The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live (Susanka) Info

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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 Big" house alive.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live (Susanka):

3

March 17, 2004

Not Bad, but Not Great Either
Susan Susanka presents her ideas on how to build a better home. Half way through the book she presents her trinity of compromises that the architect, builder & home-owner have to make...price, quanity & quality of the proposed home. I think this is the gem in the book. As many have noted, this is definitely not a book for a "small" or "cheap" home; and this should be obvious as nobody who is limited to building a "small" or "cheap" home would hire an architect to design it! Though she never states it, I estimate that the houses she designs cost over $500,000 to build so consider that when you read this book.
I value this book for the ideas it presents; however, it is definitely a coffee-table book rather than a reference for an architect or home-builder. Not until the last two super-homes does Susan even mention a number. Nowhere in the book does it actually talk about the square feet, total price, price for materials, cost/square foot, material trade-off possibilities, building codes, or anything that is actually needed to design or build a house (or even remodel). The lack of details and thoroughness was disappointing and the reason I only gave her three stars. I suppose this book can be considered a "theory" book rather than a "practical" book, but it seems to me that a well-written book could contain both.
On the plus side, the pictures were very nice; there were floor-plans for each of the houses and Susan has a very nice and clear writing style.
2

March 17, 2006

this book is about HUGE, non-urban custom houses in the rural midWest -book is irrelevant to small urban homeowners
I am puzzled by the title and the contents.

I wanted a book about small houses and how to remodel or decorate them. This book cannot be more irrelevant.

This book is exclusively about custom built, large (2000 sqft+) houses for people (retired wealthy, or professional double income wealthy) with unlimited budgets who are building their dream home in the country woods.

What really bugged me is that "not so big" in this book really means "not a 5 bedroom MacMansion." If you are in New York City, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, the featured houses would count as rare gargantuan behemoths.

I thought book editors gave lots of thought to titles, but this title was downright misleading.
1

March 8, 2004

Bourgeois bohemian guilt assuagement
Let's see....2000 square feet is considered "not so big." And working one's way up -- oops, I mean down! -- to that modest allotment of space requires spending at least six, more like seven figures. And, supposedly, this fits under the philosophy of "simpler living."
What sort of people buy into this? Bourgeois bohemians, of course, a subspecies wittily described in "Bobos in Paradise" by David Brooks.
These are people with lotsa dough who live in nice neighborhoods and drive nice cars. But they're not rich, you see. They're "progressives" (read: liberals). So, in order to assuage the subconscious guilt they suffer for the "sin" of their own affluence, they drop loads of money on expensive stuff that's no different in quality from many cheaper brands, but merely has "progressive" cachet. You know...REI and L.L. Bean clothing ("environmentally aware"), coffee that costs $12 a pound (because it's "fair trade"), and just about anything that comes out of the public radio tchotchkes catalogue.
Susanka's book has kicked this up the ultimate notch. No longer is buying a high-priced Saab or Volvo the ultimate in pretense to "conscience" while indulging oneself. Now the bobos of America can take out second and third mortgages to cover what their six-figure incomes won't and build the "not so big house" of their dreams. Hey, it's not the money that's important. It's "feeling good about your choices."
Susanka, Obolensky, and anyone who gave this book a good review are welcome to trade their huge houses for my one-bedroom, second-floor apartment in a working-class neighborhood with no off-street parking. They can then acquaint themselves to their hearts' desires with the reality of "modest living."
As for me, I'll buy lots of cool stuff and fill up their former abodes. I've got better things to do than wring my hands over my "ecological footprint." And for my housewarming party, I'll be barbecuing up a few spotted owls, bald eagles, dolphins, and baby seals in that spacious back yard.
1

November 25, 2007

Makes no sense to me...
"You can only sit in one chair at a time."

This was a great quote I heard from Russell Simmons (who has LOTS of chairs to sit in!) about the unnecessary owning of "American houses" with too much space. In spite of the promise and premise of this book, I found practically NOTHING here to be of real value, outside of some beautiful photographs that one can find in any Home & Garden magazine. I had heard so much about it, a "bestseller" and great reviews, that I went ahead and ordered it; too bad I hadn't seen it in person before I purchased it. One look and it would have been back on the shelf, probably.

