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The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live Hardcover – October 1, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 173 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Taunton Press; Later Printing edition (1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1561581305
  • ISBN-13: 978-1561581306
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 0.8 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
We are just completing the construction of our new home. While this book was certainly not the only source of ideas, it was certainly critical in giving us the courage to abandon the "starter castle" mentality of soaring ceilings and the attendent wasted space. The reaction we are getting certainly bears out the strength of these design concepts.
Given the content of the other reviews, I have to be clear about the intentions of this book. It is not a book about building inexpensive houses. It is written by an architect, and architects are generally not consulted when price is the ultimate consideration. It is not a book of house plans, nor a how-to book on house design. It is a book about a design philosophy which considers the house as a place to live rather than as a monument to impress ones neighbors. The philosophy is not terribly original; why does it have to be? It is a return to basic principles of good design.
We began this project with a very clear idea of the style we wanted, and someone concerned with style alone might not recognize this book's influence on our home. On the other hand, anyone who compared our home to the starter castles on our block would see the difference immediately. Every room is comfortable and constructed on a human scale. I would recommend this book to anyone in the process of constructing a new home. If I had the money, I would send anonymous copies to a number of builders and designers in the area. This book deserves a wider reading.
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By A Customer on December 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Although the concept of 'The Not So Big House' is not a revelation to many people, sometimes we need reminding that 'more' is not always 'more, and this book is a wonderful source for inspiration, both philosophicaly and practically. The book begins by showing some examples of when people put their money into building a small home with character, and others that put their money into square footage. The second of the two is only too familiar in my area (Colorado). Here there has been a trend for the last ten or so years of developments being built with large (4000+sq.ft) homes that have absolutely NO design qualities what-so-ever. Even the paint jobs are identical on literally thousands of homes. These developments are not communities. Personally I see them more as the large scale slums of the future. Really ugly. The majority of the book however shows examples, home by home, of how people have built with minimal square footage, using well thought out floor plans, and delicious design details, to create a feeling of comfort, coziness, spaciousness and drama without pretence. Some of the homes were clearly built by people who had quite a bit of money to spend on custom cabinetry, stonework and refined plaster molding. Probably not within the budget of many people even if they do choose quality over quantity. Others are very simple, light filled, and within the budget of pretty much anyone who has it in their budget to build thier own home in the first place. Just a note that this is not an interior design book. This is a book for those seeking a different way of living 'in space' and creating an environment for family life and enjoyable pasttimes. Much of the interior decorating is really quite boring. But the homes themselves are very inspirational.Read more ›
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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.
Read more ›
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