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

4.2 out of 5 stars 217 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live
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  • Creating the Not So Big House: Insights and Ideas for the New American Home (Susanka)
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  • Inside the Not So Big House: Discovering the Details that Bring a Home to Life (Susanka)
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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: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (217 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Martin on July 5, 2000
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
[This review of the 2-book collection is a shorter summary of my two longer reviews of each book. For more detail, look at each book review separately. The collection is a good buy, at only about 1/3 more than the "Not So Big House" book alone.]
"The Not So Big House" is an excellent book on efficient use of
space and attention to detail to achieve comfort from a house design. The graphics, layout, and text are all uniformly excellent. The book only disappoints at the end, where Susanka throws together too-brief treatments on solar design, environmental concerns, and ways you might save money on your "Not So Big House". You'll notice a pronounced emphasis on Craftsman-type design in the houses depicted -- lots of natural, exposed wood. There are lots of very useful ideas (including double-duty spaces, built-in storage near the point of use, an "away room", and acoustical privacy) that most architectural books present poorly or not at all.
"Creating the Not So Big House" is a good book, but in comparison to the first book it's rather a let-down. In the first book most photos were much larger and clearer; in this book some are too small to be very useful. Also, Susanka is not a professional writer, and could have used help here like she got from Kira Obolensky in "The Not So Big House". More architectural styles are represented in this book than in the original, but there aren't many new architectural ideas if you've read the first book (although spatial layering, and themes and variations are both new and useful concepts from this book).
Summary: This is a pretty good collection at a decent price. The first book is clearly superior to the second; however, the collection price makes it a reasonable bargain.
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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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