The entire book seems to be a short "essay" or "article" that was then illustrated with many unrelated large photos and small diagrams (without dimensions, I might add). The text doesn't match the photos on the same page in many cases, making it very difficult or impossible to read through. The book has been laid out with the photos as the main thing on the page, and text seems to be inserted here and there to fill up any blank space.

I never could really read the book or use it at all since I was constantly trying to figure out "what went with what." I have to agree with another comment that said this book was really just a sales & marketing effort" for her architectural firm. What else could it be? 2,000 sq. ft. is NOT a "not so big house." I won't go into anymore about that, since others have already done it and probably much better than me.

Here's two in particular that I LOVED reading:

Review by "Reginleif II" & reply by "Contented:"

Thank you BOTH so much for your hilarious and exact, on point, review and comments... I was thinking the same thing about this dratted book, wondering why - after reading nothing but "bestseller" and "glowing reviews" what exactly I was missing! Now I know... that outdoor backyard BBQ pit grilling "spotted owls" and more. Of course, I would have to draw the line at "baby seals" (and all the other endangered species you mention) but "tongue in cheek" this one had me laughing so hard I just about fell off the bed!

The whole thing, in fact. Some people would call me a "liberal," but the Bobo factor has always turned me away. Just like "Contented" said, next I too will enjoy googling "Bobos in Paradise." Thanks for an excellent way to end this Happy Thanksgiving weekend.

Honest to God, until I read some of these critiques here on Amazon, I thought I was losing my mind! I didn't see ANYTHING "small" about that house. I build houses and specialize in creating and restoring the most beautiful little houses (by the time I'm done) which are all under 1,000 sq. ft.

The one I'm in right now is 700 sq. ft. and I have a bedroom, office, large bathroom, kitchen, living room, enclosed sun room, porch and deck... the whole house is like "living in my garden" with sunlight streaming in at all hours of the day. It's really amazing, as I used to have 3,000 sq. ft. and it took a full-time cleaning lady. Now I can do it in about an hour, and I still have just about everything I need.

I also have three storage sheds, to which I've added French doors and used them as long windows on one entire side of the sheds, so they are filled with light and could be a real studio or workroom. Now that's what I call "not so big."

Heck, I had a friend and his girlfriend living in one of the sheds which was fixed up as a little cabin, even had a porta-potty inside, queen bed, shelving, pull out couch, TV, microwave, 10 ft x16 ft (160 sq. ft) w/deck, and they had everything THEY needed. And I DON'T live in California, but an hour outside of Raleigh out in the country (where the author Sarah Susanka lives).

Now that's what I call "living well in small spaces." If you have a beautiful garden, you really "live" outdoors, even if it's just looking out your window. The house is really just a space for a few functions, and the total ENVIRONMENT is what counts. The way the light falls into the room, seeing the moon and stars overhead outside your bedroom window; sitting outside on a small deck or balcony and drying off in a robe or towel... fountains, walkways, park benches, blooming trees, shrubs and flower beds... and a beautiful place to work, cook and sleep indoors; what more do you need? That's the way I, and most people I know, "really live." In the workroom or bedroom or in front of the TV or computer. When you get down to it, none of those spaces take up very much space.

Counting the view of the garden as "living space" really stretches your living AREA just by looking out French doors and windows. If you have hard paving (wood, brick, concrete, flagstone etc.) outdoors with walkways that go all around the house, the garden suddenly becomes magically accessible, and you will find yourself outside a lot more of the time. Who needs a big or "not so big" house if you can go outdoors? Even if you are indoors, adding double windows to walls and glass paned French doors extends your site line to the edge of the property or a line of screen hedges or trees, which doubles or triples the "feel" of the space you are inhabiting. It's really pretty marvelous, and this book does not address any of this.

Sight lines from inside the house mean more to the design of a structure than just the floorplan and arrangement of squares or rectangles we call "rooms." You are just moving from one box to another. It's like living in a maze, and you can hardly find your way out. Every house should be sited on it's own lot, with doors, windows, entrance and exits designed to take the entire property into account. Making sure to put in upstairs windows that allow vistas of the trees and surrounding properties changes everything; it's like "living in the trees" and enjoying the fall color and the Spring blush. It changes everything. Being able to enjoy the whole world" at your fingertips and eyesight, and hearing bird songs in the morning means a lot more than simple "square footage," no matter how much you do or don't have. It's not how big the room is, it's WHAT's in the room and WHO is in it that counts!

