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Not So Big House

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  1,552 Ratings  ·  179 Reviews
This best-seller was met with an extraordinary response when it was published in 1998. In it, visionary architect Sarah Susanka embraced the notion of smaller, simpler shelters that better meet the needs of the way we live today. The book created a groundswell of interest among homeowners, architects, and builders. More than 200 photographs bring the spirit of the ""Not So ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 20th 2001 by Taunton Press (first published 1998)
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Feb 24, 2010 jess rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2010, interiors
This is a terrible book. The houses in this book are more than twice the size of my house! I already mentioned like 150 times that we bought a house and it's fairly small and we're trying to adjust our lifestyles to use our space better. And actually, our house is 1100 square feet, which is not *really* small. Basically, this book is for people who are rich beyond my lived experience and have some novel desire for a smaller house, and a desire to spend as much on it as middle America spends on t ...more
Jan 25, 2008 Greg rated it it was ok
This book should really be titled "The EXPENSIVE Not So Big House".

This is not an idea book for those contemplating an inexpensive small starter home. Rather, the author advocates downsizing the square-footage of a house in order to spend more money on the details that make a home feel comfortable.

Another peeve: In recommending the perfect "not so big house", the author makes sweeping assumptions about the lifestyles of others (i.e. people rarely use a dining room, people usually enter their hom
Emma Sea
May 25, 2013 Emma Sea rated it it was ok
When I read a book on not-so-big houses, this is not what I'm expecting:

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The wealth of the homeowners here is beyond anything I will ever experience in my life. I don't know who the "we" are in the phrase "a blueprint for the way we really live," but it's not me, baby.

I love that the problem with using "non-renewable . . .giant hardwoods from old-growth forests" for elaborate trim is that it's expensive. *nods*. Yeah. That.
Rosalyn Eves
Jun 04, 2009 Rosalyn Eves rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the basic premise of this book: that we should focus more on the quality of our homes than on the quantity (i.e. square footage), and that we ought to build (or remodel) homes that reflect our actual lifestyles. I also particularly enjoyed her assertion that we should think about the ways that we use space--where do we spend most of our time? What activities do we do in those spaces?--and compose our homes inline with that thinking. In other words, we may find it worthwhile to s ...more
Oct 10, 2008 Shelah rated it it was amazing
Occasionally described as the JK Rowling of architecture, Sarah Susanka's books all follow a similar theme-- smaller, exceptionally designed homes with personal details are much more pleasant to live in than impersional McMansions.

In the next six or seven months, we'll be going through the process of buying a new home. When we bought our last two houses, our MO was simple-- buy the biggest house we could afford (and it probably still wouldn't be big enough). This time, it's a different situation
Feb 12, 2010 Maria rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Although I found this book useful, I couldn't buy in completely to some of her ideas, especially on double duty spaces. Having been forced for thirty years to do this because the rooms in my house are not appropriately sized for my needs, I will be the first to say that making one space serve two functions is not optimal. Other ideas I liked, especially the open kitchen and living room idea. Having said that, I agree wholeheartedly that simplification is the key, McMansions (what I call monster ...more
Feb 25, 2010 SallyHP rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. I checked it out from the library and have added it to my amazon wishlist. The Not So Big House concept is not so much about the square footage, but in maximizing the usable space in your home. If you're a family that will always eat your meals in the kitchen, no matter how much you have to extend the table in your nook but are scrambling for office/studio space-why would you waste over 100 precious square feet on a formal dining room?

Not So Big House is really all
May 15, 2010 Jen rated it really liked it
Shelves: toolbox
I took this book to bed with me last night, my trusty yellow post-it notes at the ready. As the night wore on, my trusty post-its became less reliable, they were tiring and dwindling in number. This book is full of post-its now, they stick out from every open side. And they bear little phrases like "Cut glass bowls featured here could be windows, a la Dan Phillips," or "would my library, kitchen, or fireplace be the heart of my house?" I don't know that I can answer that last one right now, unle ...more
Feb 04, 2009 mindi rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
for me, this was just okay.
for a few reasons:

1. there's no house building in my immediate future, so it just wasn't relevant for me right now.

this, of course, is not a problem with the book, just one reason it probably didn't really appeal to me once I started reading.

