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Not So Big House [Bargain Price] [Paperback]

Sarah Susanka , Kira Obolensky
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1 2001 Susanka
This best-seller was met with an extraordinary response when it was published in 1998. In it, visionary architect Sarah Susanka embraced the notion of smaller, simpler shelters that better meet the needs of the way we live today. The book created a groundswell of interest among homeowners, architects, and builders. More than 200 photographs bring the spirit of the "Not So Big" house alive.


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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

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. This thought-provoking book will be a good addition to architectural and interior design collections.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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So many houses, so big with so little soul. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
"The Not So Big House" is the best treatment I know of on efficient use of available space in a house design. Sarah Susanka favors built-in storage near the points of use, which is efficient in both use of square footage and on time spent getting things out of storage to where they're needed. Of course built-ins raise the cost of a house, which leads to Susanka's central thesis: a small, well-designed house with attention to detail will be costly -- but, in her opinion, worth it. She suggests toting up the square footage vs. time spent in various home spaces, and finds that typically formal living and dining rooms are budget busters that are used only rarely. Skipping these formal rooms will free up money for higher quality in the remaining spaces.
Susanka falls down on the job with her limited treatment of ways a prospective home owner can save money on their dream house. Specifically, she mentions only
- smaller size
- less attention to detail (lower quality)
- a cheaper lot
but not, for example
- changing the number of stories (2-story homes save on foundation costs over ranch homes)
- owner labor
- owner functioning as general contractor
The book, filled with excellent color photographs (many by the author) is extraordinarily well laid out. The text continually refers to "the photo above" rather than something like "Fig. 8-3b". Accompanying floor plans show the point and angle of the associated photos, making it easy to build up a mental picture of the overall space from a few choice shots. The lighting, contrast, color balance, and composition of the photos is outstanding.
I must mention that the book is basically a paen to houses heavy on natural interior wood detail.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Concept is excellent, text is short on specifics April 2 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
If you want to expand your ideas about what a nice home should be then this book may be for you. And if you are looking for a book full of pictures to help you communicate with your architect during your next meeting, then again this is a good choice. But if you are like me, trying to design you own small house to be space-efficient and comfortable, then you may find that Susanka does not supply you with much worthwhile information. Her concept, I believe, is excellent. And the book makes no claim to be a do-it-yourself guide. But I was still hoping for some more substance behind the glossy photos. There is little information about the process of laying out a house from scratch to fit a site and its occupants. There is no real method for how to go about optimizing your use of space in the overall floorplan, or how to address common problem situations. It is full of many excellent space-saving examples- but by the time I was finished reading this book I never wanted to see another white room with light wood trim again. The 199 pages of this large-font book are full of "architecturally designed" houses that appear to my eye a bit dated. I also think she is too devoted to the upper levels of the budget spectrum. Most people who are building a "Not So Big" house don't have a half million dollars to spend, which her case studies apparently did.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Title should be "the expensive not so big house" Aug. 9 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I made a list of my favorite ideas from this book, and I took that list to our builder. What I learned is that the author has told us how to build a wonderful small house -- but the kinds of details and materials she advocates will produce a small house that costs as much as a large one! I still agree in principle with the idea of building great smaller homes, but this book is only for those who have lots of money to spend.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not Bad, but Not Great Either March 17 2004
Format:Paperback
Susan Susanka presents her ideas on how to build a better home. Half way through the book she presents her trinity of compromises that the architect, builder & home-owner have to make...price, quanity & quality of the proposed home. I think this is the gem in the book. As many have noted, this is definitely not a book for a "small" or "cheap" home; and this should be obvious as nobody who is limited to building a "small" or "cheap" home would hire an architect to design it! Though she never states it, I estimate that the houses she designs cost over $500,000 to build so consider that when you read this book.
I value this book for the ideas it presents; however, it is definitely a coffee-table book rather than a reference for an architect or home-builder. Not until the last two super-homes does Susan even mention a number. Nowhere in the book does it actually talk about the square feet, total price, price for materials, cost/square foot, material trade-off possibilities, building codes, or anything that is actually needed to design or build a house (or even remodel). The lack of details and thoroughness was disappointing and the reason I only gave her three stars. I suppose this book can be considered a "theory" book rather than a "practical" book, but it seems to me that a well-written book could contain both.
On the plus side, the pictures were very nice; there were floor-plans for each of the houses and Susan has a very nice and clear writing style.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Informative May 30 2003
By Kimmer
Format:Hardcover
I just finished this book and I found it informative. Susanka plainly writes about the way most houses are typically built and the waste in their construction as well as the lack of soul and personality in most. I have noticed this myself for years. I completely agree with her concept of creating homes that are smaller and more efficient, using more of the structure's square footage for actual living and evolving the formal spaces that are rarely used anymore (i.e. formal dining and living room) into one area. Creating a home with enough room and spaces for how people live day to day and not just a place that says "look at how much money I have".
I especially liked the chapter "Dreams, Details, and Dollars". Although it was disheartening to read that even a small home with attention to detail can be costly. And this is what I am/was leaning toward. Also, to keep the cost down in most home building one needs to start with the box shape, which to me is boring.
The one negative point I would make is that, as someone else mentioned, this book does lean toward those who have more to spend than most. Although she does give a good stratedgy on how to begin to look at affording a home (the quantity, quality, cost triangle) that can work for anyone.
All in all I liked this book and plan on reading the second one, Creating the Not So Big House. This may answer more of my how-can-I-do-it questions.
The photos are great too!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is great for designers and ideas
This is a great book and has very good design ideas. I love how it describes exactly what I think about design, houses are too big and the use of space in today's design can be... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Angela Acker
5.0 out of 5 stars Just right solutions
Each of the Sarah Susanka books adds to my file of great design and renovation ideas. Thinking small, beautiful and organised is the way to go !
Published 19 months ago by Kathryn Dunphy
2.0 out of 5 stars Not So Big - only if you're the jolly green giant!
For "not so big" the images contained in this book depict houses that by my standard are enormous. My entire house could fit into the livingroom shown on the cover of Susanka's... Read more
Published on July 16 2009 by JP
1.0 out of 5 stars Bourgeois bohemian guilt assuagement
Let's see....2000 square feet is considered "not so big." And working one's way up -- oops, I mean down! Read more
Published on March 8 2004 by Reginleif II
4.0 out of 5 stars Not So Big, but Just Right
My husband and I are preparing our 5-year old, sterile house for sale with the intention of buying an older bungalow. Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2004 by "ninaradio"
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative
I just finished this book and I found it informative. Susanka plainly writes about the way most houses are typically built and the waste in their construction as well as the lack... Read more
Published on May 30 2003 by Kimmer
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so small!
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. Read more
Published on Dec 28 2002 by S. Coveney
2.0 out of 5 stars Stylish, expensive and uncomfortable
This book seemed to me to mainly be an essay on how to hire an architect to create a trendy, uncomfortable home. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2002 by E. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars The World Writ Small, and Pleasant
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. Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2002 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Chicken Soup for the Homeowner's Soul
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... Read more
Published on Oct. 11 2002 by misterbeets
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