At least this is how I design and built all the little cottages I have done, and they all seem to be just perfect for one or two people, or small families without too many kids. Adding children of course changes things somewhat, but that's another discussion on remodelling, which is easy to do.

By the way, I'm a contractor, landscaper and computer programmer, and I get more conservative with each passing year. Oh, My God. Am I turning into my parents?

Thanks again to the reviewers and commentators that saw this thing in the same light I did. Made me feel "sane" again after all the b.s. in the book. Now, what do I do with it now that I purchased it? Donate it to the library? Didn't make any sense to me...

Now to find a real book on "small spaces" or write one of my own. Any suggestions?
3

June 19, 2005

Good but Not Great
Although both "The Not So Big House" and "Creating the Not So Big House" are good books with well-thought out concepts, I think you can find better books on the subject. After reading both books, I felt the information rather evaporated, and I was left without some good, basic practical outlines on how to proceed with the house. Fortunately, I came across "The Home Design Handbook" by June Cotner Myrvang & Steve Myrvang, AIA, where at the end of every well thought out chapter, you found a detailed, practical checklist of major issues that needed to be considered before proceeding with your plans. Everything missing in the "Not So big House"(s) was found in this one book, which offered highly useful information.
2

May 3, 2009

Susanka's Not So Big is ostentatious
Like many others, I was drawn to the "less is more" philosophy announced in the title of this book. The content disappointed me.

Here are my issues.

1. Size. Susanka's "not so big" is at least 2200 sq.ft and usually more. That is huge in my book. Yes, I live in the Midwest, but most people in my university town do not live in McMansions - they live in reasonably sized (1200sq.ft-2000sq.ft) homes.

2. Cost. The houses are not affordable for the average person. I don't have 500k lying around to spend on a 2300sq.ft "detailed" house that is "not so big" as ... what, exactly?

3. Visual clutter. The custom detailing, which Susanka advocates, is excessive and often lends her houses a cluttered look. This is further enhanced by the countless heirlooms and "personal touches" the owners display - nothing wrong with this in moderation, but if some of those interiors look cluttered for the photoshot, how would they look with actual daily clutter (newspapers, teacups, toys, discarded sweaters)? Frank Lloyd Wright was the master of the complex interior with lots of detailing - his houses come together like symphonies. I am not convinced that Susanka has the talent to pull this off.

4. Dissing modernism. Susanka is not a fan of modernism, and even says that it didn't catch on. That is emphatically not true. Modernist houses still continue to be built, not to mention the fact that many Americans live in 1950-60's houses. For modernists, less-is-more really means that - less square footage, less visual clutter, more creative solutions. You don't have to wait until you save 500k to have that.

The book was written in 1998. It's 2009; times have changed. Maybe it's time for a different book.
5

June 8, 2000

Not so boring
This is not your typical suburb home plan book and that's why I love it. The new homes of today are all rated on size not quality of space usage. This book gives you some great ideas for open space living without giving up your needed space.
I don't agree with some of the other reviewers that think the homes are boring or too open or too contemporary. This book does not show ultra contemporary, cold, white homes. Rather open spaces with the warmth of wood and practical use of space.
I live in an even more contemporary home than those shown in the book (some may call it cold) but I love my open space. A bunch of little rooms adding up to a ton of square footage is not what I consider the best option. When friends see my open floor plan they marvel over the size of my home, but in seconds ask that typical question, "How many square feet is it?", and are shocked to find that it's much smaller than it feels.
I think this is a perfectly timed book as many of us are thinking of sizing down rather than up. Who has time to vacuum a 2400 square foot home anyway.
3

August 3, 2004

Not so big? I beg to differ!
The book is wonderfully presented with example pictures and the text easy to digest. BUT 'Not So Big' is still an amazingly large house to me. The houses are beautiful and there are plenty of ideas on using space creatively. The concept being: only have sq feet you'll use. But some of the examples are staggering. 1800 sq ft for one person? I was looking for ways to simplify. This books has some ideas but taken as a whole was considerably less than I was looking for. Your mileage may vary.
5