2. 3,000 sq. ft. is not my idea of a "not so big house". 3,000 sq. ft., even for my little family of 5, would be excessive.

3. the style of most of the home's featured throughout the book, while beautiful, are not appealing to me
Jennifer Hughes
Dec 12, 2013 Jennifer Hughes rated it liked it
I think this book has some good ideas but it is also flawed in ways. The architecture feels very '90s, and the author is in love with lots of wood and built-ins. The book was very different than I thought it would be--more expensive ideas than I anticipated and bigger "not so big" houses than my average suburban home is. I've read better books on small houses. The idea here that really doesn't seem that fresh to me is that you love the space you have and use it in the way that best suits your ne ...more
Jul 25, 2009 Lynda rated it really liked it
Don't know when I became interested in the architecture and decoration of homes, but I remember week after week reading the floorplan page in our Sunday paper as a kid. When I got older I discovered architecture and decorating books and I was hooked.

Sarah Susanka is one of my favorite writers of this genre. She specializes in small space homes. I hasten to affirm I have never been able to afford even these small spaces, most of my money went on books and travel, but I have always dreamed and bu
Sep 19, 2012 Sara rated it it was amazing
We're getting ready to turn our summer camp into a year-round house and our designer-architect Deb Randall recommended this book. It represents a rejection of the bigger-is-better attitude in recent residential construction, where McMansions predominate. The book has helped us think about how we will use the space and reminded us that quality is more important than quantity of space. It's given us great ideas that Deb can incorporate into the design and renewed our excitement about the whole pro ...more
Aug 29, 2016 S rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A really good book about quality over quantity and being thoughtful in how you design the spaces in your home. Deserves to be even more widely known.
Oct 06, 2011 Brenda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
great idea, beautiful book--go for less, and quality--not quantity....
Aug 28, 2008 Ann rated it really liked it
I totally agree with this concept! Great book!
Dec 12, 2016 Kelsey rated it liked it
If I ever build a house from scratch or do a remodel, Sarah Susanka's work will be my guide. Especially after living in Japan, I am much more interested in creating a home where rooms focus on quality versus quantity and can serve multiple functions.
Oct 22, 2016 Alizium rated it it was ok
Great ideas but a little dated
Jul 03, 2011 Erin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone designing or remodeling a home
Recommended to Erin by: Lee-Anne
Until a friend loaned me this book, I'd never heard of Sarah Susanka or her Not So Big House movement. Now, it seems like I'm hearing and reading her name mentioned everywhere, and for good reason. She advocates home design that is functional and beautiful and human-sized, based on how we really live and what we really need our homes to provide for us. The opposite of the McMansion, in other words. And wow, do I ever wish I could live in a home she designed for me! The photos in this book make m ...more
Marika Gillis
Aug 10, 2009 Marika Gillis rated it really liked it
Recommended to Marika by: Susan Bartel, Becca
Shelves: nonfiction
Our recent home purchase and subsequent destruction (and soon to be remodeling) of said home made me very excited to receive this highly recommended book on loan from a friend of Sue's. I dove into it the first night and read almost the entire book in a couple of quick days. However, then real life work on my house got in the way and the book was put on the back burner for a few weeks. I finally finished it not long ago and found the book to be highly informative and very interesting.

