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

4.1 out of 5 stars 68 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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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.

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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I see some complaints that people are quantifying the square footage of the Not So Big House. YES, some of them are still big... For some big families, 4000 sq ft might be Not So Big. For some individuals who like to live big, even 4000 sq ft might be Not So Big. I think another term that could be used would be JUST RIGHT. For one person, depending on his/her lifestyle, 4000 sq ft might be Just Right.

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.
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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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