September 25, 1999

You'll enjoy it, even if you can't afford to hire her
There's a healthy amount of evidence that even those with unlimited budgets and the ability to live anywhere they wish get a raw deal from current real estate development practice. This book is about thinking out of the box - out of spending money on making your house beautiful instead of simply massive. I've checked out a lot of open houses and seen more than a few of the homes she criticises in her book - and she's dead to rights in saying modern architectural practice is too big, too overwhelming, too sterile. Frankly, in my case, I don't care about sustainability or environmentalism or any of that stuff -- the big houses just feel chilly-cold. If you want to learn how to build a warm house at about the same price as a cold and impersonal one, well, this is a fabulous book.
This book has been criticised for concentrating too much on high-end homes. I don't think this is fair, because she does an exceptionally clear job in her section explaining why some homes are expensive to build while others aren't. She walks us through three homes, low, mid-range and expensive, explaining how the detail quality changes. Now, admittedly, she obviously loves the really expensive, high-end, $ 175-500 a square foot masterpieces she profiles. But she has empathy for those of us at the low end, and I think most readers will walk away from that section enlightened, if a little wistful.
I'm afraid I'm one of those hapless low budget folks, but I still loved her book. It has great ideas for any budget. But, in the final analysis, remember this: 'tis better to build at $ 50 a square foot, then not to build at all - as long as you're not kidding yourself about feasibility.
2

December 4, 2002

Stylish, expensive and uncomfortable
This book seemed to me to mainly be an essay on how to hire an architect to create a trendy, uncomfortable home. Some of the layout ideas do appear to have value, but it tends to be masked by the very uncomfortable looking designs. One specific comment would be that she writes about consideration for the lifestyle changes that are (nearly) inevitable as one gets older, but then gushes about children's rooms that are clearly designed in a way that will never be usable after the last child is more than about 9 years old.
I would recommend American Bungalow Style or something similar before this.
4

November 21, 2000

Thought provoking
Granted, the pictures probably make the rooms look larger than they actually are....I believe it's due to the use of a wide-angle lens. However, the book accomplishes its goal in that it makes the reader consider a house that is designed for the family that lives within its walls, rather than a generic floor plan designed by a mega-developer. It has helped me to consider designing a house that is smaller (and thus more budget conscious) yet reflects the purpose for which I will use the rooms. It also provides ideas on putting construction money into items that will enhance the interior, the comfort of the home, saved through reducing the overall size of the house.
1

November 21, 1999

the title should be "more expensive house"
Basically, the idears were not new at all. My 14 years olddaughter had the same idea couple years ago while we were househunting. Plus, it will cost 2 to 3 times than everage to detail this kind of house. People seeking small and nice houses are those on a budget. Thanks for printing those nice photos.
2

August 10, 2001

Too big to be small.
Compared to a 5000 sq ft home, 2500 sq ft isn't big. But is 2500 sq ft really a "not so big house"? I don't think so. A well thought out floor plan of 1500 sq ft or less (preferably less) can provide for everything a family needs and help people stay connected to each other.
While the book did spark some ideas around the use of space and built-ins, overall I was very disappointed with the less costs more therory as presented in this book. It promotes a spending level that is beyond the average american's grasp.
2

March 9, 1999

The interiors all look the same!
Susanka has a great concept: less is more. But the problem is that her "less" is gunked up by more, more, more! I've never seen so many interiors so similar to each other, all featuring tons of that Minnesota wood. Susanka raps modernism for its impersonality of style, but her "detail" in house after house is just as alienating. Try Terence Conran's "The Essential House Book," and fill up one of his minimal homes with your own style, not Susanka's or HGTV's! And beyond that, her environmental message is compromised. Excess is excess no matter how you cut it, whether it comes from gross size or gross detail. Maybe the answer is simply simplicity....at all levels of construction and design.
4