I was insta
Feb 14, 2010 Tryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an architect who specializes in residential design, Susanka believes that everyone is searching for a sense of home. Americans are looking for it in more square footage and big, impressive houses. That approach will not satisfy, Susuank says, because home is to be found in proportions based on a human scale, in finely crafted details, in thematic harmony of design, in having focal points to bring attention to the architecture and make the resident more aware of and in touch with his surroundi ...more
Apr 30, 2010 Andrea rated it really liked it
This book had some practical advice about building and remodeling homes. Sometimes books like these can do nothing but reiterate the same point over and over again from different view points. I felt this book did not do that. I especially like the chapter about the house of the future, warning to stay away from fads and stick to the classical side of architecture.
This book really stressed looking at the practical way we live and building a house around those ideas. Do we really use our dining r
Erika RS
Dec 28, 2012 Erika RS rated it really liked it
This book belongs on the "to read" list of anyone buying or building a home. I had avoided reading the book because of Susanka's popularity, but the book contains quality content. When the book was first published in 1998 Susanka was on the forefront of the movement away from McMansions and large houses (a movement that, in my opinion, is only just now really hitting the mainstream). Although Susanka and her "Not So Big" mantra have become something of a brand now, when this book was published, ...more
Apr 18, 2011 Sophie rated it liked it
This book was a real eye-opener. It's astounding to me that the concept of not building rooms we're not going to use is so revolutionary, and yet I had never thought of it before. It made me rethink my own living space, even though at this stage of my life I just live in small apartments--things such as, do we ever really use the dining table for eating, or is it just an extension of the kitchen counters? The parts of this book about which activities take place in which rooms was really helpful ...more
Jan 15, 2008 Ben rated it did not like it
I had low expectations when I read this book and I wasn't surprised, which is too bad because I whole-heartedly agree with the philosophy. Susanka is an architect, not a writer. First of all, a physics and math person shouldn't be able to pick out grammatical errors. It's distracting and discouraging to the reader. Second of all, Susanka was extremely repetitive, making the same point over and over again. If she would've limited her use of "Not So Big" or used an acronym (NSB comes to my mind) s ...more
Mar 20, 2016 romney added it
There are a couple of things to watch out for with this book. Firstly, the houses are massive! They are custom-built houses on good-sized plots of land. (apart from one reference to a London studio flat p.91) "Not-so-big" is a definitely a relative concept. Secondly, the styling is dated - as you'd expect in a book from 2001. I'm not sure if this style would ever have appealed to me, but if you like a lot of random wood in your interiors and fiddly half roofs on the exterior then you might love ...more
Dec 07, 2016 Kitty rated it liked it
Enjoyed it-- and especially enjoyed the Rumi passages that introduced chapters as I subscribe to the idea that we are already immersed in the meaningfulness we are seeking...
and yet, am fully aware that I am unaware of what that is.
A self-help book, but a good reminder to review intentions and desires.
We are awareness having experience of being human
Jun 07, 2009 Karla rated it it was amazing
I first read this book when we were planning to build a "second or seasonal" home that would eventually be a retirement home for us. We wanted to have a long-term, usable house on a smaller footprint. "The Not So Big House" is full of ideas on how to maximze your use of space, storage and design by focusing on quality, NOT quantity (size) and we utilized a lot of her concepts in the design of our house plans. This is not a book on how to save money, but more on how to decrease the size of your h ...more
Mar 01, 2010 LauraW rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Now that we are empty-nesters, I am really thinking of the freeing part of a smaller home - less to heat/cool, less to clean, less burden of clutter. And I love the details in the pictures. We are currently not planning on building a house, but we may need to move in the next year or so. This book has changed the way I view potential new homes.

Years ago, I discovered that we NEVER used our formal dining room, so I converted it to a computer room. Still, far too often, I find houses with, as the
Dec 29, 2010 Mindofwinter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: house-renovation
This is a great way to think about how to build or use your house. I have had these concepts in mind for a long time, but I've never seen them articulated so well. The book could probably be shorter, as the concepts are pretty simple and often repeated. The second book in the series -- Creating the Not So Big House -- has more content that you can really put to use after you discover how you want to use your house with this book. If you have to choose one, choose the second book rather than this ...more
Oct 22, 2011 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I browsed rather than read this updated edition. It has lots of photos & floor plans. There is a new new chapter of houses inspired by original edition. Her taste is not quite mine, but I find the basic idea inspiring. Concepts: build only space you will use; multi-use spaces; spend money on details not on sheer square-footage; public vs private spaces & cozy nooks; tricks to define spaces (lowering part of the ceiling, color differences) and make a space make feel bigger (long site line ...more
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Sarah Susanka is a bestselling author, architect, and cultural visionary. Her "build better, not bigger" approach to residential architecture has been embraced across the country, and her "Not So Big" philosophy has sparked an international dialogue, evolving beyond our houses and into how we inhabit our lives. In addition to sharing her insights with Oprah Winfrey and Charlie Rose, Susanka has be ...more
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