That goal is not an easy one to achieve, considering that many Americans have succumbed to the Versailles complex--that is, bigger is better. Nonetheless, through a combination of eloquent thought and visual examples, Susanka succeeds. Her tips include building an "away" room, a retreat from a home's hubbub. Readers will find her chapter on building from scratch particularly enlightening, as are her unfortunately too abbreviated musings on future homes. Barbara Jacobs

Book Description: Sarah Susanka contends that people are naturally drawn to intimate spaces. Large structures inspired by outdated patterns tend to result in houses that just don’t work. In The Not So Big House, she proposes clear guidelines for creating homes that serve spiritual needs as well as material requirements. Topics covered include designing for specific lifestyles, budgeting, building a home from scratch, and using energy-efficient construction. With more than 200 color photographs as well as floor plans, the book is perfect for homeowners ready to rethink their space. “Susanka says to evaluate what makes you feel at home and let your activities define your rooms.”

Ingram: Author Susan Susanska, "LIFE" magazine Architect of the Year, offers thoughtful guidelines for designing homes that more accurately reflect our lifestyles and personalities. 200 color photos.

Customer Reviews
Not so small!, December 28, 2002
Reviewer: currach from Upstate New York
This book is chock full of good ideas about how to maximize space in a house. It also makes you really think about how you spend time--i.e. live--in a house. That's the good news; the bad news is that Ms. Suska's idea of a "small" house seems to start well over 2,000 sq ft (although she does tantalize you with a one-person house built by another architect in her practice). The other problem with this book is that virtually all of her not-so-big solutions would be really expensive to build. If you're looking for a book to guide you in building a new house, this probably isn't it unless you're kin to Bill Gates.

Stylish, expensive and uncomfortable, December 4, 2002
Reviewer: Eric Johnson from Omaha, NE USA
This book seemed to me to mainly be an essay on how to hire an architect to create a trendy, uncomfortable home. Some of the layout ideas do appear to have value, but it tends to be masked by the very uncomfortable looking designs. One specific comment would be that she writes about consideration for the lifestyle changes that are (nearly) inevitable as one gets older, but then gushes about children's rooms that are clearly designed in a way that will never be usable after the last child is more than about 9 years old.

I would recommend American Bungalow Style or something similar before this.

The World Writ Small, and Pleasant, November 26, 2002
Reviewer: dhumberson
For everyone who has stood in a model home, seen the beautiful decor, and realized that Harry Potter had a more livable space beneath his uncle's stair, this book is a must. She isn't about building on the cheap, so much as getting the best living use from your money by thinking differently about what a house is and how it works.

We had been looking at 2500 to 3500 sq.ft. houses before this, and now are looking at about half that space on roughly the same budget. She seems quite influenced by Christopher Alexander, et al's "A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction ", which is a great place to explore her principles in depth.

Simple minded, October 11, 2002
Reviewer: A reader from Safe Harbor, MD USA
Shows the latest trends in home design. Nothing you're likely to be able to afford, of course, but the pleasant commentary and artfully composed photographs will carry you away to a wonderful world of make-believe. You'll learn why wealthy but tasteless folks prefer large but impersonal homes, why an open floor plan makes rooms *seem* larger, no doubt helped by the fact that they actually *are* larger. See why the Post-Modern styles shown in these pages will never be as outdated and amusing as a boomerang coffee table. Plus, why it's OK to build a 4000 sq ft one-bedroom home--as long as that's what "suits your lifestyle".

Just kidding of course. Merely pointing out that some of the ideas in this book don't quite hold up. Then again, it's really all about the pictures anyway.

A must read before you build, September 12, 2002
Reviewer: Cactus88 from Toccoa, GA United States
If you're in the market for a new house, do yourself a favor and read this book. Frank Lloyd Wright fixation or not, there are great ideas in this book that will change your mind about common home building fallacies that permeate much of today's new designs. As far as I'm concerned, a formal dining and living room are not just a waste of space, they're a waste of furniture, paintings, air conditioning, etc. Eliminating such waste may provide extra money to spend on upgrades that everyone will notice. This book is full of great ideas and the pictures are awesome.

