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The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live Paperback – September 15, 2009

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  • The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live
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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Taunton Press; Expanded ed. edition (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600851509
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600851506
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 0.6 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,165 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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Jason M. Waskiewicz on November 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
I first heard of this book when I saw an interview with Charlie Rose and the author in 1999. When I bought the book, I was disappointed at how large the houses were. I had just finished college with plans of being a teacher: not a high pay position, especially in the state of North Dakota. At the time, I figured I could never buy these kinds of houses.

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.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Nuk TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book changed the way I look into houses. We live in our second townhouse and we cannot figure out what is missing or what is wrong with it . Somehow we just felt not as comfortable and attached as compared to the smaller and older house that we have sold. At first we were excited to have everything bigger - higher ceiling, more space, walk-in closets, etc., but we forgot something very important. A house needs to be homey and cozy. It should be something that you will feel relaxed when you come home from work, just short of cuddling you.

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.
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94 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Sanity Clause on September 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is disappointing because what she refers to as a not-so-big house is only not-so-big when compared with a McMansion. The rooms pictured in her book look so spacious ... because the rooms are big. She seldom actually admits in her books how big her rooms are, or the square footage of her houses. I can tell you that her rooms are huge compared to the ones in my 1500 sq. ft. house, which accommodates a family of four plus multi-month stays by extended family. She does not deal with the real world, like, for example, children. She uses a lot of built-ins, which make a room really inflexible when you want to repurpose it. She goes for cuteness, like little window seats, which no one will sit in for any length of time because they are so uncomfortable. She likes the craftsman style - which is nice, but it does not fit well with the basic design of every house that someone might already own. She does not deal with real issues with small houses, for example that they also come with small yards. Not all of us can just put a window anywhere on the wall to look out on a beautiful view. It took me quite a while to figure out that her houses are not really not-so-big. What a waste of money her books were. I'd like her to give me my money back for selling under false pretenses. Don't buy these books for real construction ideas. They are really for the guilty rich who want to convince themselves that their 2000-3000-sq. ft. house is not-so-big, and justify spending a lot of money inside it for custom built-ins that will be torn out when their current lifestyles change.
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43 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Larry Greisel on October 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
1. Many pictures of very beautiful, inspiring houses. Fantastic views looking out the windows. A buildable lot of this size and with views of this quality, within commuting distance of a major U.S. city, will cost at least $1 million.

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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