Customer Review

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely NOT Not-So-Big, and not really a "keeper.", June 23, 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Home by Design: Transforming Your House into Home (Susanka) (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. Although her text has a familiar hominess, her examples here all have a look-don't-touch attitude that I found off-putting. No consideration is given to cost or even space; indeed some of the houses looked so unlivable and showy that sometimes I confused the residential houses with the museums featured in Public Space. My impression was that Susanka was relieved to cast off the limits of not-so-big and focus on the lofty ideals of pure design without distraction from the practical concerns of those pesky clients who were acutally going to live in the house. I don't believe this was her intention, but be prepared for the shift in tone.
On its own objective architectural merit, this is probably a 4-star book, but I chose to take off a star because of Susanka's choice too few residences (and they were too artsy-fartsy at that), and because I don't want readers to be misled by the author's name into thinking this is a No So Big book. DO NOT buy this book sight unseen, especially if you are a fan of Not So Big. Borrow it from the library, or at least flip through all the way through it at a real bookstore before you spend the money on it. It's not for everybody.
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A Customer