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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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About the Author
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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. Someone like me who makes less money would apply the same principles to a smaller house: 675 square feet instead of the 1000 square foot house I rented last year.
Susanka is not suggesting small houses. She is suggesting that we sacrifice square footage in favor of design and materials. This is a good message.
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.
Some people are saying "What?!? I live in 1,500 sq ft" or even "800 sq ft" ... and this book "has examples of 2,500 sq ft... that's not 'Not So Big'!!!". Well, yes, FOR THAT PERSON. Again, it's not about the actual size. It's about being JUST RIGHT.
Again, the complaints of some reviewers focus really on area covered, rather than the real focus of the book: quality of life in one's living space. The book does say, in one example, that a couple with children moved from a 4,000 sq ft McMansion to a 2,500 sq ft house THAT WAS NOT MUCH MORE INEXPENSIVE than the 4,000 sq ft house -- in other words, it costs almost as much, even though it is only roughly 60% the size of their former bigger house. But, the point is, this book was giving ideas on how we really use rooms and areas of the house, so not only are the areas of use maximized, but also ENJOYED.
Spend on details like trimmings, lighting, etc... on details that count (to make it cozy, inviting, warm, or whatever effect one is after), instead of area, and instead of having just a big house, you end up with a LIVEABLE house.
And this is where this book shines: it shows examples (and comparisons of) big (and even impressive) rooms and houses that seem cold and uninviting, to a smaller area (again, smaller being relative) that is WELL DESIGNED, not to impress, but rather to be a place where one wants to be. And that is precisely what a home should be -- a place where one wants to be. The Not So Big House is really just another way of saying the HOME that is FOR YOU.
There are many examples of making basically small areas like the dining, living, kitchen, etc... and make it seem like one BIG area because of the lack of walls, and yet still make them separate (using lighting, ceiling height, etc) from each other. But, it looks bigger, even if it's really Not So Big.
This is an idea book, not a book about actual square feet (I really should be using square meters, because it's metric where I'm from, but anyway...). And, as an idea book on how to maximize space, and maximize quality of life in a house to make it a home, it deserves top props.
I rate this book 4.5 stars (not quite the 5 I gave), because even if this is the 10th anniversary edition, it could use more pictures/examples of the Not So Big lifestyle and designs, and how they all work.