In 1998, architect Sarah Susanka published her first book, The Not So Big House, with the premise that we should design our houses better rather than bigger. The book was a runaway hit, leading to a dozen or so sequels and boosting her studio to stardom. The Not So Big House website heaps with writings on the subject, useful links, and study plans of her home designs. If you really want to engage yourself, pick up one of her books… perhaps at your nearest library.
I think Sarah struck a chord with the American public at precisely the right time. We’re in the midst of an eco-revolution. We’d all love to save money, save the planet, get rid of excess… and for the first time in history it’s cool to live in a smaller house. Sarah’s books show you how to do it: she identifies the things that make a house function, the things that make it feel like home, and she gracefully eliminates everything else. Suddenly it’s an entirely attainable goal to simplify your life a little and fit your budget to a house that’s just a bit smaller and a lot smarter. A not-so-big house.
Sarah gets credit as a major inspiration behind this new house… we used one of her floor plans! Appearing in her second book, Creating the Not So Big House, it’s called “A Farmhouse For Our Time” and was actually designed by Jean Rehkamp Larson, who worked at Sarah’s firm then. With an open first floor, a kitchen perfect for entertaining, and the private spaces grouped upstairs, the floor plan suits this family’s lifestyle wonderfully while doing away with rooms they don’t use.
Colin honored the sightlines and spatial organization of the original plan, as well as the classic farmhouse aesthetic outside and in. Our own architect crafted the Barn and breezeway to complement Sarah’s plan. Few spaces are wasted (the basement could’ve had fewer hallways in my opinion) and many spaces serve multiple purposes. The hearth blockout pictured above does quadruple duty as a fireplace, a duct race, a laundry chute, and over a hundred linear feet of bookshelves. Not only that, but it spatially defines the living room, secluding it from the high-traffic entry and hallway… all in about 30 square feet. Not so big, indeed!