The way we really live - not just for homeowners., August 12, 2002
Reviewer: amwalee from Bangkok, Thailand
Read this book during my house search last month. It completely changed my views about the kinds of home that I am looking for. I am glad that I picked up this book. I too was a big fan of high ceilings and huge living room. After reading this book, I started to ask myself why I would need so much space - and how I would ever be able to fill it up (with huge furniture, of course). There is space in my current apartment now that I barely spend time in. (And I have never figured out what to do with the fireplace when the temperature never goes below 50F.) Her suggestion about designing homes/living space around one's life-style is an absolute an eye opener. I have since turned my living room into a reading room. I cleaned out my patio and spend more time out there. I will keep looking but the apartment seems to suit my life-style for now.

Too much Frank Lloyd Wright, August 9, 2002
Reviewer: spinachravioli from Portland, OR
The authors of this book present some great ideas about designing a small house. However, they adhere too vehemently to Frank Lloyd Wright's aesthetic for my taste (e.g., rooms dripping in detailed, straight-lined warm woods; detailed color insert glasswork; not much art on the walls since Frank disliked art in homes, etc.).

I would prefer to see a more balanced approach to designing a small house, with ideas from the many different offshoots of contemporary architecture and design presented as alternatives. After reading this book, you are left with the idea that the authors think there is only one style for building a good house. Houses should express people's attitudes and style. For the record, to be fair, my style is more mid-century modern (van der Rohe and Eames) meets Zen... and I like art on the walls.

Kudos for presenting Christopher Alexander's ideas on "patterns" though. (His books "The Timeless Way of Building" and "A Pattern Language" are must reads.) I found out about Alexander after getting into the software engineering patterns movement. Ironically, his influence on software has been arguably greater than his influence on architecture. I like some of his design ideas, although some are too extreme, especially when it comes to town planning and collective ownership of public spaces. The authors of the present book present the most practical of his ideas.

In sum, this book is great if you know you already want to do your house a la Lloyd Wright. It's not so great if you have a different mindset.

Inspiring book to dream about, June 29, 2002
Reviewer: bensmomma from Ann Arbor, MI United States
I have a dream house in my head, and a lot of the examples in Susanka's book resemble it: it doesn't have too many rooms, it doesn't have "cathedral ceilings," the rooms aren't so big that they create echos....but every space is on a human scale, and EVERY detail is thoughtful.

She shows wonderful use of built-in spaces (I must have those bookcases someday!). She is very thoughtful about how improving the traffic flow and the sightlines from room to room (and from inside to outside) makes every square foot of space count. I find her argument that it makes more ecological sense to put the money into details than into natural-resource-grubbing VOLUME very compelling.

So, for me, this book is like a box of my favorite mixed chocolates: it's delectable to go through and savor. The pictures are beautiful and detailed. You will got lots of ideas for your own dream house.

However, this book is really about NEW houses. If you are looking for information about how to make your existing small house more livable *today* it will be of less use to you. And her ideas are not cheap....but we can all dream, can't we?

An important book on modern architecture, June 2, 2002
Reviewer: David Stagner from Inver Grove Heights, MN USA
Sarah Susanka's basic idea is fundamentally sound - that the large formal spaces of modern houses make them more expensive and less livable, and that home architecture should concentrate on comfort and detail. Unfortunately, it's somewhat lost in the glossy coffee-table format and her general focus on quite expensive houses. Still, the fact that this book struck a real chord among homeowners is apparent in its broad success and acceptance. What i'd like to see is a collection of her short, to-the-point, and highly practical magazine articles!

Re-inventing MY NSB house, April 13, 2002
Reviewer: A reader from WATERTOWN, CT United States
I live in a small Cape style house, and I am constantly moving furniture from room to room to make it work for me.

The Not So Big House book helps me convert space based on my own needs, rather than the constrictions of the original design of the house. It gives many excellent suggestions, and reveals options I hadn't considered. And it gives me the confidence to execute some of the more outrageous decorating ideas I've had!

Anyone who lives in a small house should spend many hours with this book, just absorbing the extremely valuable information and guidance.

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