December 28, 2001

Home Quality
The main theme for this book is quality not quantity. It's not about cheap ways to build a house, instead it focuses on how to use space efficiently and aesthetically. Yet there are ideas that can be used by those of us who are building "not-so-big" houses for economical reasons. If you use the same home space for multiple purposes, it's bound to save money!
There are lots of pictures that illustrate the author's ideas about what makes a house a home, using features like the "away room," and details like round windows. It's not a building book, but a design book and is best read while still in the house planning stages, but is probably of interest to anyone who likes architecture or interior design.
The only negative comment I have is that I would like a way to connect the pictures together. I wish there was an index that had all of the pictures of each house so I could see how the outside of the houses compare with the rooms themselves and also how rooms relate to each other.
2

January 4, 2010

If you want to look at this book, borrow it from the library, don't waste your money on it.
I suppose that the houses in this book, if being looked at by fabulously wealthy people who would otherwise be building 10,000+ sf homes, then yes, perhaps, these could be defined as "not so big" houses.

For people living in the REAL world, however, these houses are HUGE. I mean, give me a break... the picture on the front cover has so much furniture in it, I'm guessing the room is at LEAST 25' square. This is HUGE room by real world standards.

Just flipping back through the book, I'm actually seeing her say (on page 15), I quote, "...you may find that building a 3,000-sq.-ft. house that fits your lifestyle actually gives you more space to live in." LOLOLOL!!! She IS joking - RIGHT???

I mean come ON... my home is 3BR, 2BTH, 1715 sq. ft, and we don't use a lot of that space. This woman is CRAZY. Or the people who think that 3K sq ft is "small, are delusional. My family of 3, with 2 dogs and 3 cats rattles around in all that space with ample room left over. The very idea that anyone would need 3,000 sf (maybe, if you have a 1/2 dozen stair-step kids) is utterly absurd.

This book is only for the super rich, or those suffering from serious delusions, or perhaps those who have never been outside of their lofty neighborhoods to see how normal people live.

And beyond that, the vast majority of the homes in this book are of a design style called "contemporary": all harsh lines, sharp corners, lots of glass and shiny hard surfaces. Only two homes in the whole book seemed at all cozy and welcoming.

To be fair, the book does have some interesting idea on making the most of every square inch of your home by doing built-ins, efficient use of spaces, etc. The examples given in the photos are ludicrously expensive, but could possibly be reproduced frugally by anyone skilled in basic wood-craft. No need to use exotic woods or expensive milling.

Bottom line: If you want to look at this book, borrow it from the library, don't waste your money on it.
3

December 22, 2007

Are these homes really small?
I was expecting her projects to downsize to ~1000 square feet. It felt like she was reducing large McMansions to smaller McMansions. Good photographs though!
1

July 9, 2013

None of these houses are small.
Seriously. What the hell? Every single space in the photography is huge by any standard below being super rich. I think this book is for people who like to pretend they're living simpler.
1

May 3, 2005

Would have helped to have known .......
Just having bought an 1887 house in a small southern town, this book was not what I needed. It was well written, beautiful photography and layout, but not within the price range or geographical range. It might have saved me some money if these items of interest to readers had been mentioned. Also - "mission" or "prairie" is not a dominant theme in this area.
2

July 9, 2008

The Not So Inspiring House
I ordered this book after reading great reviews since I was in the middle of trying to work out the purchase of a turn of the century home where space was the size of just that, turn of the century. The Amazon review picked all the best photo's in the book and the only pages worth reading in it, so I bought it. I was extremely disappointed to receive a book that had too many 1980 - 1990's dated, uninspiring interiors and not so much in the way of smart architectural choices to think about, as was advertised.
4

Jun 01, 2009

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 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 spend more time, money, and effort on certain parts of the home than on others; and we may be able to find ways to incorporate multiple activities into a single space by the way we design the space itself.

Some of the critiques I've seen leveled against this book are that 3000 sq feet is not a "not-so-big" house--but in fairness to Susanka, she's arguing that, if you can afford to build 6000 sq feet, you might consider building half that size and putting the remaining budget money in the kind of details (built ins, etc.) that make a house a livable home. I don't think she's arguing that everyone should build this size--in fact, she repeatedly emphasizes that the size and nature of the home should be in line with what the homeowners are financially capable of (and in fact, the homes in the book range from 800 sq feet on up). I did find that many of the interiors are much richer than I will probably ever be able to afford (and not all of them quite to my taste), but I think her basic principle--that we should make our homes into the kind of spaces we want to be in--rings true and is a refreshing contrast from the trend of ever bigger and more spacious (and often character-less) new homes.

