Friday, August 14, 2009

The Not So Big House - Sarah Susanka

I borrowed this older edition from the local library, which I visited for the first time the other day. Even if I'm not an architect and have no experience at all with construction, building houses, or designing houses, I really liked this book and found it to be very informative and interesting.

We moved into our home last year. The home we bought is a typical colonial style home from a reputable builder. The house is built from a pre-made design, built exactly like our neighbor's and my neighbor's neighbor, ad infinitum . I know what the inside of the house right across the street, and at the end of the street, and on the house at the end of the block looks like.

Certain features of our home, I thought, were useless. Having lived in Japan, I liked smaller areas which utilized space well. Less walking ;p Here, we have a formal living and dining room area, which I thought were useless and considered converting into a library. It's still pretty empty right now, no shelves, no books. But we did put a piano where the formal living room is supposed to be, and that's about it.

It was interesting because Sarah Susanka wrote the same exact thing. There were some things I learned about homes in the U.S. First, formal living and dining areas had been left over from the traditional Victorian ethic. I completely agree with her. I think homes should be just the right size for a person's needs, to cut down on energy costs, too, and allow a better quality of life. I have seen homes with 10 different places to sit. What for?

Second, I learned that colonial type houses were cheaper to build. No wonder our house was so cut and dried! The more corners on the exterior, the higher the cost. It's interesting that a "not so big house" will cost just as much as a McMansion box! And no wonder more people would buy the McMansion. Who can really afford the luxury of having something so creatively and distinctively designed and customized? It's really a shame. I know I wish I could have a home like that, but I'm not creative enough to fix up our boring home to look like "me".

There are other interesting thoughts to ponder from her book. How we need both public and private spaces in our homes, how some couples fight because their homes have no privacy. It was all very enlightening.

I would recommend this book for anyone who loves homes, whether or not they are up for buying a new home, designing their own home, or just trying to figure out what their style is (like me), since I don't even know where to start from! This points out things that you only vaguely knew, but couldn't verbalize. You read it and nod and nod and agree, and realize that all this time, she says what you already knew in your heart to be true.


barlynne said...

Hi, Firebee. Thanks for the lovely comments on The Not So Big House. We're glad you have enjoyed it. You might also look through a copy of Sarah's latest book in that series, Not So Big Remodeling. You might be surprised to find some simple, less than expensive ways to incorporate the detail and personal touches you'd like to see in your home that will bring the Not So Big character to it you desire.
Barb at Susanka Studios

Firebee said...

Thank you for the comment and advice, Barb. I'm actually surprised that my thoughts on the book was read by someone. I thought, with the thousands of blogs out there, I am just writing into the void. To receive a reply is so delightful!

I will look into reading Sarah's book. I'm sure it will be every bit as inspiring.