Sarah Susanka has a new book coming out in mid-February, Not So Big Remodeling. You can pre-order it on Amazon in anticipation of its release. I cannot wait to get my hands on it. To make it easier, my pals at Amazon have a link right here.
Sarah Susanka is an architect and accidental lifestyle guru and it started with the 1998 release of her book The Not So Big House.
Susanka's work isn't how-to and the homes and design concepts she discusses are not something most people can do themselves. What she advocates however, is a philosophy that calls to me like the Sirens called to Odysseus. I am powerless to resist her ideas, utterly powerless. Unlike the Sirens in the Odyssey though, Susanka's not calling me to a bad end. Rather, her work is a wake up call and a challenge to me and every other creative professional out there to reacquaint ourselves with the fundamentals of why we do what we do. I mean, at the end of the day, my job is to help people live more efficiently.
Efficiency for me means that the people who call on me come away from the experience with a home that better reflects who they are. They get a kitchen, a bathroom, or a whole home that that not only reflects how they live now but will help them live better as their lives progress. It's my job to come up with ideas that enable families (by any definition) to come together, to live peacefully, to grow, to celebrate, to be quiet. It's my job to provide people with a place where they belong. I can think of no better way to spend my days.
I work primarily in renovation. So more often than not, I'm handed some builder's idea of what the Good Life is:
Ugh. Well, that photo's an exaggeration, they're never quite as bad as that. I mean look at that thing. It's a garage with a house attached.
Anyhow, the philosophy of home that Sarah Susanka espouses is the absolute opposite of the photo above. Her take on home building; and with her new book, home remodeling; is that people should build better and not build bigger. A home should be built for the benefit of its inhabitants and not for the benefit of its neighbors. Comfort, detail and space should trump square feet. Empty, soulless square feet beget empty, soulless people. She doesn't come out and say that, but I won't hesitate to. But what she does come right out an say is that somewhere along the path to the typical 4,000 square foot new American home, something vital's been lost. Vaulted ceilings for the sake of vaulted ceilings don't make for a happy home. Sterile, impossible to furnish, so-called gathering rooms aren't a place where people will want to gather if their sole attribute is being huge for the sake of being huge. More isn't better, it's just more.
Susanka wants not only architects, designers and builders to start thinking and working toward quality over quantity, she wants the general public to start demanding it. I invoke her name on a very regular basis and I owe a lot of whatever success I've enjoyed to her. I didn't need The Not So Big House to point me in a direction or to awaken something in me. Her book landed in some fertile soil when I got my hands on it way back when, let me tell you. But what her books did and continue to do is help me realize that I'm not alone in thinking the things that I do about home. Susanka's success has brought me some really great clients over the years, people primed and ready to go, excited at the prospect of living Not So Big. So Sarah, even though I've never met you, thanks and congrats on your new book.