Since my husband and I are currently in the process of buying a new home, I found this book particularly pertinent--more importantly, for me, this helped me be more confident about our final choice. We chose, not the biggest or newest house we could afford with our budget, but an older home that was far above the other houses in terms of sheer personality and charm. This book helped explain why we were more drawn to this older home and, for me, validated our choice.

Overall, I found this book to be highly readable--I read the entire thing in less than two days. ...more
2

April 24, 2011

Not so big house - You have to be kidding!!!!!
OK, I guess I'm a loser, 'cause these are big homes to me. I guess I was hoping to see not so big houses that were ... well... not so big as in average to small. I was looking for ideas on a second home. I couldn't afford these as my primary home. I would love to see the book - "Too big Houses" if these are the not so big ones. If you were after what I was after, you may want a different book, or unless a 3500 - 5500 sq ft home is small to you.
3

November 7, 2007

Disappointing, considering the premise.
Although Susanka wrote the entire book on the premise of advocating smaller houses with exquisite features, these houses are huge and boring. The ideas in this book are for new, large, empty spaces. If you can afford to have these houses built, you can afford a real architect to give you design ideas. These aren't revolutionary ideas, they just look like any other house you'd see in a new subdivision, only with bigger windows and a lot more millwork tacked on. I would instead recommend any of the books by Terence Conran or Taunton's other books for kitchen and bath designs. Since Conran is based in Europe, all of his photos are of much smaller and older houses, with design details I have never seen in America. The Taunton's books have details that are more original and can be used in any size house.
1

Feb 24, 2010

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 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 their giant 'burbian houses.

Anyway, I keep reading these "little house" books, many of which are really fantastic and full of ideas from people who created personalized homes with creative materials for a frugal, thoughtful, clever design. This book is none of those things. This book does rail against McMansions and the whole philosophy of "bigger is better" and the American Dream of a big house in the 'burbs with the boring fenced yard and blah blah blah but really, don't most people already know how wasteful and miserable a giant generic house in the 'burbs is? Yes, I think they do.

None of the architecture or design is especially clever. There is no "WOW!" moment when you see how a corner or hallway or overhead space gets converted to some crazy useful space. The houses are almost entirely devoid of creativity or personality. In this book, a small house is about high design and expensive materials. Frugal, eco-consciousness has nothing to do with it. This book is mind-numbingly idiotic and made me want to grate my face on a 3,000 square foot brick wall. ...more
5

February 24, 2010

It changed my life
Some people's list of life-changing books focuses on works of great spiritual, emotional, political or literary power. Sarah Susanka's The Not So Big House and at least some of its sequels happen to be near the top of mine.

When I ordered the book in 2002 after hearing the author interviewed on NPR, we were living in a rambling old Tudor with 5 bedrooms, a full basement, and enough storage space to absorb just about anything we brought into it. Though I loved the house, I now saw what I had never seen before - how much duplication of function we were supporting (= repairing, cleaning, etc.), and how we had nonetheless managed to miss opportunities to make it our own. Guided by the book, for example, we converted an outdoor stair landing to the screened-in porch we'd always dreamed of but never thought we had a place for, till we realized it could be really tiny and yet both beautiful and functional. Later, when we moved to a smaller house, we didn't feel we'd downsized in the negative sense at all, because following the not-so-big approach, we devoted available resources to making our space the best (rather than the biggest) we could afford.

When I say the book changed my life, I'm not just referring to decorating tricks or clever ways to use the same space in different ways. Absorbing the ideas in this book actually freed up our thinking about how we wanted to live, and live together, in our physical space. We have learned to design our interiors to please ourselves and serve our own needs (open storage! no closet doors!), not someone else's idea of what a house ought to be. Maybe these are things that other people are born knowing or figure out for themselves, but for us, this book was truly an eye-opener.

I highly recommend this book.

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