November 25, 2007
Makes no sense to me...
"You can only sit in one chair at a time."
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,
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:"
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
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."
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
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?
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?