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Creating the Not So Big House: Insights and Ideas for the New American Home (Susanka) Hardcover – October 1, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sarah Susanka has a not-so-insignificant idea in Creating the Not So Big House. She contrasts the glamorous, glossy-photo house plans of vaulted ceilings and palatial living rooms with the livable, day-to-day pleasure of cozy window seats and comfortable breakfast nooks, and her conclusion is resonating with families across the country: bigger but shoddier isn't better than smaller and well made. Descriptors like "spacious" and "expansive" fill the real-estate promos, but Susanka seeks the elusive yet affordable qualities that turn a house into a home. And she provides more than mere ideals around which to rally. She selected 25 house designs, from a southwestern adobe to a Minnesota farmhouse to a New York apartment to a Rhode Island summer cottage, and she profiles each home in great and well-illustrated detail.

Her ideas for interior as well as exterior views, airy stairways, diagonal views, and framed openings translate well in an array of different houses appropriate to childless couples and large families, as well as hot climes in Texas and cooler regions in Vermont. There are traditional designs to fit in with Massachusetts styling and contemporary designs to adapt to California cliffs, and they range from country spaces to suburban homes to city apartments.

Susanka selected house plans that are available for sale, because her purpose is to make affordable quality housing accessible to the general public, but they're also presented as catalysts for your own designs, because the house that worked for one person might inspire the plan that would work best for you. Whether you're in the market for a new house, want pragmatic renovation ideas, or are interested in the concept of space-saving abodes from a city-planning, philosophical perspective, Susanka's book is an eye-opener and a mind-expander, providing conceptual and practical tools to assist you in planning your own livable home. --Stephanie Gold

From Library Journal

Susanka's very successful The Not-So-Big House (LJ 9/15/98) nimbly capitalized on the 1990s small-is-beautiful wave that touted voluntary simplicity, downsizing, and contentment with one's lot in life (especially if that lot includes an average, middle-class house in the suburbs). This follow-up features 25 new and redesigned homes thought to embody "not-so-big" principles such as shelter around activity, double-duty rooms, interior and diagonal views, variety of ceiling heights, importance of personal space, and so on. The book's design allows readers to flip through looking for ideas about trendy house typesDPueblo-style, the old farmhouse, Shaker cottage, shingle-style, Fifties retro. Simple house plans and carefully constructed photos of well-appointed space abound. The writing is unchallenging, nontechnical, sunny, even cozy. Couples and architects are referred to by given names (Barry and Susan, Sally and Gary), and each episode follows a rather numbing, prosaic patternDunhappiness with present quarters, lifestyle examination, and problem-solving (unfortunately without expenses listed), concluding with "not-so-big" bliss. While the first book is not required prior reading, this is best recommended for libraries where the first book proved popular.DRussell T. Clement, Northwestern Univ. Lib., Evanston, IL
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Susanka
  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Taunton Press; 1St Edition edition (October 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1561583774
  • ISBN-13: 978-1561583775
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 0.9 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sarah Susanka's "Not So Big" message has become a launch pad for a new dimension of understanding--not just about how we inhabit our homes, but also about how we inhabit our planet and even our day-to-day lives. As a cultural visionary with an incredible ability to understand the underlying structure of the American lifestyle, Susanka is providing the language and tools that are redefining how we live.

Thought leader, inspirational keynote speaker and acclaimed architect, Susanka is the author of nine books that collectively weave together home and life design, revealing that a "Not So Big" attitude serves not only architectural aims, but life goals as well. Her books have sold well over 1.5 million copies. Susanka's most recent book, More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home, was released in February 2010.

Through her Not So Big House presentations and book series, Susanka has helped readers understand that the sense of "home" they're seeking has almost nothing to do with quantity and everything to do with quality. She points out that we feel "at home" in our houses when where we live reflects who we are in our hearts.

In her book and presentations about The Not So Big Life, she uses this same set of notions to explain that we can feel "at home" in our lives only when what we do reflects who we truly are. Susanka unveils a process for changing the way we live by fully inhabiting each moment of our lives and by showing up completely in whatever it is we are doing.

Susanka's inspiring "Not So Big" keynotes and presentations have been sought out by renowned conferences such as West Coast Green, the Housing Leadership Summit and PCBC. Major corporations including Johnson & Johnson, Lowe's, Target, Best Buy and Herman Miller as well as key government and civic organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Association of Homebuilders, The American Institute of Architects and The National Trust for Historic Preservation regularly invite Susanka to address their conferences. Universities, art museums, leadership conferences, health care groups and wellness centers seek her "Not So Big Life" lectures and workshops.

