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Home by Design: Transforming Your House into Home (Susanka) Hardcover – March 11, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed architect Susanka, who spawned a virtual cottage industry of home books favoring quality over quantity (The Not So Big House; Not So Big Solutions for Your Home; etc.), now turns her eye to 30 key design principles that produce a home. Seeking to capture the "elusive quality of home," Susanka uses beautiful photographs and helpful floor plans to discuss how "the interrelationships between spaces, walls and ceilings, and windows... shape our experience." It isn't the external architecture that matters, she says, but the interior. All homes provide shelter and footage; the goal is to enhance the quality of living. To do that, Susanka employs important tricks of her trade, explaining the rationale behind everything from window positioning and reflective ceilings to achieving symmetry, keeping in mind the overarching themes of space, light and order. Blessedly free of complex jargon, the book stresses that size doesn't matter, but construction does. Susanka's philosophy is simple: good architectural design is as important as good nutrition, and a savvy understanding of your surroundings lets you craft a better place to live. To illustrate her points, the author cites 28 of the best-designed homes in the U.S., from a tiny California cottage to a lavish Minnesota manse and a remodeled Kansas City abode. Susanka's generosity with tips (e.g., a bold use of color can add depth and solidity; aligning a doorway with a window directly across brightens the area) will be a boon to readers, who will wind up getting an architectural education in the process. 60 b&w line drawings.
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"Think a bigger house would make everything perfect? Don't bet on it. Sarah Susanka's re-arranging and re-imagining strategies are brilliant, simple and beautiful" (Reader's Digest)"

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Product Details

  • Series: Susanka
  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Taunton Press (March 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1561586188
  • ISBN-13: 978-1561586189
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 0.9 x 11.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,533 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
This book is divided into three parts (space, light, order) and 27 chapters. Each chapter has a two-page spread introducing the topic (e.g. Changes in Level), with one full-page and several smaller photos, followed by a two-page spread giving examples of the concepts (e.g. Stairs as Sculpture, Lowered Room, Raised Room, Platforms, Over Under), with one or two illustrating photos or sketches and a couple of paragraphs for each. Following is about 4 pages profiling how the concept is used in one house. Some chapters include a half-page feature on the concept as used in public architecture, or using doctored photos to show how a space looks with and without the concept (e.g. show a space with a lowered soffit and without).
I found Susanka's first book, The Not So Big House, a helpful reference when buying my current quite-small house 4 years ago. It's far from architecturally designed, but allows light on two sides of major rooms, and I arranged furniture and art to use diagonal views and create window-seat-like spots on the edge of the living and dining rooms. The lack of visual connection between the living room and kitchen/dining area does, as predicted, make that room less used.
Her second book, Creating the Not So Big House, I found a helpful continuation of the theme, and I expect to use concepts I learned in both in five years or so when I hope to be looking for a slightly larger house in the same school district--land prices here would preclude building new. I'm trying to train my eye to figure out what is fixable with minor remodeling, or even a paint/drapery/furniture change, and what is intractable or very costly to fix, a skill I don't yet have a natural instinct for.
So I bought this book hoping to add to my toolkit.
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Format: Hardcover
After reading the negative reviews, I got the book from the library instead of buying it. The negative reviews are really unfounded. It is worth buying.

I was able to easily see all of the pictures, even the smallest ones, so the reviewer who complained about the small pictures needs glasses. I get more information from five small pictures on a page than one picture filling the entire page, so I appreciate the denser content.

While many of the houses are luxury houses, the design principles can definitely be adapted to more modest houses. One of the houses used granite bathroom tile on the counter - clearly they had budgetary constraints. Many of the unique design features could be added to a modest house with considerable impact.

The design principles are simplified into 27 types and illustrated better than any architecture book I have ever seen. In many cases, a second photo is modifed to remove the one isolated design feature being illustrated and it is easy to see the effect that the feature creates when it is missing.

Regarding the lack of scale in the floor plans: I am glad there *are* floor plans - most books don't have them at all. It is very easy to create a scale knowing that a kitchen or bathroom counter is 2 feet wide, or that a entry door is 3 feet wide and go from there. A trained designer does this automatically in their head.

Many projects are profusely illustrated from multiple angles and each one demonstrates several design principles. This is a very useful resource and an excellent primer on basic design principles. Although the principles explained are very basic, the examples shown are very sophisticated.
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Format: Hardcover
In essence, this book is a checklist of new vocabulary terms that Susanka invented for the purpose of articulating design concepts. Each term is well-illustrated by a residential example,with plenty of pictures. The print quality is beautiful as usual, and the editing and book design are well done, although a little overslicked and glossy. I was very happy to see the comparative photomanipulations to illustrate how a design concept changes the feel of a room. I enjoyed and appreciated the "Public Space" feature, in which Sarah's newly-named concepts are shown in photos of familiar large public buildings such as libraries or museums.
The not-so-big books dealt with the primary design -- the floor plan. The bulk of this book is concerned with "secondary" details that could be applied to any floor plan, such as window placement, staircase railings, ceiling shape, window type, or even the way the wall covering reflected light. Sometimes this felt more like interior design than architecture. You should probably have a floor plan -- and a bursting bank account -- in hand before you try to apply what is shown here.
One major weaknes is that Susanka has chosen far too few houses for her examples. It must have be convenient for the author and photographer when a single example illustrated several design concepts (cuts down on photography time), but the book became very tedious. Must we tour Susanka's own house for the FOURTH time? And the circular kitchen lost its novelty quickly.
Although I understood this would not be a repeat of her not-so-big concepts, I was surprised at the magnitude of departure from the Not So Big books to Home By Design.
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