The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live Paperback – Sep 15 2009
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About the Author
Sarah Susanka is one of the leading residential architects in the United States. Her first book, "The Not So Big House," topped best-seller charts in Home & Garden categories in its first year of publication. Susanka has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Charlie Rose Show, and NPR's Diane Rehm Show. She is a former principal and founding partner of Mulfinger, Susanka, Mahady & Partners, Inc., the firm chosen by LIFE magazine to design its 1999 Dream House.
Sarah Susanka is known far and wide as the leader of a movement that has redefined the American home. She has shared her insights in many best-selling books, including The Not So Big House, the revolutionary title that started it all. Susanka has been invited to share her insights on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Charlie Rose, and HGTV; she is regularly profiled in leading shelter magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Kira Obolensky has written for print, film, and stage. She co-authored Sarah Susanka's national bestseller, "The Not So Big House. Kira's book, "Garage, was published in 2001. She has received a number of writing awards and fellowships, including the Kesselring Prize and a Guggenheim fellowship. She lives in Minneapolis.
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Fast-forward to now. I am currently the owner of a 675 square foot home. It is one-third the side of the next smallest house in my neighborhood: the only survivor of replacement of the first homes in the neighborhood. I can't afford an architect, but I've realized that Susanka's philosophy is scalable. The floor plan of my house is brilliant. Space is used very well so that all the rooms feel large.
The main idea behind Susanka's book is to sacrifice square footage in favor of better design. My current kitchen is far smaller than the one in the rental house I lived in last year. It has at least 4 times the counter space and storage. I was amazed how much room I had in the kitchen: on paper it's tiny, but it operates as a huge room. I could go on and on about each room. Brilliant design gives me all kinds of use in each room. More importantly, I use every room in the house every day. I've never been able to say that about any place I've lived in. In previous houses and apartments, there were always rooms that I could avoid for months on end.
This is the core of Susanka's argument. She is not arguing for small houses. She is arguing for houses that are smaller than what we think we want. If we make the houses smaller, we can spend the money on better materials and more intelligent design. A wealthy person will probably build a larger home. Perhaps they can build it at 3000 square feet rather than 5000 square feet. Someone like me who makes less money would apply the same principles to a smaller house: 675 square feet instead of the 1000 square foot house I rented last year.
Susanka is not suggesting small houses. She is suggesting that we sacrifice square footage in favor of design and materials. This is a good message.
The book stresses that it is not the quantity that is important but quality. A house should be practical and useful and not just something to show. This is why a formal dining room is really not necessary. In time you will realize that it is one the most unused parts of the house; so true. It also says that the things that you want to have in your house should be useful or beautiful to you; if not, discard it. These are just a few of the many great ideas for a homeowner or future homeowner.
This is another book that I want to keep on my shelf - a real keeper.
At this moment in time the U.S. is exiting a housing bubble and entering a deep recession. Americans have an unfortunate lust to purchase far more house than they can afford. Must architect Susanka feed this lust?
2. This is a book about a design philosophy: Design every room to be a comfortable, informal, frequently used, multi-purpose space. Design every house with an optimum traffic pattern, with no wasted space. Design a house proportioned on a human scale. In this aspect, the book is inspiring.
3. Many pictures showing very beautiful, very expensive custom woodwork, expensive custom windows, etc. Here again, pursuit of this ideal would bankrupt every American middle-class worker. Some reviewers have offered the excuse: "An architect-designed house must necessarily be very expensive." But this excuse won't fly: architect Susanka explicitly offers the houses in her book as an alternative to the $500,000 super-sized tract house.
4. Beautiful spaces with none of the clutter of daily life. No children live here, no dogs, no messy adults, no artists immersed in their projects and raw materials. Apparently the owners are busy professionals who only use the house for entertaining.
The only sign of life here is the professional photographer, employed by an architecture journal.
Architect Susanka really should view a few programs on HGTV, to see how humans actually live.
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