Susanka is regularly called upon for her insights as a social commentator and trend-spotter by USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times; magazines such as Newsweek, Better Homes & Gardens, Reader's Digest and AARP; and television programming such as "Oprah," "Good Morning America," "Charlie Rose," CNN, HGTV and "This Old House."

Fast Company named Susanka to their debut list of "Fast 50" innovators whose achievements have helped to change society, Newsweek magazine selected her as a "top newsmaker" for 2000, and U.S. News and World Report dubbed her an "innovator in American culture" in 1998. Susanka was presented with the 2007 Anne Morrow Lindbergh Award by the Lindbergh Foundation for outstanding individual achievement in making positive contributions to our world.

Susanka is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects and a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council. She was born in Kent, England, and travels from Raleigh, North Carolina. Join her online community at www.NotSoBig.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's rare that a sequel is better than the original. This was one of them. Where The Not So Big House was pretty and pretty much content-free, this book provided real floorplans, and real houses, which I feel helped to communicate Susanka's ideas more clearly.
I also found this book far less irritating than the first, and therefore more useful, in no small part because some of her hard -- and alienating -- positions have been considerably softened. No longer does she claim that dining rooms are obsolete because "nobody uses them" (I do). She seems much more willing to accept that there are lots of different lifestyles out there, and a house should be built to work with the lifestyle of its owners.
If you are in the planning phases for a new house, or are just looking for ideas on how to make your current house more liveable, this is an excellent resource. In fact, I would suggest that you skip the first book altogether.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully illustrated book that seeks to demonstrate, that when it comes to homes, smaller may be better. The book is well organized and thoughtful, presenting key concepts for creating the 'not so big house.' If I have any regrets, its that the book doesn't go far enough--all but two of the featured houses are over 1,000 square feet, and the majority of the concepts still require large budgets to execute. I was hoping to see more affordable concepts and solutions illustrated. Still, for anyone looking for ideas for implementing the concepts of smallness, this book is worthwhile.
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Format: Hardcover
Here, Susan Susanka picks up where she left off in The Not So Big House. In some places, it seems that this book is almost a response to the negative reviews in this forum of her first book. One of the most important additions is a sidebar on page nine, where she clarifies the meaning of Not So Big:

". as a rule of thumb, a Not So Big House is approximately a third smaller than your original goal but about the same price as your original budget. The magic is that although the house is smaller in square footage, it actually feels bigger. I'm not advocating that people live in small houses and get used to feeling cramped. A Not So Big House feels more spacious than many of its oversized neighbors because it is space with substance, all of it in use every day."

In summary, this is not a way to save money, but a way to use the existing budget more effectively. The money saved on square footage is invested in the little things that make a house a home: built i!n bookcases, storage solutions, clutter areas, reading nooks, and other architectural features which most designers omit.

In principal, there is no reason these ideas could not be applied to any style and to any budget. Susanka unwittingly raised the first question in her original book, when many critics complained of the sameness of design. She answers it here. The bulk of the work is a survey of 25 projects of other architects from around the country. Because so many designers are represented, we see a much greater variety of styles in this book.

If there is a common thread among these projects, it is the use of partial walls, which divide spaces while keeping sight lines open. Rooms are constructed on a modest scale, but seem larger because of the design.
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By A Customer on September 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Although this book shares some interesting ideas and several spectacular design solutions to severe space constraints, I have two complaints about the format. The first is that you really need to have read the first "Not So Big House" book to understand the concepts illustrated here; as such, this book is really a supplement, and, I think, doesn't justify the hefty price tag. Second, many of the houses shown are built by people with, apparently, ample budgets; it would have been nice to see a discussion about how much the projects cost, to give those of us who aren't lawyers or executives an idea of what we can expect before consulting an architect.
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Format: Hardcover
I have read this book, as well as Ms. Susanka's previous book, The Not So Big House, and I have found this latest edition particularly clarifying for me in the concepts of the NSBH. It has concrete example after example of the design principles that Ms. Susanka discusses in her first book, then reviews these principles at the beginning of Creating the NSBH so that if the reader hasn't read the first book, they can still follow along very intelligently and get some great ideas for their own NSBH. As a residential builder/developer, Ms. Susanka has put forth a new paradigm in residential architecture, on the cutting edge much in the same way as does Martha Stewart promote in her various media outlets, and her passion for hearth and home is as strong or stronger than Martha's is. Whether or not you like Martha, she is the expert in homemaking in America today, just as Ms. Susanka is the expert in residential architecture that feeds the soul and creates a balance of quality vs. quantity, and cost vs. being cheap. I highly recommend this book as well as her previous book. I also agree with the previous reviewer's comment that A Pattern Language was written for design professionals and is generally too technical for the average lay person. Our company is employing the design principles Ms. Susanka promotes in her books, and to date, we have had good success with them.
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